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Emeryville moves forward with Minimum Wage Ordinance amid “Out of Control” Tattler Editor Disruptions

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The revised first reading of the contentious Minimum Wage ordinance that would give Emeryville the highest minimum wage in the nation was unanimously approved to move forward last Tuesday. Absent this meeting was the support of labor groups “hired guns” as small business and residents regained control of chambers. It ultimately mattered little though as council, who arguably had their mind made up about this issue before the discussion started, continued to ignore the pleas of small business and even labor groups calling for a sensible, regional approach and they resumed their ambition to etch their names in the history books.

Tattler Editor and unofficial RULE spokesperson Brian Donahue continued his confrontational behavior of Small Business owners.

Small Businesses and supporters made a final desperation plea to council to implement a regional approach. The sign below pointing out the competitive disadvantage that Emeryville Small Businesses would be subjected to with their surrounding neighbors paying an estimated $2.41 more per hour by 2019. It’s sad that our country is as polarized as it is but it’s even sadder when neighboring cities can’t even come to a consensus about something they’re mostly aligned on (Is every city in the Bay Area going to in fact have their own unique minimum wage schedule?). This reading of the ordinance with amendments would put approval on track for the June 2nd council meeting and adoption 30 days later on July 2nd.


Council Desperate for Small Business “Poster Child” to support measure

Unlike the Oakland Lift Up Oakland campaign where organizers found a compromise with small business and something palatable with voters, Emeryville Council’s actions received almost no support from the Small Business Community and instead opted to pursue this without voter support. Lift Up was able to recruit small businesses like Actual Cafe & Farley’s to support their measure. Both of these businesses went on record that they could not support the ordinance that Emeryville Council was pushing. Council and Labor desperately needed a poster child for their campaign so they could say “Hey look, business supports this too!” This never materialized. Arizmendi Bakery was in fact the only business that spoke in favor of the ordinance as written. As much as we love Arizmendi, they received nearly half a million dollars in subsidies in the redevelopment era to come to Emeryville and this would not likely have been possible without them. Arizmendi operates under a unique Worker-Cooperative model where employees are partial owners in the organization.

“We have a tempered regional approach and consensus that includes business” noted Mayor Atkin in this recent SF Business Times article. Apparently Atkin’s definition of our “region” refers to San Francisco (Emeryville’s schedule actually surpasses SF’s) and not neighboring Oakland & Berkeley and the business consensus she refers to apparently consists of a single business (The E’ville Eye reached out to Atkin for clarification of which businesses in fact were supportive of this and have not heard back).

Tattler Editor theatrics gone too far?

The main “entertainment” of the night came from unofficial RULE spokesperson/Tattler Editor Brian Donahue who used every opportunity in Public Comment to draw attention to his plight. A riled Donahue claimed to have been “slandered” by small business for this recent piece documenting his alleged “Harassment” of some of them that lobbied for an impact study through an online petition (a pretty bold thing to say for someone who has a column called “The Asshat of the month” dedicated to smearing those in the city he dislikes). Harassment by definition is not automatically a crime unless it meets certain criteria such as being persistent. Emeryville Black Bear Diner co-owner Celina Gonzales provided some levity considering the circumstances. “Mr. Donahue, my condolences” speaking to Brian’s brother Scott who holds a seat on Council. “We’ve all got one in the family I think.”

Mr. Donahue’s 4 public comment appearances & Council reaction can be watched above.

After the conclusion of the hearing, Donahue proceeded to confront others in attendance outside the chambers calling for their arrest saying that their slandering of him was in fact the real crime in the city. Visibly irritated, Donahue charged back into council to clear his name of any wrong-doing and challenging council to have him arrested if he was in fact guilty of a crime. Mayor Atkin finally had enough when Donahue persisted, utilizing public comment to preach about this in an unrelated agenda item and calling out Councilmember Davis. “You are out of order” chided Mayor Atkin at one point late in the meeting. “Are you going to have me arrested for talking off the subject?” challenged Donahue. “No, I’m going to have you rem … step away so we can conduct our business here”. “Out of control” called out council member Davis toward the end. “No, I’m in control!” fired back Donahue. After trying to further argue his point, Atkin deferred to City Attorney Michael Biddle who reiterated that Public Comment was reserved to the particular agenda item. The awkward showdown persisted for nearly five minutes and appeared to make a mockery of Council.

