Emeryville Minimum Wage Ordinance goes into effect today. Fast-Tracked Timeline Outlined

5 mins read

If you drop by your favorite establishment and notice that sandwich or burger is 20% more than you remembered, don’t blame them for being greedy (A BLAT Sandwich at Rudy’s is now $12.50, Bucci’s raised their prices and implemented a $2.50 per customer “Service Charge”. Commonwealth opened with a “tipless” model with $8 beers).

Emeryville City Council unanimously approved their proposed highest in the Nation Minimum Wage Ordinance (MWO) on Tuesday June 2nd and it will go into effect today, just 30 days later. In comparison, Oakland businesses were given five months to prepare from when Measure FF was passed in November 2014 to its implementation in March 2015.

The Emeryville MWO was implemented faster & higher than any city in the nation and with minimal public or small business input. It was done as an ordinance without voter or business support and under the guidance of organized labor special interest groups. The timeline from introducing this to the public at the January 20th Council Meeting and implementing it was less than six months. A recap of how this all went down:

Photo: Union affiliates routinely flooded Council Chambers to protest treatment by big corporations, but it was small business that ended up losing in E’ville.

June 23rd, 2014
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates initiates discussion for regional East Bay Minimum Wage hike with Mayors in Oakland, Emeryville, Alameda, Albany and El Cerrito. Then Emeryville Mayor Jac Asher notes support for regional approach saying “I absolutely understand what Mayor Bates wants to do, and if there’s some way to get a regional minimum wage, I’d be very supportive.” in this SF Gate article.

September 19th, 2014
Then Candidate Dianne Martinez foreshadows what is to come by referencing discussions of increase with SEIU 1021 and EBASE at League of Women Voters candidate Forum. Candidates John Bauters and Scott Donahue express preference for “Regional” approach. [Updated] Martinez had also expressed a regional preference in her E’ville Eye candidate questionnaire published on September 23th.

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November 4th, 2014
Oakland’s Measure FF passes with overwhelming support moving minimum wage to $12.25/hr. starting in March 2015.
Organized labor-backed R.U.L.E. candidates Scott Donahue and Dianne Martinez win Emeryville Council seats giving Council a “progressive” R.U.L.E. endorsed majority along with Jac Asher.

January 8th, 2015
Emeryville Chamber of Commerce CEO Bob Canter retires, severely limiting the influence of business and their ability to organize and communicate.


January 20th, 2015
With Mayor Ruth Atkin absent, Councilmember Jac Asher moves to fast-track the staff-proposed timeline of October to July. Asher also eliminates one staff recommended community meeting & proposed community survey. Starting Minimum Wage is proposed to increase 55% to $14.03/hr. “The businesses in town should know about this” she states.

February 17th, 2015
Council increases nations highest minimum wage proposal from $14.03 to $14.43 (now a 60% increase). Despite staff’s draft ordinance including no phase-ins for small businesses, Asher calls small business concerns being fed by “misinformation”. Council cites Berkeley IRLE study to indicate a nominal 2.7% increase in restaurant prices. Councilmember Nora Davis opposed draft amendments because of timeline concerns. “Staff has got to learn to say ‘no’ sometimes”. City Manager Sabrina Landreth concurs that “It is extraordinarily crunched, I will be honest with you about that, and we don’t have sufficient resources …”

March 15th, 2015
The E’ville Eye interviews Mayor Ruth Atkin about Minimum Wage Ordinance and regional Approach. Councilmember Jac Asher refuses to answer any critical questions about impacts on net employment, youth employment and cost increases on fixed-income seniors and low-wage earners themselves.

April 7th, 2015
Special study session yields large small business turnout with many small businesses advocating for regional approach and labor groups advocating for path toward $15. Council does its own thing by pursuing escalated S.F. version with nominal Small Business concessions. Arbitrary 55 employee threshold set for Small Business with starting $12.25/hr. and nearly $1 annual phase-ins that would put Small Businesses on trajectory to nearly $16/hr. in 2019. These increases would be a nearly 200% jump for small businesses in the span of five years ($8 as of June 30, 2014 to forecasted $15.98 in 2019). Big Businesses to now start at $14.44/hr. Councilmember Asher argues against any youth exemption citing the need for even minors to earn a Living Wage. “They have a lot of expenses” she notes. 

April 15th, 2015
Councilmembers Asher, Martinez, Donahue & Mayor Atkin attend “Fight for $15” rally together. Mayor Atkin declares “We will make history” in speech.

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April 29th, 2015

In last-ditch effort to be heard, small businesses organize an online petition to disclose impacts of the highest minimum wage increase in the nation in city surrounded by cities with lower model. Councilmembers Brother, founding R.U.L.E. member and Tattler Editor Brian Donahue is accused of harassment by small businesses with repeated phone calls and in-person confrontation. One business opts to remove their endorsement of the petition after being harassed. IHOP’s endorsement is removed after a comment purporting to be from them is determined to be in fact from the Tattler Editor. Donahue “reports” this on his own blog as “Emeryville Businesses Flee Former Hard Positions.”


May 5th, 2015
Council Approves first reading of ordinance. Organized labor floods Council Chambers as frustrated Small Businesses conclude they will not be heard amid intimidation and harassment charges. “Their minds are already made up” note several small businesses. Despite hostile conditions and intimidation for small business owners, Councilmember Martinez interprets the lack of business presence as having reached a “consensus” with them.

