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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Union Busting Whole Foods: Emeryville Corporate Neighbor

Howdy Neighbor!
Emeryville has a well earned reputation as a place to do business.  For decades, our reputation has proceeded us.  Want a place where City Hall will help you maximize your profits?  Emeryville would be a good selection.
So what has that culture netted us? What kind of business community neighbors have we got in Emeryville?  We've got Whole Foods, the purveyor of wholesome overpriced victuals with its wholesome union busting standard operating procedure.

Labor protests are now a regular fixture for more than a year at the Emeryville Whole Foods regional corporate headquarters on Hollis and 59th streets.  The unions have told us of the unfair labor practises of Whole Foods, damaging to workers, their families and the community.  For their part on this issue, Whole Foods has said....nothing.  They're not required to tell Emeryville residents anything about how they treat their workers so they're not.  How's THAT for being good corporate neighbors?

Seen this week (top photo) and from last year (Tilton Pacific is a Whole Foods contractor not honoring its contract with the unions):

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Emeryville's Minimum Wage Ordinance to be Overtaken

Emeryville's Progressive Minimum Wage to be Rendered Obsolete

$15 Per Hour Statewide Coming

News Analysis
After passage of 2015's landmark Minimum Wage Ordinance, Emeryville's unique status as a nation-wide leader in labor law was always bound to be challenged sooner or later but starting now it appears our town is to become unremarkable once again; we are to become simply one town among many across California.  It's all as a result of an agreement reached between lawmakers in Sacramento and labor unions, moving the entire state's minimum wage to more than $15 per hour.  The 'Fight for $15' idea has proven to be popular with the electorate in the state, and the agreement to be announced Monday by the Governor will bypass what was likely to be a favorable decision reached in a ballot initiative threatened to be brought by the labor unions.

The new law highlighted by the Los Angeles Times will bring the lowest paid workers in California to $15 by 2022 with further raises linked to inflation as Emeryville's MWO does.  Also, the new state-wide law will provide for worker sick-leave pay similar to Emeryville's ordinance.

After buckling under union pressure, Governor Jerry Brown said he will likely make the formal announcement of the new law, the most progressive in the nation, tomorrow.
Both Democratic presidential hopefuls, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have thrown their support behind a nation-wide $15 minimum wage.

National politics being driven by ever increasing concern over ever increasing wealth inequality such as they are, Emeryville is poised to become obscure once more; out of the national public eye.  But our town will forever be seen as the place where the turn around started, the place where the multi-decade in the making nation-wide slide of the working poor was reversed.
Emeryville will nonetheless still recede back into relative obscurity unless of course forces turn our envious geographical location at the center of the Bay Area to again be reflective in the pay we grant to the lowest among us in the form of another ordinance raising the minimum wage.

Friday, March 25, 2016

School Board Member Alleges Possible Malfeasance at ECCL

Donn Merriam Cries Foul on Turner Construction:  We Paid for EMT But 
We Got MC

Turner Construction, the firm contracted by the Emery Unified School District to build the Emeryville Center of 'Community' Life, might have bilked the taxpayers by cutting corners and not providing agreed upon electrical wiring according to School Board member Donn Meriam in a surprise statement he made to his colleagues and attendees at the regularly scheduled Wednesday night Board meeting.  Mr Merriam, an architect by trade, alerted his colleagues to a seemingly untoward situation at the construction site of of the schools/community center rebuild project on San Pablo Avenue noting sub par electrical wiring "on the entire campus" adding, "I can't understand how it got passed".  He said Turner Construction had not installed conduit for the wiring as the plans call for but instead they have installed 'MC cable', a much cheaper alternative.
School Board Member Donn Merriam
"I looked at the documents and
it says it should be installed conduit".

