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Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Breaking News: City Council Cuts Wages of Working Poor

City Council Action:
Minimum Wage Cut, Restaurant Chains Redefined Helping Corporations with 'Global' Footprint

Breaking News (Emeryville City Hall 8:13 pm)

Tonight the City Council passed a roll back of Emeryville’s landmark minimum wage ordinance with a second and final reading of an amendment that takes away a substantial raise for the poorest workers in town.  The vote broke the same way as the first reading with Vice Mayor Patz who called the amendment "A pay cut [for workers] plain and simple" joining Mayor Medina in voting NO to the roll back.  Council members John Bauters, Dianne Martinez and Scott Donahue voted YES to cut the workers' wages.

The language of the wage roll back amendment rescinds a scheduled $1.30 raise for 'small independent' restaurant workers for eight years, making Emeryville one of many Bay Area cities with a $15 or nearly $15 minimum wage.  The wage roll back City Council insurgency, led by members John Bauters and Dianne Martinez was joined by Scott Donahue after Mr Bauters changed the deal, to allow a yearly pittance wage increase until 2027 for these workers (with no increase at all for 2019).  The amendment carve out also redefines the words 'small' and 'independent' restaurants to include corporate chains with up to "20 global locations".
The new law provides that in the year 2027, restaurant workers will finally catch up with other workers in Emeryville, barring another Council driven minimum wage roll back.

The about-face in labor policy converts Emeryville from leadership to near pariah status among the progressives in the Bay Area labor activist community, many decrying the region wide erosive nature of the roll back.  Spokespeople for East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE), the East Bay’s premier labor advocacy group, warned the roll back action would embolden anti-labor forces throughout the Bay Area and beyond.  EBASE, instrumental in helping formulate Emeryville's Minimum Wage Ordinance to great fanfare in 2015 was notably snubbed by the Council in its current drive to reverse it.
Despite concern from labor, the roll back policy this time was derived with input solely from the business community and the latest 'Business Conditions Report' aka the 'business study' or MWO study' commissioned by the City and completed last summer.  Critics have complained the study only looked into the business side of the MWO, ignoring labor.  No efforts were made to check the veracity of dramatic claims of sliding business bottom lines or looming bankruptcy by either the study or the City Council in the lead up to the roll back it should be noted.  That, plus the subsequent ignoring of labor concerns by the City Council prompted a chastising response from EBASE Executive Director Kate O'Hara, "The study did not ask businesses to provide specific data from their own experience to back up the opinions they are providing" she said in a letter to the Council. 

Labor backers have noted City Hall’s new minimum wage policy, in addition to increasing suffering, will leave Emeryville now vulnerable to labor shortages with working poor families fleeing to communities paying the same wage but with a lower cost of living.  After the California statewide $15 minimum wage law takes effect in less than three years, this vulnerability could reach crisis proportions with working families decamping wholesale to lower cost cities elsewhere in the state.  This likely eventuality brings into question the City Council majority's exact intent with the roll back.  Tonight they made no effort to address this issue.
A simple check of apartment costs in California reveals Emeryville’s dramatic exposure to the loss of its already stressed low wage workforce.  It’s easy to find a nice one bedroom apartment in Vacaville for $1200 per month.  A comparable apartment in Emeryville would be about $3200…an extra $2000 per month.  Venturing farther afield…say Alturas California, a one bedroom place can easily be had for $500 per month.
Formerly a beacon for the working poor in the Bay Area, Emeryville, after the roll back with its lowest wage at $15, now the same as many other cities, loses its competitive advantage it had to draw higher quality workers.  The City of Emeryville with its putative progressive City Council has used its power to transform itself from a city that sought to solve regional problems into just one of multiple cities adding to the region's problems.

In the coming months, long after the City Council has washed its hands of this, the Emeryville Tattler will, in a planned series of worker interviews, continue to report the effect this historic wage roll back is having on the working poor and their families in our community.  Look to the Tattler to do what the Emeryville City Council refused to do when they passed this roll back of our Minimum Wage Ordinance: listen to those working at the bottom of the wage scale.

Bollards Will Protect Bike Lanes Says Emeryville City Council

Several months ago, the Emeryville City Council began an experimental program on the Horton Street Bike Boulevard when they installed protected bike lanes.  The idea was bollards would be installed instead of the preferred and standard treatment of bikes co-mingling with vehicles by slowing traffic and reducing traffic volume as is called for with Bike Boulevards in general and the General Plan specifically.
The Council is under a lot of pressure from developers and business owners to not reduce traffic volume on Horton Street so they came up with a plan that bikes could safely share the road with vehicles with the use of bollards.  The concept is that with bikes safely behind the bollards, the street could allow for a much higher carrying capacity for vehicles with higher vehicle speeds and high vehicle traffic volumes.
The photos taken today, illustrate what Emeryville police officers say is the "everyday occurrence" of vehicles disregarding the best laid plans of the Council and now blocking the sidewalks as well as the bike lanes on Horton Street.  Before the bollards were placed, everyday occurrences meant that only the bike lanes were being blocked.  Other cities reduce the vehicle traffic speed and volume on their bike boulevards in deference to the premise that bike boulevards should be streets that allow vehicles but are bicycle preferred.
 The Tattler presents a problem that appears to be too tough for Emeryville to solve:

Everyday Occurrence
The Americans with Disabilities Act says 48" clear must be maintained on sidewalks.
Emeryville might have to re-write the ADA codes for Horton Street.

