How Many Minimum Wage Workers Are There in S.F.?

Categories: Government, Labor
workers high steel.jpg
Counting workers -- whoops! -- can be hard
Yesterday we reported on the pending augmentation of San Francisco's minimum wage to $9.92 an hour. Yet when we tried to find out how many city workers would be benefiting from the new minimum wage -- well, that's maximum labor.

It appears no one in the city, state, or federal government is tracking how many minimum wage-earners there are in San Francisco.

Our calls to the Employment Development Department, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and city's Office of Labor Standards Enforcement -- and others -- came up empty.

Donna Levitt, the city's labor enforcement standards officer, notes that her office's job is to make sure employers follow the law regarding minimum wage -- but doesn't track how many minimum wage-earners there are. The only information she was able to turn up was in the voter's handbook for the 2003 election. The "Minimum Wage Coalition," arguing in favor of Proposition L, the minimum wage ordinance, claims that more than 54,000 workers would receive raises as a result of the since-approved measure.

"That sounds high," she says. This estimation, she believes, must be using "The Pushup Factor," which is when low-wage earners see their pay rates rise because of a higher minimum wage. But how this number was reached -- who knows?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't keep minimum wage data on the county-by-county level. But they do have a remarkably user-friendly website -- and have amassed a staggering amount of information regarding minimum wages across the nation. According to this BLS study, 3.9 percent of California workers earned at or below minimum wage last year. (California's minimum wage is $8 an hour; the the city's is $9.79 and will jump to the aforementioned $9.92 on Jan. 1, 2011).

While Levitt's office doesn't track the number of minimum wage-earners, it does keep a close eye on employers who skirt the city's minimum wage. If you've been stiffed, call the minimum wage hotline at (415) 554-6292.

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