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Lift Up Oakland volunteers go door to door for minimum wage ballot measure

on October 2, 2014

On a sidewalk curb between 14th and Franklin Street, two young women holding homemade cardboard clipboards stood looking at a list of registered Oakland voters and a map.   Their mission:  to knock on voters’ doors and tell them about the measure on November’s ballot that would increase the minimum wage by more than $3.00 per hour.

Sunny Lim adjusted the visor on her head.  Jenny Divish made sure all the paperwork was there.  Then the two volunteers started on their door-to-door lobbying walk. “It’s frustrating to me,” Divish said, “because some people that have it all, and make more than the minimum wage, say that they don’t care about people who don’t even make the required minimum.”

The campaigners were part of a fall neighborhood-by-neighborhood effort, organized by the volunteer organization that calls itself the Lift Up Oakland Coalition, to persuade voters to approve Measure FF, which would raise the minimum wage in Oakland to $12.25 per hour as of March 2, 2015.  It was Lift Up Oakland’s signature campaign this past winter that gathered enough signatures to place the measure on the November ballot.

The Oakland measure follows similar efforts in San Francisco, Richmond and Berkeley. Measure FF would apply to the majority of Oakland’s workers, excluding some nonprofits, home health workers and baby-sitters.

“Measure FF includes cost-of-living adjustments to keep up with inflation,” said Gary Jimenez, head of Lift Up Oakland and a Vice President of a Service Employees International Union local, which represents public sector workers and private nonprofit workers. “Most importantly, it includes a path to $15 in just a few short years,” Jimenez said in an email communication.

Measure FF currently faces no organized opposition, but Lift Up Oakland continues to advocate for the measure. “Everybody that we’ve talked to is seeming really positive about this as we’ve seen in our polling and the public polling that’s been out there,” said Lift Up Oakland field director Dave Schwartz.

The volunteers remind potential voters that Measure FF is the last measure listed on the ballot, after several candidate races, such as mayor, and some other ballot measures. They’re also giving away vote by mail application to permanent absentee voters, who get their ballots by mail.

“It’s about voter education and getting out to vote,” Schwartz said. “We’re educating voters about not only do we have it on the ballot for this year, but making sure that everybody gets all the way down the ballot and votes for it.”

A June 2014 UC Berkeley’s Institute for Research on Labor and Environment policy paper, (IRLE), The Impact of Oakland’s Proposed City Minimum Law: A Prospective Study, concluded that an increase would have “a modest impact” on business costs and consumer prices, but that businesses would adjust “through reduced employee turnover costs, improved work performance, and a small, one-time increase in restaurant prices.”

According to the IRLE Policy Brief, about 25 to 30 percent of Oakland workers will be affected if the ballot is passed, meaning 40,000 to 48,000 Oakland workers will receive a pay raise.

So far, the volunteers said, their campaign has met mostly friendly reactions “Every weekend that we’re going out, we’re seeing really good returns, we’re having great walks,” Schwartz said.

As Divish and Lim walked away from a door stoop on 14th Street, where they had standing for over half an hour discussing Measure FF and its place on the ballot with an inquisitive older women, Divish had a smile on her face. “You know, this is what it’s all about,” she said, “Knocking on doors and talking to people. Talking to people and listening to them. That’s how change is made.”

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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