Emeryville Small Businesses & Residents Petition Council for Minimum Wage Impact Study

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At the Tuesday April 7th Minimum Wage Study Session, a coalition of Emeryville Small Businesses and Residents pleaded with Council to factor them into the conversation of how best to implement a sensible compromise that would help employees without damaging and discouraging small businesses in our city. Council made some concessions but did not ultimately address many of the primary concerns of Small Businesses, and instead opted to go with their own recommendations. The first reading of Council’s proposed draft ordinance, which is now available online [PDF], will be read in Council Chambers at the Tuesday May 5th 7:15 Council meeting.

Some members of this coalition consisting of some of Emeryville’s favorite establishments are advocating that residents, employees and small business owners voice their opinion through a community petition on something that will impact all of us. A petition asking for Council to go back to staff’s initial recommendation of performing a study to better understand the impacts of the highest minimum wage increase in the nation … on the East Bay’s smallest city. Impacts on not only Small Businesses, but on residents, youth employment … and the minimum wage earners themselves.

Minimum Wage Community Impact Study Petition

(Note: one business opted to remove their name after being subjected to harassment.)

City of Emeryville Businesses, Residents & Employees,
Your City Council is proposing a minimum wage increase in our city that is historically unprecedented. Regardless of where you align in this debate, we believe it is just good public policy and better civic transparency to study the issue thoroughly before enacting anything, and to understand the impacts on small business, residents and workers. Impacts that by Emeryville staff’s own admission in their 2/17 Staff report are unknown because this has never been done before, especially in a city as unique as Emeryville. Everyone will be impacted in some way and we feel Council has an obligation to discern and disclose these impacts. We think the City deserves and are hereby requesting that the City of Emeryville perform a Community Impact Study to ascertain:

  • The impacts on costs for goods & services on residents including fixed-income seniors & low-wage earners.
  • The impacts on youth employment, unskilled workers, the unemployed and non-profit organizations
  • The impacts on the levels of employment and viability of businesses themselves.

Emeryville is Unique

Emeryville is the smallest city in the East Bay at only 1.1 square miles with 10,000 residents and a daytime workforce population estimated to be three times this. We’re also surrounded by communities that would be at lower wage scales than us theoretically putting us our businesses at a competitive disadvantage. Any previous research or study does not take our unique character into account.

Emeryville is Smart

Emeryville thinks before it acts. We thoroughly study the impact of our policies on everything from bike boulevard traffic calming to major developments. We are progressive and practical. The financial well-being of our entire community demands thoughtful action.

Emeryville Cares

Emeryville wants to see its community members succeed. We care about those in poverty, our youth, our workers, our artists, our non-profits, our seniors, our homeowners, our families and the small businesses who are our friends and our neighbors. We care about maintaining and growing our vibrant community. To turn our good intentions into good results, we need to think ahead, think carefully, and understand the consequences of our actions prior to implementing them.

While not everyone will agree on the details of a local increase to the minimum wage, we can all agree on one thing. We should never act in ignorance, with undue haste, or without giving an issue the time and thought it deserves. The minimum wage is important. Let’s treat it that way. Councilmembers are not economists nor traditional business owners and we feel the data on minimum wage impacts should be objective and left to professionals. Ultimately we think it’s more important to get it right … than to “Make History”.

For these reasons, we, the undersigned, hereby urge the City Council of Emeryville to:

  • Commission a thorough non-partisan study that addresses the full impact of its proposed minimum wage ordinance on the community and the local economy.
  • Embrace community involvement and transparency by scheduling opportunity for public comment on the results of this study prior to any final vote.
  • Act with due consideration by providing at least six months for affected parties to plan and implement any required changes.

We, the undersigned, with respect to any ordinance which modifies the minimum wage, urge the Honorable Mayor Atkin and the City Council of Emeryville to fulfill their obligation of due diligence. We want to strongly urge them to listen to the advise of the professionals that they rely on and do what is right for our city. If the City decides to forgo any Impact Study, we think accountability measures should be integrated into the ordinance that measure the eventual impacts of Council’s vote including annual evaluations to go with their recommended yearly increases/CPI adjustments.

Sign the Petition on:

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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. Why wouldn’t we do a study? It seems like we’re having to petition the City Council to do its job. I’m in.

  2. I am surprised to see you build a campaign out of these lies.

    As you know, the City Council agreed to your main demand; small businesses in Emeryville are covered by the same minimum wage standard as Oakland and San Francisco. It’s not ‘unprecedented’ as your lie states above–it’s the same wage that neighboring cities already have. OR is your concern actually that big-box stores will have a living wage of $14.44? If so, why are you pretending to advocate for small businesses?

    • Hey TFAP, take another look at the chart on the Petition to understand the difference between Oakland (our neighbor whose model we were advocating for) and SF’s. The difference is pretty dramatic and Emeryville still outpaces the other cities, correct? Also take a look at 2019 where Emeryville Small Businesses will be the highest in the nation. “Unprecedented” is correct, right? Please do your research and get back to me.

      • Wait:

        1)The ‘unprecedented’ part of the chart is the higher curve applying to big-box retail correct? So your concern is with big businesses?

