Oakland Kids Get A Raise From The New Minimum Wage The highest minimum wage in the nation just went into effect in Oakland, Calif. But what does that mean for young people and how are businesses making it work?
NPR logo

Oakland Kids Get A Raise From The New Minimum Wage

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/394328003/395238661" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Oakland Kids Get A Raise From The New Minimum Wage

Oakland Kids Get A Raise From The New Minimum Wage

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/394328003/395238661" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Twelve dollars and 25 cents an hour - that is now the minimum wage in Oakland, Calif. For the moment, it's the highest citywide minimum wage in the country. Savannah Robinson from Youth Radio tells us what this means for young people in Oakland and also how businesses are trying to make this work.

SAVANNAH ROBINSON, BYLINE: Alicia Donaldson is 18 and works at McDonald's. Her job is more complicated than you might think.

ALICIA DONALDSON: When you do the grill and the chicken by yourself, it's not easy. You have to put down the meat on the grill and then put chicken in the grease. People get burned a lot.

ROBINSON: That was a lot of pain for $9 an hour, and it's still hard work, but now Alicia is making $12.25 instead.

DONALDSON: When I worked 56 hours, my check was about $480.

ROBINSON: Today, if she works those same hours, Alicia estimates she'd make about $170 more every two weeks. That could mean a few more new toys.

DONALDSON: I bought iPhone 6. I couldn't buy that before.

ROBINSON: But for 20-year-old Alex Oshiro, who works as a busser at Yoshi's Jazz Club in Oakland, the raise means he can start to save. Taking a minute before he goes to work, Alex, sporting spiky hair and carrying his uniform in a backpack, is in a good mood. He has big plans for the extra cash.

ALEX OSHIRO: Honestly, the first thing I thought of was, like, oh, I can probably move out now.

ROBINSON: Rent is expensive in the Bay Area, so Alex lives at home with his mom, grandma and brother. But now he hopes he can finally afford to leave the nest.

OSHIRO: Yeah, living is going to be a lot better I feel like for me. I'm going to be able to just start living as an adult now.

ROBINSON: For some business owners, the cost of that freedom for their workers means higher prices for their customers.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

CHRIS HILLYARD: In Farley's 26 years, we've never faced as dramatic an increase in cost or operations as the 36 percent minimum wage hike in Oakland.

ROBINSON: That Farley's Coffee Shop owner, Chris Hillyard, at a press conference announcing the new minimum wage. Even though the owner supported the raise, he acknowledges the hardships the new law brings.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

HILLYARD: To raise wages, we need to generate more income. To make this happen overnight, we must raise our prices. We stand here today to ask for Oakland to come together and support all the cafes and restaurants that are in this unprecedented position.

ROBINSON: Oakland's wage increase is the most dramatic in the country. Many cities in the Bay Area and nationwide have approved tiered raises over several years. Sylvia Allegretto is an economist at the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at UC Berkeley, and she's been tracking minimum-wage initiatives across the country.

SYLVIA ALLEGRETTO: We have states now, such as, you know, North Dakota. And Kentucky's talking about a minimum wage - Louisville, Ky., where there's never been minimum wages above the federal level.

ROBINSON: President Obama proposed increasing the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 during his State of the Union address. Opponents to the increase are concerned that it will slow job creation and that businesses will reduce hours. The Oakland's City Auditor's Report on the financial impact of the law notes that the increase could force the city to reduce its workforce training programs, which would leave more youth unemployed. For Alicia Donaldson at McDonald's, she's already seeing shorter shifts.

DONALDSON: I do think it's because of the pay that they're cutting hours.

ROBINSON: And that means she may have to save a little longer to get that iPhone 6. For NPR News in Oakland, I'm Savannah Robinson.

GREENE: Savannah's story was produced by Youth Radio and you heard it right here on MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene.

Copyright © 2015 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.