May 19th, 2015
Ambiguities in ordinance language necessitate adjustments and new reading is held that resets this as the first reading. Tattler Editor Brian Donahue repeatedly disrupts meeting with accusations that he has been slandered by Small Businesses and The E’ville Eye. Mayor Ruth Atkin calls Donahue for being “Out of Order”. Mayor Atkin notes Emeryville being courted by National Media. “We’re also catching some heat at home” notes Vice Mayor Davis.


June 1st, 2015
The Emeryville Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors votes at their May Board meeting to dissolve the Emeryville Chamber of Commerce Corporation.

June 2nd, 2015
Second Reading of proposed ordinance. Emeryville City Council unanimously approves Minimum Wage Ordinance to go into effect 30 days later (July 2nd).


June 17th, 2015
The E’ville Eye interviews Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates on East Bay Regional Approach. “I did talk to [Atkin & Asher] about this and encouraged them to try to think about moving together and they decided to go a little bit faster.”

June 18th, 2015
Businesses are first notified of the passage of the MWO and the new requirements via a white envelope mailing. This is the only notification businesses receive to inform them that in 14 days, they will need to raise the salaries of employees as much as 60% and implement a complex sick leave policy.

June 24th
With EBASE representative Jennifer Lin present, City’s first MWO informational session is held at City Hall to explain the provisions of the ordinance. Only seven businesses attend and many businesses claim they never received the information mailing. Staff acknowledges inaccuracies in June 18th mailing including incorrect MWO start date and sick leave requirements. Staff indicates revised mailing will be sent out in the next few days.


July 2nd, 2015
Despite confusion over implementation date on printed materials and other flaws that could set up a legal challenge, the Minimum Wage Ordinance is Implemented.

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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. Great synopsis of the execution of Emeryville’s small business scene at the hands of a deaf City Council acting unilaterally to achieve the SEIU’s goals.

    Being unemployed at $16 per hour is not an improvement over being employed at $12. This law will go down as one of the most anti-poor, anti-minority, anti-woman actions ever taken by a city.

    Everyone told the City Council the damage they were doing, and they just wouldn’t listen to anyone, not the residents, not the high school counselor, not the small businesses, not even their own staff.

    If you can’t see the obvious nonsense in the theory that you can raise the minimum wage to anything you want it to be overnight, then you are too blind an ideologue to represent a city.

  2. so stupid. so the people who couldn’t afford the cost of living in the bay area or Emeryville still can’t afford it.. what were they thinking – that businesses weren’t going to offset the added cost? does the city council understand the concept of inflation? So glad I moved my business to Oakland. Even with doing that I’m competing in a national market and I know I pay far more in wages than any of my competitors, I’m fortunate that my customers will pay the price for my product, not everyone is so lucky.

  3. I feel bad as a 15 year resident of Emeryville, but, it will just be too easy to get what I need in Berkeley and Oakland. I’ve noticed that almost all businesses that I frequent have raised prices and there’s just no increased value from the consumer’s perspective. I have no doubt between now and the end of the year a lot of small businesses will be moving and closing down. I live in Emeryville for the small businesses (mostly restaurants, etc) and put up with the Big Box stores. The Big Box stores will stay and the small businesses will leave. If the vibe of Emeryville becomes more Big Box, I will leave.

  4. Why did the City Council pass this if it’s not good for the residents and not good for the businesses? Is it just an ideological thing they’re in to?

  5. I think they are trying to drive out the small, local businesses and poorer residents who won’t be able to afford the change.

  6. I feel sorry for the seniors who are on fixed incomes. They’re dealing with 20% more cost and 0% more income.

  7. I just think of the new minimum wage as a tax on residents and local businesses to support the surrounding cities. Since you can’t live in Emeryville on the old or new minimum wage, we’re basically just taking money from our residents and giving it to residents of other cities. I guess it’s a nice gesture.

  8. In your timeline, you might want to drop in this Aug 2014 meeting with RULE, Shum Preston from the SEIU, and Jennifer Lin of EBASE (http://emeryvilletattler.blogspot.com/2014/08/rule-meeting.html?m=1).

    Those two orchestrated this fiasco. The idea that this had anything to do with the quality of life in Emeryville or the poor is nonsense. It was two labor reps pushing a national political agenda and using little Emeryville to do it.

    Sadly, they pulled it off without any resistance from the people who are supposed to represent our community, and now the residents and businesses are stuck with the mess.

  9. The LA Times reported today that the governor’s Finance Office is opposing a bill to raise California’s minimum wage to $11 in 2016 and $13 in 2017 citing the negative impact on the economy and the budget: http://www.latimes.com/local/political/la-me-pc-california-finance-office-opposes-bill-raising-minimum-wage-20150710-story.html

    This likely signals that any efforts moving toward a $15 minimum wage in CA will be vetoed at the state level.

    And, more to the point, it means that Emeryville was just sacrificed to the SEIU for nothing. The whole insane timeline here was set up to allow the unions to promote this political agenda that now appears to have no future at the state level.

    It’s probably time to start talking about how to roll back the Emeryville minimum wage to something that won’t be so financially damaging to Emeryville’s residents, its entry level workers, its young people, its fixed income seniors, and its small businesses.

    Hopefully, sanity is contagious.

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