Staff’s reaction to the debacle said it all …

Does behavior reflect poorly on supportive Councilmembers?

Mayor Atkin moved to adjourn the meeting because of Mr. Donahue’s interruptions but finished the meeting by addressing the issue of Harassment in the city. “I am very disheartened when obnoxious behavior happens in town and it may not be illegal. First amendment right allow people to behave poorly in public comment section of our meetings but to go to private individuals offline, outside of this council chambers and be bullying and harassing while it may not be illegal it’s certainly not desirable and not something that I condone or support in any way.”

Asher & Martinez did their best to avoid eye contact during the confrontation.

Surprisingly, Brian’s affiliated Councilmembers Asher, Donahue & Martinez looked embarrassed but did not speak up and admonish this behavior and have done nothing to distance themselves from these antics (nor has the advocacy group RULE that he is entrenched in). These Councilmembers seem defiant that their affiliation with The Tattler and this behavior somehow reflects negatively on them in any way and ignoring it is the best way to move past it. The issue of harassment in the city has been added to the next Public Safety Committee agenda (Date still TBD). I’m convinced that only in a City as small as Emeryville with almost no mainstream media presence and poor resident engagement could this occur. More of course has been written on the story as the national media continues to court Emeryville. Let’s hope that one reporter out there has the courage to investigate the entire story.

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The Council meeting in its entirety can be watched in the feature area of this post.

Further Reading and Resources:

East Bay restaurants adapt to new minimum wage |
A Fascinating Minimum-Wage Experiment Is About to Unfold | The New Yorker
Emeryville passes minimum wage law | CC
How The Minimum-Wage Debate Moved From Capitol Hill To City Halls |

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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. To our City Council: It’s painful to see what you have to endure as you do your best to run our City. Thanks for what you do.

    To Brian: You are my neighbor and friend. I frequently agree with your principled positions, but I find your aggressively disruptive presentations disturbing. I am absolutely certain that your valuable opinions would be better served if you were to take a more thoughtful, considerate, and civilized approach when presenting them. Thanks for what you do.

    • Thank you for this. Maybe if enough of the people that he cares about come forward and say the same thing (starting with his brother, Jac & Dianne), he’ll tone it down. I haven’t given up on Brian Donahue who I still consider a mentor … but I’m also not going to be intimidated or bullied by him.

      • Heart-felt civic passion is a valuable commodity, and Brian has it. Civil discourse is also a valuable commodity that should be respected. That’s all I’m sayin’.

  2. There are a lot of lessons to be learned from this story.
    First: You get City Council members like Dianne Martinez and Scott Donahue and other economic illiterates when pro-business, common-sense residents refuse to make the commitment to run for local office.
    Second: Like most solutions imposed by governments, this one — ultimately — will have many negative consequences, including those who presumably were to be helped — minimum wage employees — getting their hours of employment reduced and ultimately losing their jobs. I hope that those small businesses that end up terminating employees because of this tell every single fired employee to go to a City Council meeting and tell the Council the results of this short- sighted policy.
    Third, this will chase consumers out of Emeryville. Small businesses paying the new, higher minimum wage will be forced to raise their prices to cover this increased cost. Businesses in surrounding cities not subject to these extra costs will be able to keep their costs and prices lower, attracting more customers from Emeryville, costing Emeryville businesses income and the City tax revenue.
    Fourth: The pro-business, pro-entrepreneurial spirit that made Emeryville a national success story is now gone. Emeryville’s halcyon days are over; the City is now just “Berkeley Junior” — an over-regulated enclave where government feels it can solve everyone’s problems by passing goof\y laws.
    Finally, the inmates have now taken over the asylum. Just watch Brian Donahue in those City Council clips contained in this story and judge for yourself. No wonder that we’re losing our City Manage and City Attorney.
    All is not lost, the small business community and the City’s Sanity Caucus can retake Emeryville if it has the guts and leadership to do so and not be intimidated by nut jobs like Brian Donahue, the RULE whackos, EBASE, UNITE Here and the usual cast of the intellectual flotsam and jetsam that infects Emeryville. This story should be a Call to Action to the City’s Sanity Caucus to get organized, get going and fight back to reclaim Emeryville from the loonies.

