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Sunday, May 17, 2015

Minimum Wage: Emeryville Businesses Flee Former Hard Positions

Now Business Seems To Love Our Progressive Minimum Wage Ordinance

News Analysis/Opinion
If you listen to a growing chorus of Emeryville's businesses, the proposed minimum wage hike, set for July 1st, has gone from being a destructive force ready to be loosed on our town to an acceptable, even desirable policy of a responsible government.  It's the latest mood swing in the schizophrenic, some might say infantile shifting narrative expressed by the business community here since the City Council began talking about raising the minimum wage last summer.

Black Bear Diner on Christie Avenue
They led the drive to stop the minimum wage ordinance
in the beginning.  Now they support the wage increase,
"All members of the community will benefit" they say.
With the final 'high noon' second reading of the wage ordinance looming May 19th, the latest turnaround in attitudes has been as remarkable as it has been rapid.  Only two weeks ago small businesses were set to descend on City Hall, pitchforks and torches at the ready with whisperings of recall campaigns directed against some Council members, now they seem to be quietly resigned or more remarkably, publicly extolling the virtues of what will be the highest minimum wage in the nation.
At this point we imagine most business owners in town seeing the minimum wage rise as inevitable, would rather not further damage their public relations in a losing battle by continuing to agitate against increasing the wages of the working poor.

Angry Business Community: Total Collapse
An angry mob that was supposed to fill the Council Chambers at the first reading of the new ordinance on May 5th never materialized.  As witnesses at that meeting heard actual minimum wage workers tell their stories of needless suffering and of the daily indignities they suffer, speaker after speaker, it became clear the business community would not say a peep.  In fact several business supporters showed up, filled out speaker cards but declined to speak.
E'Ville Eye Editor Rob Arias
He used his blog to pitch the
petition for a moratorium on
the minimum wage ordinance
but he failed to present it
to the City Council.
Most surprising was when the Mayor called out for one such speaker, "Rob Arias...Rob Arias.... is Rob Arias still in the building?"   Mr Arias, the editor of the pro-business right wing opinion blog the E'Ville Eye, slinked out of the building moments before his time to speak arrived, taking his minimum wage moratorium petition with him.  Many attendees expressed surprise Mr Arias left without speaking because he has been using his blog as a platform for business discontent over the minimum wage for months.  That blog was the entrance portal to the petition Mr Arias was pitching to try to turn the tide against the City Council majority and their minimum wage vote.  The petition, signed by many businesses, was meant to serve as a cudgel against the Council members intent on raising the wage.  But in the end, the City Council never even received the petition, Mr Arias didn't present it to the Council.
 Tellingly, Mr Arias who had earlier in the year publicly repudiated academic studies as untrustworthy for information about the minimum wage ordinance later reversed himself and demanded a new study be conducted as a pretext for the minimum wage moratorium petition.

While Mr Arias' E'Ville Eye has been busy trying to gin up sentiment against the minimum wage ordinance, businesses are stating to embrace it, even those whom had earlier signed Mr Arias' moratorium petition.  Perhaps the most surprising of the turn-arounds is the Black Bear Diner.  Credited with starting the fight against the minimum wage last March, they now back the ordinance.   In a May 4th letter to Councilwoman Dianne Martinez since made public, Black Bear's owners have reversed themselves, "we are comfortable with proposed resolutions [sic] that the City Mayor and Council members have reached" they said.

Businesses Flee The E'Ville Eye Blog
In anticipation of the epic May 5th meeting, the E'Ville Eye started lining up the business community against the wage ordinance.  The Editor put up a graphic portraying many logos of Emeryville businesses, highlighting their disdain for the minimum wage ordinance in an April 29th story.  But even before the meeting, several businesses demanded Mr Arias take down their logos.  Rotten City Pizza on Hollis Street was one, "We support the minimum wage ordinance" the owner told the Tattler.  "We did not give Rob permission to use our logo" he added.  The Area Director of I-HOP, Gary Marquez also told the Tattler the E'Ville Eye used their logo without permission, "I don't want our logo on anything we didn't pre-approve" he said.  Mr Marquez also said he now likes the minimum wage ordinance the way it has been crafted, a 'good compromise' he said of it and he volunteered that he values all his employees, even the one's earning the minimum wage, "Our employees are our number one asset" he said.

Highest In The Nation:
Badge Of Honor or Mark Of Shame?
Arguably it's the most righteous piece of civic legislation in Emeryville history, the raise of our minimum wage to the highest in the nation.  It's a powerful and demonstrative opening salvo in an Emeryville City Hall eager to change it's long time pro-developer, pro-business reputation to one representing the people's interests, the interests of social and economic justice.  They have a lot to make up for.  After all, this same City Hall has for a generation delivered to our town many development projects stuffed with tons of low paying service sector jobs.
After July 1st, when the national media starts reporting on what Emeryville has done, those among us who don't want our city to continue to be a locus for poverty, those who value human dignity and an honest paycheck for an honest day's work will take pride in our local government and this City Council majority's work.
Shockingly, what we who value these virtues consider honorable, is the same thing some business hold-outs and dead-enders like the E'Ville Eye consider a mark of shame.  When that blog tells its readers Emeryville is to have the highest minimum wage in the nation, it's meant to be seen as an outrage even as it appropriates progressive language to feign a progressive outlook.  But this is the same sort of talk we have heard before whenever real progressives move to increase the minimum wage.  That blog and its hangers on may use progressive language but theirs is a dark vision of our town.  The true progressives, the ones moving Emeryville forward, can be found among our Emeryville City Council majority, performing the work local government is supposed to do.  We expect them to complete this vital and meaningful work they've taken up on Tuesday.

Logos of Businesses Against the Minimum Wage
Screen shot of E'Ville Eye April 29th story.

Logos Missing: Later E'Ville Eye Screen Shot
Without fanfare, the Editor has been quietly 
removing logos from the story as businesses say 
no thanks to the dark anti-minimum wage, anti-progressive 
vision promulgated by that blog.


  1. Wow, that Rob Arias guy seems like a real unscrupulous slimeball.

  2. Businesses are against raising the minimum wage? Why am I not surprised? And yet this is what Rob is saying, that we're supposed to ask the businesses if they want the minimum wage raised and if they say no then we shouldn't do it. That's a really stupid way to run a government.

    1. Good point! The businesses aren't exactly disinterested parties. As is often the case here in Emeryville, the wheel must be reinvented....we have to start by arguing that money has a corrupting influence and the profit motive can get people to stretch the truth. What was it Reagan used to say? 'Trust but verify'...that seems reasonable to me.