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E’ville Biz: Oakland Businesses brace for minimum wage hike impact, foreshadowing Emeryville’s plight

4 mins read

Emeryville City Council held a follow-up meeting to its initial minimum wage proposal on Tuesday Feb. 17th. Various special interests and pro-union groups filled the room to articulate stories of hardships and abuses being conducted within the region. The biggest revelation was Emeryville’s response to concerns by small business over how sudden this jump from $9 to $14.03 would hit them … by in fact increasing it to $14.42 (now a 59% increase). A figure that would be the highest in the nation and pass Luxemburg as the second highest in the world behind Australia according to the below 2011 Wikipedia chart. City Council seems intent on making Emeryville the “Guinea Pig” in the living wage discussion.


Meanwhile, across the border in Oakland, businesses are bracing from a jump from its current $9 state level to the recently adopted $12.25 on March 2nd. A rate that was overwhelmingly passed through Measure FF by voters last November. While both Oakland & SF sought their measures through a direct election, Emeryville City Council is looking to push theirs through as an ordinance (instead of letting voters decide). By enacting minimum wage regulations by ordinance rather than by a ballot measure, the Council retains greater flexibility and authority to modify this in the future. An ordinance adopted by the Council only requires a majority vote of the Council for amendment, whereas an ordinance enacted through the ballot process requires amendment through a subsequent ballot measure.

Oakland small business discussions include adapting, banding together and even shifting away from the tipping compensation model. These discussions could be foreshadowing for what’s to come in our city. Emeryville Staff is scheduled to present its revised draft of the ordinance to council at the scheduled April 7th City Council meeting with intentions of adopting this by July 1st (full schedule below). A draft of the proposed ordinance can be viewed on the City’s website (Please Note: The original link provided was to an earlier draft of the ordinance that did not include phase-in exemptions for “small business” currently defined as 10 employees or less).

February 17: City Council approves/provides direction on the ordinance
February 31: Notification to businesses of proposed ordinance by mail & Website
March 4: Discussion of draft ordinance by the Economic Development Advisory Committee
April 7: City Council Hearing & Study Session
May 5: Public hearing for first reading of ordinance
May 19: Second reading of ordinance
May – June: Prepare for implementation (Develop administrative instructions, Engage staffing for administration and enforcement, Develop support materials).
July 1: Ordinance goes into effect

Small businesses fret over East Bay city’s plan for $14 minimum wage

By Roland Li


Emeryville is seeking to increase its minimum wage to $14.42 per hour by June 1. If approved, it would be one of the highest rates in the nation, surpassing neighboring Berkeley and Oakland. Local retailers and restaurant owners are concerned that the measure could be a death-blow.


City staff plan to release a revised draft of the proposal this week, followed by public meetings on the plan in March and April. Emeryville’s City Council could potentially pass the measure in May, according to city officials, who gave a presentation last week.

The wage increase is modeled in part after Oakland’s minimum wage increase to $12.25, which starts in March. Berkeley passed a minimum wage of $10, higher than California’s minimum wage of $9 per hour, last fall.

Read More on SF Business Times →

The Tipping Point

When Oakland’s new minimum wage kicks in on March 2, many restaurants plan to raise prices — and, in a few cases, eliminate tips altogether.

By Luke Tsai


The verdict could not have been clearer. Last November, more than 80 percent of Oakland voters approved Measure FF, thereby raising the city’s minimum wage from $9 to $12.25 an hour. It was a resounding victory for Lift Up Oakland; the coalition of labor unions and community organizations that sponsored the ballot proposal; for progressives who supported the cause; and, of course, for the upwards of 40,000 workers who are expected to receive a raise as a result.

But on March 2, when the new minimum wage kicks in, many Oakland restaurant owners say they will raise menu prices — by more than 20 percent in some cases — to finance the wage increase. Local restaurateurs have widely disparate views on how much of a price hike they think will be necessary, and some of their conclusions about the impact of the minimum wage contradict the analysis of labor economists, who have tended to downplay the impact that minimum wage hikes have on restaurants.

Read More on East Bay Express →

Minimum Wage and Lift Up Oakland: The Morning After


Much has happened since I wrote my original piece in Oakland Local about minimum wage, Lift Up Oakland, and why I supported a higher wage for my own workers and those all over Oakland: Measure FF passed, with over 80 percent of voters supporting it, and then the real work started. We’re on our way to the second-largest percentage increase in minimum wage in US history, and have influenced surrounding cities to increase their wages to keep pace. Although Seattle and San Francisco have both adopted $15-an-hour minimum wages, those will take effect in phases over time. On March 2, Oakland’s minimum wage will be the highest in the U.S., but likely not for long. Other cities and states are beginning to move in more significant ways to increase wages, and San Francisco’s minimum wage will increase to the same $12.25 per hour in May of this year.

I’ve been involved in several conversations over the past months discussing ways to help locally owned small businesses through this transition, most especially restaurants and bars, who are the most impacted because of the labor-intensive nature of what we do. Lots of interesting things are being discussed among us — things like moving away from tipping entirely (which some restaurants are already doing), figuring out how to engage city government in this transition process, identifying groups like Oakland Grown who can help us publicize the issue, and just reading and understanding the nitty-gritty of the laws now in place, which we need to implement in just a few short weeks.

Read More on Oakland Local →

Feature Image: SB Business Times

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Rob Arias

is a third generation Californian and East Bay native who lived in Emeryville from 2003 to 2021. Rob founded The E'ville Eye in 2011 after being robbed at gunpoint and lamenting the lack of local news coverage. Rob's "day job" is as a creative professional.


  1. Hi Rob! – Thought finding your APTP protest march coverage objective and non judgemental, your opinion on the minimum wage ordinance leaves no doubt where you stand – right next to Nora Davis and Ruth Atkin. Using such loaded terms as “Guinea Pig” and “push through”, and excerpting from the SF Business Times instead of giving it as an optional reference for the reader to pursue – these are the reasons I don’t subscribe and contribute money to your “hyperlocal” news. Sorry – Bob Hughes, 1450 45th St. #16.

    • Apologies Rob – above I’ve obviously conflated two issues – 1) the minimal wage hike (and it’s clear where you stand on that) and 2) the proposed moratorium on development. Sorry – Bob Hughes

      • Thanks Bob. The truth is that City Council has no idea how this is going to impact the few small businesses in our community and they can reference as many “studies” as they want. I think “Guinea Pig” is appropriate when we would be the highest in the nation as it’s never been done. Small business is afraid to stand up for themselves so someone has to.

    • Bob, I’d also like to point out that Ruth Atkin actually initiated this so it appears you might not be completely up to speed on the issue.

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