  3. Anyone remember what percentage of the vote Measure C got in Emeryville? A mere 54%. It was limited to one industry which has only big businesses, and it barely passed.

    Does anyone think this minimum wage ordinance would have a prayer of passing if we actually allowed the residents of Emeryville to vote on it? This city is being used by the SEIU and Brian’s RULE group to promote a national agenda that has nothing to do with Emeryville or poverty.

    We are a pawn, and we’re about to get sacrificed by our city council on behalf of the SEIU to win a bigger piece on the national chess board.

    • I tend to agree with this and refute the notion that E’villains are 100% politically aligned with Oakland & Berkeley like Council has suggested. I think that Emeryville likes to learn from the mistakes of Oakland (particularly in regards to public safety and infrastructure) and traditionally anti-business Berkeley.

  4. I wish the city council would just acknowledge that they are anti-small business.

    The small businesses are petitioning en masse, showing up at council meetings en masse, writing letters left and right against what’s being done, and the council members have the nerve to try to say that small businesses support this.

    They’re killing us with one hand and waving a pro-small business flag with the other.

    They need to fundamentally accept and acknowledge that a) they are anti-business period (small and large) and b) that by making it nearly impossible for small businesses, they are handing the local economy to the national chains and big box stores.

    Asher, Martinez, Atkin, and Donahue: Please, just fess up and say “look, we kind of hate businesses generally, and we like to imagine ourselves as champions of the poor, so sorry, but we’re just pushing whatever the unions tell us. And if we can do it in a way that hurts local business (say on a ridiculous timeline, with no notice, and with the most extreme increase we can get away with), all the better.”

    At least then I could respect your honesty.

  5. It saddens me to see logic, science, and reason, again thrown out the window in favor of being the top, the number one, the king and queen of minimum wage. Small business used to be the source of the strength of this country, now big business and big mouths seem to control the issues. Sad, sad, sad days.

  6. So this group RULE hates small business AND promotes harassment & bullying? Do they do anything positive for the community? I’m going to have to pay more attention this election. I feel like I was duped!

  7. We were all duped. Did any one of these people mention anything about unilaterally raising the local minimum wage to the highest in the nation BEFORE they were elected? Kind of a big thing to forget to mention during the run up to the election. Weren’t they talking about housing and bicycle paths or something? But now a massive and instantaneous 60% increase to the minimum wage is THE thing and it has to happen on July 1 or else. And lo and behold, there’s almost no disagreement on council about the details. Shucks, it’s almost like this was all part of a plan.

    • Then Candidates Martinez & Donahue were asked this very question at the LWV forum last year. The writing was on the wall but people just checked the box of the Democratic Party endorsed candidates and didn’t bother actually paying attention. Again, A wake up call for Small Business and fans of Democracy:

      • Listening to Donahue and Martinez doesn’t give a hint what they had in mind. It’s like looking back at a guy who went postal and trying to say ‘well, were there any clues that I should have caught to alert me to the impending disaster’.

        The best we can do is hear Martinez mention EBASE and the SEIU as her advisors on the topic and the ominous mention that whether she’s on the council or not, we’ll see some action on this very soon. No mention of $15. No mention of highest in the nation. No suggestion that this should happen immediately and aggressively. The voters can’t be blamed for this one.