        2) OR is your concern that small biz will be at $16 in 2019–as opposed to $15 in 2018. Is that correct? So your complaint is a dollar an hour 4 years off? Why don’t you just say that?

        Which raised the question, why did you change your logo, and delete the part about supporting the 12.25 regional minimum wage? It is hard to keep track of your arguments if they keep changing.

  3. The City Council actually almost completely ignored the small businesses demands:
    – The small businesses asked for wages to match neighboring cities. They won’t.
    – The small businesses asked for a reasonable time to implement the change. The date is still July 1.
    – The small businesses asked for an exception for youth. That was refused.

    The only thing that was done was to raise the definition of small business from 10 to the rather random number of 55 and to change the phase-in from insane to hyper aggressive. The small businesses got a stay of execution, not a pardon.

    Emeryville is not a toy to play with. Do a study, allow public comment, and take the time to do things right.

    • -The wage matches neighboring cities, starting at $12.25, up to $15 in 2018. Or is your concern the $16 wage in 2019? If so, why not say so.

      -This proposal has been debated since last fall, meaning almost one year to get ready.

      -Youth and/or trainees get 15% step down in their wages. Isn’t that enough for you?

      The City Council struck a compromise based on folks who testified. There was a clear consensus in that room.

      • Sorry TFAP, not sure which meeting you were watching. There was a clear consensus with small business & some labor to go with Oakland’s FF model. Watch the replay. I think you need to go talk to your favorite small business and ask them about the impacts directly.

      • Rob–in response to your comment below:

        See Nemec’s quote below in support of the $12.25/path to 15/like SF. See Scarlet City’s from the video. See your own sticker!

        Finally one comment–to those who say the minimum wage helps unions–none of those folks are union members. You understand that right? We re advocating for the poorest people in this region because it is the right thing to do. That’s why the public supports this policy so strongly as well. Representatives of big business have always opposed a fair minimum wage, and that is what I see happening here again.

  4. The lunatic fringe on this seems to call anything they don’t like “lies”. if you want to fight against poverty, do something that’s directed at people in poverty. 80% of people receiving the minimum wage are living in households above the poverty line.

  5. Actually it doesn’t match neighboring cities. Ask the mayor, she stated at a rally (you can watch the video) that as of July 1, Emeryville will have the highest minimum wage in the nation. She was sort of proud of it, like it was a badge of honor. Go check out the chart on the petition, it shows that the proposal does not match neighboring cities.

    A proposal being discussed and voted on are two different things. Unless they want to change their plans after every city council meeting, businesses can’t prepare for every random proposal that’s discussed. They can only prepare for something once it’s approved.

    Some businesses will need to move out of the city to be competitive (see http://freebeacon.com/issues/suspending-the-american-dream/ ) Do you expect him to move his factory before a vote has been taken?

    The 15% step down is also temporary. The impacts of minimum wage hikes on teen unemployment are well documented. The City Council made it clear they were completely unaware of the research at the study session.

    This ordinance WILL negatively impact youth. It WILL negatively impact unemployment. It WILL negatively impact small business. The only people it will clearly help are the unions…and guess who’s pushing this through?

    What is the harm in studying something (just like council’s staff recommended) before acting? Being progressive doesn’t mean doing things that will hurt the people you are supposed to be trying to help. It means thinking before you act, listening to the full community, and doing something that makes sense.

    Please sign the petition to encourage the City Council to complete a NON-PARTISAN impact study BEFORE they act.

    • Thanks for the link! Let me quote from it:

      “Nemec said he supports gradual increases to the minimum wage and “can survive a $12.25” minimum wage on par with neighboring Oakland and San Francisco.

      “We have never had a problem meeting minimum wages because the increase was gradual. We adjusted by improving efficiency,” Nemec says. “$14.42 is irresponsible, totally irresponsible—the standard of living here isn’t higher than San Francisco. That’s more than a 60 percent increase and our company will go bankrupt.”

      Nemec was arguing FOR a $12.25 minimum wage! He qualifies as a small business!

      You are moving the goalposts after you got what you wanted!

      • TFAP, I think you’re getting your wires crossed. We do in fact support the $12.25 Lift Up “regional” model. The City is proposing a more aggressive model than even SF! Check the graph again. We just want Emeryville to be in line with our adjacent neighbors (NOT SF).

      • I don’t think there is a “we” that the Emeryvlle Eye can or should speak on behalf of.

        Multiple bizness folks expressly said they want the SF model. You don’t speak on their behalf!

        Moreover, your actions are trying to delay this bill to death, which hardly shows your support for a fair wage of $12.25, or for the regional model of $15 by 2018.

      • TFAP, C’mon man. The city has had ONE meeting that businesses actually knew of/were alerted to. I’ve spoken to at least 50 small businesses and not one has expressed a desire for the SF model. Please just be honest with yourself.

      • Rob: please be honest with Emeryville.

        For example, Scarlet City’s owner called on the city council, “to look to San Francisco’s phase-in model, it is quite aggressive and there really isn’t any need for us to go any quicker.” Also please see Nemec quote.

        Your story keeps changing!

