Los Angeles Looks to Emeryville
for InspirationNews Analysis
Ten years ago, two opposing forces in Emeryville began gearing up for an epic battle that would culminate in a November election, testing the voter's will for social justice. That election battle, Measure C, also known as the 'living wage for Emeryville hotel workers', resulted in the first industry specific minimum wage law in California history. And it's been hugely influential as municipalities across the West Coast and the Nation start looking to Emeryville's lead.
After two unsuccessful lawsuits were brought challenging the new law, Measure C has moved on, as it was designed to, providing Emeryville hotel housekeepers with significant wage increases and other benefits while also serving as impetuous for similar such laws protecting hotel workers in other cities such as Long Beach in 2012 and Los Angeles in 2014. Seattle and nearby Sea Tac Washington used the Long Beach and Los Angeles law as a model for their respective city-wide minimum wage laws recently passed.
Measure C comports Emeryville's values but it also has shown the Nation as a whole how cities can serve as loci for their community's values.
"Other cities are looking at what happened in Emeryville, with increased worker wages that ripple to the rest of the economy" said Jennifer Lin, Deputy Director at East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE), a local community organization working for economic justice issues for working families, "Emeryville's been very influential" she added. EBASE's efforts and the efforts of UNITE HERE-Local 2850 in 2005 were essential to getting Measure C before Emeryville voters.
Ms Lin noted that Emeryville, despite its small size, shines as an inspiration to other, larger cities, "Living wages for hotel workers caught on with other cities...they took the Emeryville model and scaled it up" she said.
|This is What Democracy Looks Like|
Post Measure C Victory: Woodfin fight
The battle at the ballot box was only the first; one
law breaking hotel sought to subvert Emeryville
voter's will. Near daily protests were conducted
at the Woodfin Suites Hotel.
The NO on Measure C side called itself the "Committee to Keep Tax Dollars in Emeryville" (as in; hotels will flee Emeryville if this passes) raised and spent $115,000, a huge amount for an Emeryville election ($110 for each NO vote as it turned out). The funding came almost entirely from the hotels and the Chamber of Commerce, who put up everything they had against the ordinance. Residents were told the sky would fall if Measure C passed; the Emeryville hospitality industry would be wiped out, sending the town's finances into a tailspin they said. 'It's not for a lack of caring, everyone wants higher pay for the working poor but we have to be realistic', the voters were told.
In fact the opposite has occurred over the proceeding ten years; all the hotels from 2005 (except Woodfin was bought out by Hyatt) are still here and a new hotel has even been approved. The number of Emeryville hotels has gone from four to five since Measure C passed.
He consolidated the
Power Elite in town.
Hotels will leave
Emeryville en masse
if Measure C is passed,
all will be lost!
As the people voted YES on the living wage ordinance, virtually the entire Emeryville Power Elite rallied against it.
Emeryville political power broker and business lobbyist John Gooding took a leadership role in attempting to defeat Measure C. Mr Gooding joined with the Chamber of Commerce and convinced the entire Emeryville City Council (save Ruth Atkin) to sign their names to the NO side as well as the entire Planning Commission and the entire School Board.
2005 was also a City Council election year and candidates Dick Kassis (incumbent) and his slate mate, Ed Treuting both conspicuously ran on an anti-Measure C platform while challenger John Fricke endorsed Measure C as part of his platform. Some election watchers claim that support for a living wage is what gave Mr Fricke the edge he needed to decisively win his election bid as he did.
The debate was heated and Councilwoman Nora Davis went as far as calling Emeryville residents that spoke out in favor of Measure C "dupes for EBASE", a charge she may have wished to take back after the 54% of Emeryville residents said YES to living wages for our town.
It's ironic that the politicians at Emeryville City Hall and at the Emery Unified School District, the same bodies that railed against Measure C in 2005 have long boasted about how Emeryville is becoming a national model. It is clear they are correct, but not in the way they think. Emeryville's influence is not being felt in terms of schools as community centers as a result of the construction of the Emeryville Center of 'Community' Life as these people would have you believe but rather in labor relations, social justice and the rise of minimum wage law.
As the 10 year anniversary approaches, Emeryville residents would be excused if they felt a little civic pride in the prescience of our very influential landmark minimum wage ordinance: Measure C.
We rock (editorial).