        Given hindsight, imagine what an honest question to this question would have sounded like. Maybe something like this: “I endorse the goals of EBASE and the SEIU to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. I support doing this aggressively and immediately, and I believe this is important work that needs to be done with or without the support of the other neighboring communities or the local community and businesses.”

        That ain’t what you hear in the video.

  8. Rob, your little website has become completely hilarious. It’s ridiculous double-speak to argue that a city council voting to pass a law is “undemocratic.” Your infatuation with fellow blogger Brian D. would be adorable if it were not so pathetic. I don’t always appreciate Brian’s company or demeanor, but I acknowledge him as a passionate and knowledgeable resident who is beholden to no one and who legitimately cares about the city, its schools, and its residents. So he’s loud and says things you don’t want to hear? That’s not harassment, it’s being annoying. You, on the other hand, are a little man (figuratively and literally) with two interests: (1) maintaining your condo’s property value at all costs and (2) serving the needs of the special interests funding your website.

    I used to enjoy the Eville Eye for its breezy local interest stories about new restaurants and cafes. Then there were little hints of your NIMBY, pro-business views — like how you asked each of the candidates what they were going to do about the homeless people that were oh-too-close to your luxury condo and were making you feel icky. Now you’ve come out completely as a tool of Emeryville’s businesses. That, in a way, is a good thing. I hope you continue your silly posturing so all of your readers know they are essentially reading Fox News, Local Edition. And please run for city council in 2016, because it would really expose the politics of Rob A. and his cutesy wootsey little website.

    • Thanks Tracy/Lillian/Shirley/Female Brian. Nice of you attack me personally … Anonymously. That’s real courage. The reason I know it’s one of you is you’re the only two people in the city who are petty and bitter enough to talk that way to me.

      • “Annoying” huh? I can think of some better words to use for what I saw. So when a Councilmembers brother behaves this way is this not news? Should I not report this? Please explain how Council/Brian have put residents first in this debate. And “Luxury Condo”? I’m part of E’ville’s affordable buying program. More evidence that RULE/Brian are willing to say anything to stay in power and why I bought into your “resident advocacy” line or never joined.

      • That narrows it down to the 3 other RULE supporters in the city and I know it wasn’t Joan, April or Sarah because they’re the only sane ones among you (BTW, I like Bill too but I highly doubt it was him because he actually has some class).

      • so homophobic comments aren’t off limits either. good to know. I haven’t heard a taunt like that since middle school.

    • Ok, my turn to guess. Is Friendo a certain San Francisco SEIU spokesman who has taken to visiting our city every other Tuesday night with lots of his out-of-town friends, who previously commented on the relationship between Rob and Brian in this blog, who tends to have a similar belittling self-righteous tone, and who teamed up with Brian to call and harass local businesses recently when they started a petition to do an impact study?

      Did I get it? What do I win?

  9. A shopkeeper arriving at his store sees a guy sleeping in his doorway. Feeling bad for him, he asks “Hey, would you like to help around the shop and pick up a few bucks?” The guy nods and so the shopkeeper says “What do you know how to do?” The guy says “Well, I don’t really know how to do very much but I could clean up, sweep a little, that sort of thing.”

    So the shopkeeper agrees to pay him $9 an hour for a few hours to sweep up the place. He gets to work sweeping up the sidewalk. The shopkeeper feels good. The new worker feels a little proud and puts on an apron.

    A lady named Jac sees the poor man working and charges angrily into the shop. “How much are you paying that man?”

    “Nine bucks.”

    “Nine bucks!!! He can’t live on that. How’s he going to rent an apartment with that?”

    “Well, he’s just sweeping a little.”

    “You are keeping this man in poverty for financial gain.” Jac storms off mumbling something about calling the SEIU.

    A few minutes later, a young woman named Dianne comes charging in. “Sir, how dare you pay this man nine dollars an hour. Do you know that he’s on welfare? You’re using the tax payers money to clean your store.”