John Baker and his employer Swinerton Builders, Emery's representative paid as a go-between the District and Turner, told the Board the lower quality MC wiring installed at the site might have been as a result of a 'value engineering' attempt initiated by Emery to lower costs from an earlier date, a "decision made before Swinerton came to the project" he said.  It was not immediately clear if that is true and Schools Superintendent John Rubio told the Tattler he promises to look into the matter.

Mr Merriam, who ran for the School Board as an expert on such matters, told the Board he was concerned because MC cable is lower quality and "a lot easier to install" and would have saved Turner "hundreds of thousands of dollars in labor and materials".
John Baker of Swinerton Builders
Emery School District paid $1.3 million
for his construction expertise to serve
as an overseer to the General Contractor
Turner Construction's work at the ECCL.

Conduit, also called EMT, is advantageous because among other things, it enables future electricians to pull more wires through the pipe for an upgrade or remodel, something likely to be needed over the 50 year expected life span of the ECCL buildings.  With MC cable, any such upgrade will require walls to be torn into, a much more expensive undertaking.

If it is revealed that Turner did fail to provide the proper electrical wiring for the Center of 'Community' Life as Mr Merriam alleges, it is not clear what options Emery would have since the District signed a lease lease-back agreement with Turner.   This arcane construction legal agreement while having some advantage for both sides, is restrictive as far as any recourse the District might have owning to the fact that such an agreement gives Turner (temporary) ownership of the project.

The Tattler will follow and report this potentially explosive story as it develops.
MC Electrical Cable
AKA Metal Clad
A cheaper alternative.
EMT Electrical Conduit
AKA Electrical Metal Tubing
More expensive and better.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

'Fair Work Week' Considered by City Council

UPDATE:  The Emeryville City Council with the exception of Nora Davis, Tuesday night voted to place work on the Fair Work Week in the highest priority category for the City Attorney's office.

The Emeryville City Council is tonight considering adding a level of protection for low wage workers in town collectively called the 'fair work week' that would provide workers with predictable work schedules, employee input into the schedules and access to full time work according to local social and economic justice organizations introducing the idea including the Alliance for Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) and the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE).  The City Council passed a progressive minimum wage ordinance last July that has raised the fortunes of the working poor in Emeryville and this new law would help further drive down inequality by mandating Emeryville's largest retail and fast food employers provide stable and predictable hours to their employees.  The proposed legislation would only apply to retail employers with 55 or more employees (globally).  The legislation proposed in Emeryville is part of a larger nation-wide worker justice effort called the Fair Workweek Initiative.

Deputy Director Jennifer Lin
East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy
Jennifer Lin, Deputy Director at EBASE, who worked on last year's landmark Minimum Wage Ordinance told the Tattler of the fair work week legislation, "We're calling on the Emeryville City Council to pass a policy that will create regular, predictable hours, so workers don't have to juggle 2-3 jobs, and they can plan for their lives-- whether that's planning for childcare and community college, or just to rest and spend time with their family."  She is quoted in an accompanying press release distributed by the three labor justice organizations,  “We are finishing the job on minimum wage, and ensure that people are both paid a fair wage with a fair schedule.”

The press release noted, "Though thousands of Emeryville’s low-wage workers are making $14.44 with a path to $16, there is an epidemic of large corporate retail and fast food chains not providing people with full-time work. With lack of hours and unpredictable schedules, many are forced to work two or three jobs and lead chaotic lives to make ends meet."

Dozens of Emeryville workers and supporters are holding a press conference today urging the Emeryville City Council to expedite legislation to give workers full-time predictable hours, building off the findings in a new report produced by ACCE, CPD and EBASE that chronicles what they call "severe scheduling problems retail workers face."  The 13 page report, compiled with more than 100 Emeryville retail and fast food workers polled, notes the retail sector (the largest in Emeryville at 15% of the workforce) is rife with unpredictable work scheduling.

