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Sunday, May 3, 2015

Minimum Wage in Emeryville: After Victory, Now Small Business is Unhappy

Q: How Can You Tell When You're Being Played?

A: When Nothing Has Changed But
There's a Sudden Mood Shift

Happiness Morphs Into Unhappiness Without Cause

News Analysis / Opinion
A Random Roll Of The Dice?
Small business in Emeryville goes from happy
to angry with no prompting?
Or is there something else unseen controlling it?
Small businesses in Emeryville are being played.  And so are the residents of Emeryville; they're being played by an out-of-town right wing lobbying group and by big businesses in our town.  The Sacramento business lobbying group, the California Restaurant Association, is working Emeryville, surreptitiously sowing the seeds of discontent in order to further their own anti-minimum wage agenda.  They're working to turn smiles into frowns, to change the previously upbeat mood of our small business community, a community that so far has successfully steered the City Council to make the proposed minimum wage ordinance more amenable to small business desires.   Regardless of the rousing success by small business at an April 7th City Council study session, this Sacramento lobbying group wants Emeryville small businesses to be unhappy with what the Council is doing.  In fact they need small business to be unhappy right now...because if they're unhappy, then the California Restaurant Association and its big business backers here will have a much easier time, politically, getting Emeryville's minimum wage ordinance shut down.  So they're using small businesses in our town to accomplish their goals.

Buyers Remorse
The mood among Emeryville small businesses shifted from sunny to sour in two short weeks.  After they got virtually everything they asked for at the April 7th meeting, as reported by the East Bay Express, they walked out of the Council chambers high fiving and back slapping, celebrating their victory. But now they're so angry they're en masse petitioning the Council for a moratorium on the minimum wage all without any change or even talk of change whatsoever from City Hall.
Is it a case of buyers remorse?

Before April 7th Emeryville's small businesses wanted:

  • A 'regional approach' to minimum wage; do what Oakland has done
  • Minimum wage no higher than $12.25 (big business can go to $14.42)
  • A slow multi-year ramp up to meet big business; slow so they can adjust
  • A definition of small business as 50 or fewer employees

What the Emeryville City Council agreed to:

  • A regional approach with Oakland as the model
  • Minimum wage at $12.25 for small business (big business at $14.42)
  • A slow multi-year ramp up to meet big business
  • Small business is defined as fewer than 56 employees

But now they've had second it's all no good.  Now they want to stop the whole thing and have the taxpayers pay for another study on the effects of the minimum wage on business.  Mind you there have been countless studies conducted on this including a landmark UC Berkeley study the staff forwarded to the City Council to consider earlier in the year.

Rob Arias
"Studies" are no good.
Except when they further
a hidden agenda...
MY agenda....
"Studies" Are No Good.
But Studies, Now There's Something We Can Use
The moratorium and study idea is a classic CRA stall tactic used to great effect in their state-wide fight against the minimum wage.  It's right out of their play book.  Here in Emeryville, they've got Emeryville's right wing blog, the E'Ville Eye, doing their job for them.
But we must say, we're not too impressed with their planning in this up until now.  The editor of the E'Ville Eye, Rob Arias, as recently as February was telling his readers that studies are not trust worthy things.  Perhaps liberal scientists are perpetrating a hoax on Americans both with the minimum wage AND global warming.  These liberal Council members in Emeryville can reference as many "studies" as they want but us reasonable people aren't going to listen to them or the pointy headed academicians that foist them on us.
Here's Rob telling us as much when he responds to a commenter in his blog:
Rob says:
Thanks Bob. The truth is that City Council has no idea how this is going to impact the few small businesses in our community and they can reference as many “studies” as they want.

Emeryville's small business community has morphed from happy to unhappy without provocation from City Hall and the E'ville Eye has morphed from distrusting and denigrating studies to demanding one, all with no new input into the least no PUBLIC input.

Moods Change As If By Magic
The Tattler asked many small businesses in town this question; "You were happy before, after the April 7th Council meeting, but now you're unhappy...what changed?"   It turned out to be a very uncomfortable question for every business owner we asked.  One business, Scarlet City Espresso Bar stood out as emblematic among those queried.  After the April 7th meeting where the small businesses got the Council to give them everything they asked for, we interviewed the owners at Scarlett City about how they felt the Council had handled the minimum wage issue.  They said they felt good about the way the meeting went and they felt the Council had listened to them.  Now, however Scarlett City has joined with angry small businesses and signed the petition against the Council.  Our question, "Why are you unhappy now?  What's changed?" elicited an angry "no comment" from the Scarlett City owners.
And that's the way it's been with every business we interviewed.  They can't tell us why they've moved from happy to unhappy.

Telltale Sign of Meddling By Sacramento Lobby
Businesses or people don't suddenly change their opinion like this with no reason.  We know why this is happening...this is being orchestrated by the California Restaurant Association.  If the small businesses were to remain happy with what Mayor Atkin called a 'consensus' at the end of the April 7th meeting, the CRA would be unsuccessful in its attempt to stop Emeryville's minimum wage hike.  It's being done ostensibly for the benefit of Emeryville's restaurants but the big businesses, those who have been utterly silent on this issue, are really benefiting.  The last thing Target or Home Depot needs is for news of their agitating against an Emeryville minimum wage increase to go massively public.  So much better to let others fight for you and hide behind small business.  After all is anyone going to be sympathetic to the complaints from the big boxes and fast food, that they're going to have to pay their workers more?  Better to let the small businesses in Emeryville, the California Restaurant Association and right wing bloggers in town do the job for you.


  1. I wonder why the lobbyists earn more than the California minimum wage of $9.00 per hour. It's much easier work than cleaning hotel rooms or preparing food in a hot kitchen, and it has less social usefulness and dignity.

    1. Right on, Joe.

      -Shirley Enomoto

  2. Rob Arias' blog has morphed into the right wing blog for Emeryville. He's picked up where the chamber of commerce left off.