    “Well, he was unemployed and broke and now he’ll have a little…”

    “Does he get sick days?!” “Well, he’s really just part time and” “NO SICK DAYS! What if he needs to take care of his family or his guide dog?”

    “I just wanted to give him a job and thought he could sweep up a little. You know, he was sleeping in my door, and I don’t think he has a dog.”

    “This man deserves a living wage. You need to get creative and pay him $15 by next week, so help me or I’ll shut you down,” and off she goes.

    Frustrated, the shopkeeper starts wondering how much he really needs his floor swept when along comes his old friend Ruth. She’s always seemed kind of nice and friendly, but today, she looks braced for battle.

    “Mister, why are you oppressing this man?”

    “I thought I was employing him.”

    “We need to Lift Up our community, so you need to singlehandedly take this man off public assistance. He needs $15 an hour so he can have child care, an apartment, and can pay his cell phone bill like everyone else.”

    “But, he’s 18, he doesn’t have a kid, and I think he might live with his parents. Do you have any employees yourse…”

    “Everyone deserves a Living Wage. Gotta run, I have an interview.”

    The shopkeeper goes to the man who was sweeping his sidewalk and sadly says “Buddy, I’m sorry, but I just can’t keep you.”

    The man puts down the broom and says “That’s ok. I didn’t really like the job much, and I can’t come in tomorrow anyway. I’ve got a rally to attend.”

  10. shirley enomoto here. rob, I did NOT write the comment signed by friendo. while I agree with all friendo wrote, I would not go into such length and details and sign it anonymously. I am not petty nor bitter with you. I just call a spade a spade and don’t hide behind a skirt of “anonymous.”

    would friendo please stand up?

    • What child is this????
      This forum may inundate my email enough that at my age, it will be too much. Seems most of the source of the deep conflict here is a person who’s mom or dad did not listen, so he is desperately trying to be heard somewhere.
      We can fight back or just make sure we hear the frustration and struggle this guy is going through.
      Mac, no skirt.

    • agreeing with ALL that friendo wrote would mean you agree with being rude and insulting. is that really what you meant?

      ruth atkin and nora davis aren’t making this stuff up when they say they are concerned about the letters they’re receiving from small businesses complaining about harassment. just watch the meeting to see how Brian behaved. just watch one small business woman call him out for what he did to her. that’s one of many.

      this is happening. rob’s not making it up. this is not pro-business. this is pro-civility.

      you and the city council are giving tacit approval to the idea that behaving this way, talking this way, treating people this way is ok as long as the politics are your own, as long as it gets you what you want. it is NOT ok.

      someone on city council should have the guts to stand up and say ‘we’re going to raise the minimum wage, but we aren’t going to do it like this. we’re going to do it right even if it takes a little longer. we’re not going to let the community be ripped apart. if you come into our town, you’re going to treat our residents and businesses respectfully and decently. and if ANYONE, business, union, or otherwise, threatens our people, then your little law gets put on the back burner until you can behave.”

  11. Quick survey for the RULE folks who just joined the discussion:
    a) Was Brian’s behavior during the last council meeting acceptable or unacceptable?
    b) Is it acceptable or unacceptable for Brian to come into a small business and berate the owners in front of their customers about being a “bad” business because they signed a petition?
    c) Should local bloggers make up facts and report them as news?
    d) Is it ok for city council members to pass private emails from citizens to Brian?
    e) Is it “right wing” to oppose laws which favor big box stores and hurt small local businesses?

  12. Sure would like Anonymous to come out with a name, hard to identify the players in this drama.

  13. It’s very annoying that Atkins and the SEIU guy are saying (depending on whether they are talking to the media or us) that both a) this will be the highest and most extreme minimum wage law in the country and b) that it’s a balanced regional approach just like our neighbors.

