CNN video segment profiles Emeryville “The city with the highest minimum wage in America”

1 min read

Two weeks ago the L.A. Times wrote a piece about us, this time the national media is taking note of little Emeryville. A three-minute video segment (with some spots that most E’villains will recognize), profiles our town which is now known nationally as the “The city with the highest Minimum Wage in the America.” CNN Digital correspondent Vanessa Yurkevich profiles key players in its implementation including Mayor Ruth Atkin, EBASE representative Jennifer Lin and small business owner Chris Hillyard of Farley’s Coffee. “I know that any small independent business that was considering opening in Emeryville is probably going to have to consider if they are going to go forward with that.”

This is the city with the highest minimum wage in America

At $14.44 an hour, Emeryville, California has the highest minimum wage in the country.
Just two months ago it was $9.

Growing impatient with Washington’s progress on the issue, cities like San Diego, Chicago and Los Angeles have passed measures to gradually raise the minimum wage past the $10 mark.

But Emeryville, a small city across the Bay from San Francisco, didn’t wait. It cranked up salaries for its lowest earners by 60% overnight after an ordinance took effect on July 2.

“What meaning does a minimum wage have if it’s not a living wage?” asked Emeryville Mayor Ruth Atkin. “We should have a living wage.”

But Emeryville’s small businesses are already feeling the pinch.

Read More on CNN Money →

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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.


    • Well since the council opted to do this without any accountability (this is convenient for them), we’ll never actually know how many people ended up losing their jobs and we’ll never know how many people it lifted out poverty/disqualified from government programs (unless somebody commissions a non-partisan independent analysis?).

  1. The other local blog is reporting that a number of people lost their job at Guitar Center as a result of the minimum wage hike. The employer apparently needed to reduce the number of employees to fit under the 55 person limit. At some point, people are going to have to acknowledge that the City Council is costing people their jobs.

  2. yeah. awesome. thanks. So now the stores are having to fire people and meanwhile the rents have skyrocketed to an absolutely unmanageable rate. Literally. New apartment complex across the street from me is 2900 a month for a 650 sq foot 1 bedroom apartment. Pizza’s are over 30 bucks a pie, I had a regular cocktail the other day and it was 15 dollars. My wife and I are both educated, working professionals, who have lived in Emeryville for 6 years.We love it but even we are getting pushed out of the city. What good did increasing the minimum wage do?

    • I think this is really about the gentrification of Emeryville. We’re shedding the jobs that support low-income workers (manufacturing, service industries, and low-end retail) and will end up replacing them with professional services, technology, and high-end, high-margin retail. Good bye diverse local population.

      If the poor can’t work here and the middle can’t buy here, then guess who’s left? It sure ain’t me. I’d suggest renting out your place and moving somewhere that gives a damn about the people who live there.

    • “I had a regular cocktail the other day and it was 15 dollars.”

      Maybe that’s what all those “Fight for 15” signs were referring to.

  3. We shouldn’t intervene to try to make wages livable because it will make Emeryville for the rich only, obviously. If we don’t increase the minimum wage, Emeryville will become a wonderful destination city for the poor and the middle leaving the wealthy stranded in Piedmont. But unfortunately the council HAS intervened and now Emeryville is to be a city for the wealthy only (side benefit: up goes our real estate value and Piedmont here we come). The council needs to trust the magic of the market.
    In addition to not increasing the minimum wage, we need to do nothing on the housing front. But the liberals contend if we let the developers do what they want, they’ll build market rate luxury apartments exclusively thereby pricing out the poor and the middle. But we know better. There should be no government intervention there as well because the magic of the marketplace will bring affordable housing for the poor and the middle. All we have to do is wait…the affordable housing will come any day now (as long as the liberal city council doesn’t get any stupid ideas like trying to tell developers what they can and can’t do in our town). So far the rent just keeps going up but any day now it’ll reverse itself because of the magic of the market. Just place your trust and your faith in the magic of the market. Any day now…

    • If you get rid of the sarcasm, there’s nothing left of your comment.