      • Look at the chart, $15 by 2018 is not a regional approach. That’s San Francisco’s approach. Our neighbors are much lower.

        And when a business says they can “survive” $12.25″ but that “$14.42 is irresponsible” and “our company will go bankrupt”, this certainly isn’t a glowing endorsement of $15 per hour.

        When people talking about ‘improving efficiency’, that normally means ‘finding ways to reduce the number of people we need’. In short, you can have 5 people working at $10 or 3 people working at $15.

        The question is whether this is a good tradeoff. And it’s one the deserves some attention and study.

        Weren’t we begging small business to hire people just a few years ago during the recession? Now, that they found ways to hire a few more people, let’s punish them. Heck, let’s raise the minimum wage to $25 next Thursday. Then poverty will be solved forever.

      • TFAP, you’re clearly not getting it dude. First off, search for Emeryville on Google Maps. See that little wedge surrounded by Oakland? That’s us since you’ve probably never been here. Now see that Green line in the chart? That’s Oakland our East Bay “Regional Leader” (SF is not in the East Bay, get it?). Now see those blue lines? See how they’re higher on the chart than anyone in the East Bay and higher than SF in 2019? Are you starting to understand? C’mon! Stop trying to spin it. You’re not fooling anyone but yourself. And if you don’t believe me, get off the internet and go talk to some small businesses!

  6. If anyone at the study session thought there was a consensus in favor of what City Council was proposing, they’re off their rocker.

    80% of the speakers there spoke out against the draft ordinance. Most of the remaining 20% were union reps. If the small businesses are still speaking out against it today, then apparently City Council still didn’t get it right.

    That’s what happens when you don’t give enough time for public comment after putting forth a proposal. The primary goal of certain members of council appears to be to claim they’re leading the unions’ “Fight for $15”. They want to show what great progressives they are by doing something more radical than anyone else.

    That’s why the community is being saddled with a ridiculous timeline, a ridiculous increase, and a ridiculous lack of discretion.

  7. If unions are saying this is a good law for the poor, why doesn’t it apply to the union agreements? The unions have specifically managed to get their own collective bargaining agreements excluded from their “Fight for $15” and from the Emeryville ordinance.

    In other words, the only people who don’t have to abide by these laws are union shops…the same people who are pushing to make the law happen.

    If you price young, entry level, and unskilled non-union labor out of the market by raising the minimum wage to $15, guess who benefits? And, if you add a law that seriously hurts business except for union shops, guess who benefits? And, guess who’s spending millions to try to get this to happen?

    Your union dues at work.

  8. Ah, the unions. Those noble advocates of the poor:




    The City Council should align itself with the people of Emeryville instead of the unions. The people of Emeryville want a study. We want a public dialogue. And we want representatives who represent.

  9. I watched many of these businesses at this meeting ask for $12.25. They got it. Now this is a different demand: they’re worried about the increases over the next several years and whether Emeryville tracks SF or someone else. That’s fine, but let’s be honest about what it is. It’s not a concern about predictability and being able to adequately plan because the chart lays it out pretty plainly. Instead, it’s a flat out refusal to acknowledge that workers need a living wage. It’s saying, I want to keep that dollar for myself instead of paying it to my employees. No one can honestly say it will put them out of business and no one said that at this meeting. So, I find it very useful to know the true feelings of the businesses in my town. It turns out the ones listed here don’t support a living wage for their employees. I can’t agree with that and when you look at the nearly 82% of voters in Oakland that voted for their wage increase, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the vast majority of voters in Emeryville also support raising workers’ wages. I’ll be thinking twice about supporting these businesses that don’t share my values. Someone that works 2000 hours a year at $12.25 makes $24,500 a year. IN THE BAY AREA! A business that believes its workers shouldn’t move from that to making $30,000 year ($15/hr for 2k hrs) is just not operating in the same universe as me. To me it just looks like unabashed greed.

  10. Emeryville Resident, you haven’t walked in the shoes of a small business owner. We are the guys and girls who don’t get paid when the economy is bad. We are the ones who have to decide between keeping our junker car running or buying equipment for our company. We are the guys whose life savings can be thrown out the window by a couple well meaning idealists on city council who haven’t taken the time to think this through.

    You also haven’t met our entry level employees. They’re a mix of young people on their first job, people doing a part time gig to pick up some extra cash, or people who are looking for flexibility while they go to school. Almost none are the single mother you’re imagining. We give them experience, we deal with some of their less than stellar work habits, and we treat them like family, and most quickly go from being worth $9 or $10 per hour to $13 or $14.

    We make that happen not because of greed but because we are the people who make this city and the economy go. We are the ones who reach into the mass of unemployed people and Lift Up a few people, one by one. We have a relationship with our employees that benefits everyone. If it didn’t, they’d go find other jobs or we’d go find other employees.

    If you think it’s easy, try it. And see if you can pay an unskilled worker $15 per hour and survive for a year or two. And then try to survive the next recession.

    This isn’t a game. This isn’t easy. And when small businesses give up, guess who you’re stuck with.

  11. 100 people have signed the petition already. Wow! That was quick. If you haven’t signed the petition yet, take a minute now and ask city council to look before it leaps.

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