There is possibly no greater offense to a person than to spend each day working to create wealth for another and being unable to meet your own basic needs with the compensation for that labor. However, in this phase of US economy more and more people are joining the ranks of workers who are not paid enough to cover the expenses of even modest living in Oakland and across the country.
The City of Oakland has been calculating what they believe to be a “living wage” for a resident of Oakland for 10 years. On March 5, 2002, Oakland voters passed Measure I (“§728). This measure amends the City of Oakland Charter effective April 25, 2002, by adding Section 728 entitled “Living Wage and Labor Standards at Portassisted Businesses”. This statute only covers workers who work for companies that are considered to be “portassisted”. It states that:
Covered businesses are required to pay at least $11.70 with credit for health benefits worth up to $1.75 per hour, and $13.45 without health benefits, as of July 1, 2012. The rates will be adjusted annually thereafter. Port Ordinance No. 3666, as amended also requires that covered businesses provide employees at least twelve compensated days off per year, including holidays.
This measure provides no improvements for vast amounts of workers who are compelled to spend their days selling their labor and being unable to pay the price of life in Oakland. It does, however, provide what is certainly the lowest possible base figure for a “living wage” in Oakland, CA. We prefer to call this a “livable wage” because even the city recognizes that every person collecting less than this wage is unable to pay for the cost of survival in Oakland. The term “living wage” implies a quality of life better than barely able to afford survival.
If labor past has taught us anything, it should be that the government is neither an ally of nor a path to justice for workers. The involvement of the state in labor issues has always been at the expense of the workers in the long run. We must, united as people of a common class, directly confront our employers, our bosses, the exploiters of our labor, the capitalist class.
The OO Labor Solidarity Committee will organize and outreach for an Assembly for a Livable Wage. The purpose of this assembly will be to plan, organize, and create a campaign of direct action against employers who fail to compensate employees with a wage of at least $13.45 per hour. Just as we did with The West Coast Port Shutdown, once this Assembly is formed OOLS will be a part of it, we will in no way attempt to assert control or authority over the campaign.
We would like to make it to be clear that we intend to continue until every worker makes at least this “living wage”. We will begin with a strategic target and expand from one industry to the next. All workplaces will be required, by the workers, to pay their employees at least this wage.