- Voice of San Diego - https://www.voiceofsandiego.org -

Who Stands to Benefit from San Diego’s Minimum Wage Hike

Backers of San Diego’s minimum-wage hike point to one number to drive home its impact: 172,000 [1].

That’s the number of workers backers say will get a raise thanks to the local measure, which boosts the minimum wage to $11.50 over three years [2]. It’s being cited repeatedly as some business leaders [3] try to force the issue onto the June 2016 ballot.

Workers and businesses statewide are already feeling the effect of an uptick in the state’s minimum wage [4]. The state wage rose to $9 an hour in July and it’s set to hit $10 an hour in January 2016.

State agencies didn’t publicly estimate how many San Diego workers might be affected. But proponents of San Diego’s minimum-wage hike consistently cite an estimate for their local measure.

Here are some key things to know about that figure.

Again, it’s a guesstimate.

A team of labor experts from UC Berkeley’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment [5] pored over U.S. Census data to make projections [6] about who will be affected by the San Diego measure.

They largely relied on data from household surveys [7] to draw conclusions about affected workers.

Specific data for the city of San Diego wasn’t available, though. That meant Berkeley researchers had to use San Diego County data to make assumptions about city workers.

They found that about 64 percent of workers countywide report for duty in San Diego and assumed countywide wage distribution and employment trends would match those in the city.

The data only reveals annual earnings, so Berkeley researchers had to convert wages into hourly rates.

Those assumptions led the Berkeley team to conclude between 172,000 and 214,000 San Diego-based workers would get a raise by 2017, when San Diego’s minimum wage would hit $11.50 an hour.

It counts more than just minimum-wage workers.

Many workers expected to be directly impacted by the San Diego measure are already making above the state minimum wage.

Some may see just a 50 cent per hour increase, for example, if the city wage hike goes forward.

Then there are the folks already making more than the $11.50 an hour minimum wage San Diegans are set to see in 2017.

The Berkeley researchers factored them into their 172,000 figure too. They expect 20,000 to 58,000 San Diegans who’d already be making at least the minimum wage as of 2017 will get raises.

This means they concluded at least 152,000 workers will be directly affected by the minimum wage hike and that at least 20,000 more will also get a raise.

Tens of thousands of workers will get a raise even if San Diego’s measure gets thrown out.

Some of the workers factored into these assumptions would get a raise regardless of the San Diego measure, thanks to the statewide minimum wage increase.

And they likely number in the tens of thousands.

State agencies haven’t released their own projections about the number of city or San Diego County workers who might be affected by the state wage hike so we can only rely on outside groups’ analyses.

But those reports make it clear many San Diego workers will benefit.

Last year, the Sacramento Bee estimated [8] 1.5 million full-time workers in the state would receive a pay hike as a result of that increase, or 14 percent of the state’s full-time workforce.

To put that in perspective, 14 percent of the city of San Diego’s total workforce [9] – which includes part-time workers – would amount to roughly 94,000 workers.

A separate analysis [10] by the Economic Policy Institute found 2.4 million workers who make $8 to $10 an hour could directly benefit from a federal minimum wage increase to $10.10 an hour, 10 cents higher than the mandated wage for California workers come 2016.  The labor-aligned group suggested another million workers who make more than $10 an hour might also get raises.

Annette Bernhardt, one of the Berkeley researchers, said at least some of the workers included in the group’s 172,000 estimate will get both San Diego and state minimum wage increases.

But she couldn’t say how many will benefit from both wage hikes. The Berkeley team focused on the impact of the San Diego measure and didn’t calculate how many workers might receive multiple pay hikes, Bernhardt said.

There’s an important takeaway here, though: It’s not as if all these workers won’t receive any raise if San Diego’s minimum wage hike is overturned by a referendum.