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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Workers Picket Oaks Card Room: No Contract, Low Wages, Unaffordable Healthcare

Workers assembled in front of the Oaks Club card room Wednesday to agitate for a contract that would increase wages and lower employee health care costs.  Unite Here 2850 organizers, a service workers union, noted the Oaks Club has not offered a contract to employees for several years and employees have to pay an ever escalating contribution for health insurance, now pegged at $533 per month for family coverage.  The protest drew some 75 picketers including Emeryville's newest Council members Dianne Martinez and Scott Donahue who addressed the workers via the PA system, assuring the throng the City Council supports them and that the Council will deliver a city-wide minimum wage soon.  Protesters told the Tattler dishwashers at the Oaks Club make only $11.17 per hour. 

The Oaks Club has been in hot water with the law recently.  The card room, in business since the 1890's, has recently been the site of  FBI stings for loan sharking and money laundering.  
Even though the gambling establishment has famously attracted a criminal element to Emeryville, the Oaks has for years paid very little by way of taxes to the City.  In a move to rectify that, in 1997, Emeryville voters overwhelmingly passed Measure B which increased the gross receipts tax on the Oaks Club to 9% from 6.5 %.  The increase however still left the Oaks with a lower municipal tax than any other card room in the Bay Area (which charge up to 13%).  Measure B was hotly contested and the owner of the Oaks Club, John Tibbetts told voters before the election, the proposed card room tax increase would likely drive him out of business, forcing him to fire all his employees and close down his 100 year Emeryville family run business.  The tax increase for the Oaks passed by 63% of Emeryville voters needing only at least 50%.

Campaign Donation: Quid Pro Quo?
The current labor strife has been brewing for several months and Council members Martinez and Donahue interceded on behalf of the workers recently in a meeting between Oaks Club managers and workers the two new Council members report.  Councilman Donahue noted a manager at that meeting asked incredulously and overtly why he and Ms Martinez were siding with the workers since Oaks Club owner John Tibbetts had donated money to the two Council member's election campaigns in November.  


  1. As the owner of a card club, Mr. Tibbetts should understand that his donation in the last election was a gamble, not a sure thing.

    1. Is it bribery or a campaign donation? Since it's illegal to bribe an elected official it must be a campaign donation, right? That was the calculation rife in the old Emeryville. Now, the signs are breaking out all over; after the last election, things have changed in Emeryville. The Oaks Club gets it and so too it's starting to dawn on the rest of the ranks of the former Emerville elite; the business sector, the developers.