The City Council is expected to provide direction for the City Staff as to how much to prioritize the fair work week proposal moving forward. It is unclear what form any resultant policy would take but the public will get plenty of chances to weigh in on the idea.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Anna Yates School Real Estate Deal: School Board President Flirts With Brown Act Violation (Again)

Elementary School to be Leased or Sold:
Board President Attempts to Illegally Shut Public Out of Deliberations

John Affeldt: The Public is Anathema to the Public's Business

Emery School Board president John Affeldt showed his penchant for secrecy again last week at the regularly scheduled School Board meeting Wednesday night when he attempted to conduct an Anna Yates Elementary School real estate deal in secret, a Brown Act violation.  President Affeldt told his colleagues on the Board that the School District's intention to lease or sell the elementary school after children are forced out next fall to relocate to the Center of 'Community' Life, should be discussed behind closed doors, an illegal act according to Board member Christian Patz.  Mr Patz, always keen on transparency, again assumed his traditional role as the public's advocate when he read aloud from the California code regarding school district real estate negotiations, catching Mr Affeldt off guard.  Board member Patz revealed the only part of school district real estate transactions to be conducted privately are the negotiations around the price and the District must reveal to the public whom they are negotiating with.
Mr Affeldt, an attorney, attempted to forge ahead with the illegal secret meeting regardless but couldn't get a second, an unprecedented display of no confidence by his normally compliant colleagues (excepting Mr Patz).
Board Member Christian Patz
This time he was successful
in stopping the Board from
a Brown Act violation.

The closed door meeting was
called a "real estate negotiation"
and OK to hold behind closed doors
by Affeldt but Mr Patz responded,
"You can't negotiate with yourself."

Emery Unified School District, especially Board member John Affeldt, has quietly worked to close the popular Anna Yates for years, insisting it would somehow devalue the K-12 model of the Center of 'Community' Life.  The modus operandi has long been secrecy and keeping the public out of the loop even as the public have made thwarted attempts to weigh in on the wisdom of closing the school over the years.

Once Bitten, Twice Shy
Wednesday's debacle again showed the default position of secrecy regularly promulgated by Mr Affeldt but after he told his colleagues to disregard Mr Patz's warnings and instead vote to approve the evening's agenda anyway with the secret meeting intact, the other Board members, Donn Merriam and Joy Kent Ashe weren't going for it.  New member Brittany Collins-Rogers was absent.
Last November, the Board conducted a similar secret illegal meeting at Mr Affeldt's prompting but they received bad press from the Tattler and the Contra Costa Times, the names of the guilty Board members printed for the thousands of readers to see.
Board President John Affeldt
Hasn't learned from last November
when he directed the Board to
violate the Brown Act.

26 Seconds of Total Silence
An awkward 26 seconds of silence followed Board president Affeldt's request for a second to his motion to disregard Mr Patz' warning Wednesday night.  After, Mr Affeldt admonished Board member Ashe for not paying attention, "I'm concerned about you getting to the substance that you can get at while your child is here" he said, figuring she must not have provided a second to his motion because of her tending to her child behind the lectern.  However Ms Ashe responded,  "My thoughts are there's some discomfort [with this]...we should not discuss it right now".  Mr Merriam agreed,"Let's move to pull the item" he said.
In the end, the Board directed the Superintendent of the Schools to reschedule the closed door item for another night, with Brown Act provisions; likely averting another unflattering headline in the Contra Costa Times.

Since the School District has not made any announcements as to their intentions with regard to Anna Yates School, it is assumed the plans are to either lease or sell the site to an as of now unknown party.  Were the law obeyed, the identity of the party in the real estate deal would have to be revealed.  It is presumed the Board will be forthcoming about the details at a later meeting date.

Table of Contents to the Video:
:59-8:59   Entire 8 minute debacle
Start-2:39  Patz makes the case of a pending Brown Act violation
4:22-5:00  Affeldt attempts a move to approve the illegal agenda anyway
4:30-4:56  26 seconds of awkward silence
5:00-finish  A flummoxed and confused Affeldt
Video courtesy of the Emeryville Property Owners Association