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:
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.
MWO DRAFT INTRODUCED
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.
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.