  14. We all agree that manufacturing in this country has declined dramatically because of the low cost of labor in China and other parts of the developing world compared to the cost of labor in the U.S.

    Ok, hold that thought. Now without performing partisan mental gymnastics, answer the question: do higher labor costs mean more or less jobs in the U.S.?

    There are so many hocus pocus arguments that somehow money magically appears and multiplies if you pay higher salaries and the workers buy more products meaning more money for everyone…like magic. Money appears out of thin air. We Lift Up everyone. This is collective well-meaning self-induced ignorance.

    We know that when costs go up, jobs go to China and Mexico and are automated away. We see what happened to manufacturing in the U.S. We know that whole industries die. And we know that when the price of labor goes up, businesses find ways to buy less of it. Never look to partisan studies to tell you what history demonstrates clearly. Does the phrase Made in China ring a bell?

    Emeryville is about to lose jobs and a lot of them because no one has EVER raised the minimum wage this far this fast and with this little thought. An unemployed man at $15 an hour does not make more than an employed man at $11 or $12.

    • Very well said! More truth from someone who truly understands how economics really work. Thank you!

      • Interesting theory. If I was a Chinese labor lobbyist, I think I would actually poor money into the SEIU since the policies they’re supporting would effectively push more jobs into China’s economy. Hmmmm …

    • Instead of “Lift Up Oakland”, maybe the signs should say “Lift Up China”

      Instead of “Fight for 15”, how about “Fight for 0”. Not as catchy.

      Maybe “Outsource Me!”

      This whole thing is so short-sighted. How did we arrive at a point where we are trying to repeat what happened with American manufacturing with other industries? Are we all really that dumb?

  15. Ya know, a recall is not out of the question. It’s pretty easy. We would need just 25% of the registered voters to sign a petition for recall. That’s just 1300 signatures. We did over 100 signatures in 5 days without half trying and that’s with a huge percentage of people not even knowing what’s going on. Almost everyone I spoke to was opposed to what city council is doing. The businesses are very engaged. Maybe that’s the path forward. If the city council forgets they work for the people of THIS city and don’t seem to care how many people here lose their jobs, maybe it’s time they lost theirs.

    • Very do-able. Once the businesses start closing, costs start rising, and the unions move on to wreak havoc somewhere else, the city council will be left alone with a lot of pissed off and highly motivated residents and businesses. Supporting a recall campaign is probably a lot cheaper than losing your business or being forced to move it out of the city. is anyone happy to see Emeryville in the news trying to win some ego trip for having the highest minimum wage in the state? It’s nuts.

  16. I say again, in different words, it is easy to dump on this forum and toss around opinions far less than constructive, Which usually become “destructive” when merely complaints and criticisms.
    Seems when you sign your comments you just might have something at stake and maybe even lean toward solutions instead of gossip and innuendo. (Gald for spell checking) I request you writers let us readers know who is commenting.

    • There is pretty justified fear of retaliation within the small business community. Look what happened when the businesses signed a petition. People are scared to attach their name to any comment for fear of getting the treatment Rob gets, or the restaurants got in the Tattler, or the other business owners got from Brian and the SEIU. Even making comments directly to the councilmembers isn’t safe since apparently they are passing some of these directly to Brian.

      I fully understand why some people are choosing to stay anonymous. A safe, public discussion between real residents and small businesses is exactly what is needed without the influence of EBASE, the SEIU, and other outside groups. A study of what negative and positive impacts the ordinance will have would be nice. Those are steps that would be constructive.

      The city council has been insistent that this needs to be rushed through without any of it. Any guess why? Because there isn’t support for this ordinance in the city itself, and the SEIU needs its headlines now while it’s pushing its bigger agenda in LA, Seattle, etc.

      This will probably pass tomorrow night anyway and lots of people will lose their jobs and their businesses.

      The message from city council to the residents and businesses of Emeryville: “You don’t matter.”

      • Thank you, my god, what country is this again? What a disaster looms here, far more than the vote.

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