      How does pricing working people out of the market for jobs, pricing employers out of the market for customers, pricing customers out of the city, and killing developers plans to build more housing help ANYONE? .

      Our City Council’s solution: the nation’s highest minimum wage, an attempted housing moratorium, driving the businesses that hire unskilled workers out of the city, and blocking progress on the addition of more housing.


  4. My “sarcasm” is only agreeing with you. We just let let the magic of the market build everything for us and we’ll finally have our utopia. This government intervention is not helping ANYONE. The affordable housing will be supplied by unfettered development The livable wages for all will be supplied by unregulated capitalism. This’ll all happen any day now.

    • The market was doing a much better job than the current City Council, so I’d say, yes, let’s let the market correct by letting developers build housing and letting employers continue to create jobs and allowing the economy to grow and continue to raise wages.

      Before the new city council majority started their crusade, things were getting better.

      It’s not magic. It’s common sense:
      – When the price of labor is high, fewer jobs are created
      – When the minimum wage is too high, unskilled workers lose their jobs and small businesses get replaced by big ones
      – When there is a shortage of the types of housing people want in this area (largely units for working professionals), then prices go up
      – When the minimum wage is too high locally, businesses and consumers leave

      Utopia isn’t going to happen with capitalism any more than it’s going to happen with three ideologues trying to mandate the world they want from city hall, but given the choice, I’ll take capitalism. It has a much better track record than city hall.

  5. Yes indeed! Before the new council majority, things were getting better in Emeryville:
    -rents were going down
    -wages for poor people were going up

    Well, not really. Actually rents were going up and wages for poor people were going down. Poor people were being chased out of town and even the middle couldn’t afford live here even though developers built tons of new apartment buildings. But that’s besides the point. The point is THINGS WERE JUST GETTING READY TO GET BETTER. And then the new council majority started mucking around in stuff that’s none of their business, stuff that’s best left to the marketplace. They just didn’t give the marketplace enough time. Now because of the council we know it’ll continue to get worse for the poor and the middle. It’s so frustrating. The market was just getting ready to deliver low rents and high wages. A few more weeks of unregulated capitalism and we would have been delivered into the promised land by the markets but those damnable liberals on the council messed it all up.

    Utopia isn’t expensive…just the opposite. If we just let the invisible hand of the market work, we’ll get there if we can only put three Republicans on the council. You just gotta believe.

    • Actually, it’s naïve to believe the minimum wage ordinance had anything to do with helping poor people. It was all about organized labor. The unions imposed a $15 minimum wage on Emeryville, and then had City Council exempt them from the law.

      Non-union shops will have to pay $15-$16. Union shops in Emeryville can pay anything down to the state minimum of $9.

      All you had to do was look at who was sitting in city hall at the meetings to see that this wasn’t about Emeryville’s residents.

      • Leave it to readers of this blog to trash labor unions on labor day.
        And what a trashing it is: ‘Unions hate working people and want to make sure the bosses pay them next to nothing’. Points for stupidity to you. Good luck getting converts to this.

      • Read the post. It doesn’t trash labor. It says, factually, exactly what they did. Nothing more.

        They pushed through a law to get the minimum wage raised from $9 to $14.44 rising to over $16, then put in an exception that union shops don’t have to pay that minimum.

        It’s clever as hell. Give labor props for having the gumption to play the entire country and Emeryville in particular for fools.

  6. Before the new city council:
    – Development of new housing was moving forward
    – Businesses were expanding
    – A pizza didn’t cost $30
    – CNN wasn’t reporting about Emeryville’s lousy business environment
    – Employers weren’t laying people off just to get under 55 workers
    – Restaurants weren’t cutting their hours
    – Local businesses could compete with neighboring cities and big box stores
    – A young person had a chance of getting a job close to home
    – The city council was more interested in Emeryville than in headlines

    Those were good times. Not perfect times.

    But yes, far better than today.

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