Everyday Occurrence
At least the bikes can get through....

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Council Insurgency Uses Unpresidented Tactics to Roll-Back Minimum Wage Ordinance

Councilman Bauters Pulls Off Upset in Minimum Wage Fight

After Failed First Try, He Pulls Out Secret Plan to Roll-Back Wages
Insurgency Gains Crucial Third Vote by Phone

Councilman John Bauters
Won't call the working poor people
in Emeryville to tell them he
took away their raise they're
expecting on July 1st.
The City Council showed their hand last Tuesday night when a conservative insurgency made up of Council members John Bauters and Dianne Martinez, moved to roll back Emeryville’s Minimum Wage Ordinance with an attempt to strip away the ordinance’s provisions protecting worker’s scheduled raise by use of a subterfuge tactic planned in advance by Mr Bauters.  Councilman Bauters and his colleague Dianne Martinez were hoping to make a majority on the five member Council by trying for a third vote to straight away remove the scheduled raise for working poor families in Emeryville in a motion to amend the ordinance.  When that motion went down to a 2-3 defeat, Mr Bauters, undaunted, brought out his back up plan, made in secret with help from the City Hall staff, to allow for a very small raise for the poorest workers in town, hoping to peel off a third vote.  Mr Bauters and Ms Martinez got their third vote when Councilman Scott Donahue switched over and agreed to so amend the MWO, thereby satisfying a State required ‘first reading’ to change the ordinance.
The Council will vote to change the MWO in the final ‘second reading’ in a special meeting set up for Wednesday night May 29th.

The working poor in Emeryville will have to wait for eight years to get the raise currently owed to them in July if the second reading vote goes like the first.  If Mr Bauters’ now out in the open roll-back plan is successful, the poorest workers in our town will not see their wages rise to what the existing Minimum Wage Ordinance provides for until 2027 instead of July 1st of this year.

Councilwoman Dianne Martinez
Member of the MWO roll back insurgency.
Wanted to hear from business owners,
not workers before she voted.
Phone In Vote
The conservative insurgency is very determined to get under the wire and make the second reading happen before the end of the month when Brown Act provisions would prevent the lawmakers from stopping the July 1st  $1.30 raise the MWO mandates.  After Councilman Donahue told his colleagues he would be out of town on Wednesday the 29th making for a likely 2-2 tie vote that would not be binding, Mr Bauters, citing special legal provisions, revealed allowances for Mr Donahue to cast his vote from his out-of-state location live by telephone as the whole vote is taken.

The legal time constraints forcing the insurgents’ hand will make for a very unconventional event for City Council watchers.  As they proceed to take the final vote to roll-back Emeryville’s landmark Minimum Wage Ordinance on Wednesday at 7:15 pm, the City Council is taking this unprecedented provision allowing City Hall attendees to be witness to the spectacle of a vote taken live by phone. Councilman Donahue’s voice will be broadcast live on speakers in the Council chambers.
It cannot be said this City Council doesn’t think on its feet as they thus remind us of the truism that necessity can drive people to come up with creative solutions to seemingly intractable problems.

Neither Mr Bauters, nor his two insurgent colleagues it should be noted, have volunteered to place calls to the workers expecting their raises on July 1st, telling them they won’t be getting their raises after all.  It is expected the bosses will give the working poor in our town the news sometime after Wednesday but hopefully well before July 1st so those who need to will have time to secure PayDay loans to cover their daily living expenses.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Breaking News: Minimum Wage Ordinance to be Rolled Back


Tonight the Emeryville City Council voted 3-2 to roll back the City's landmark minimum wage ordinance as had been proposed earlier in the month in response to a blitzkrieg from restaurant owners in town.  In a drive led by Council members Dianne Martinez and John Bauters and joined by Scott Donahue, the Council voted to stop the July 1st scheduled wage increase for Emeryville's lowest paid workers.  After negotiation with Councilman Donahue who held out for a small increase in wages, the ordinance is proposed to be changed to increase wages at a much slower rate than what is written in the existing law.  Council members Bauters and Martinez had wanted no increase at all and only agreed to the small change after Mr Donahue voted NO with the Mayor and Vice Mayor.

Mr Bauters expressed his concern that restaurants would go out of business en masse in Emeryville if the lowest paid workers get the full increase as it exists after hearing from the business owners.  In response to arguments from labor advocates, he reminded the crowd that Emeryville has done enough to help low paid workers and the July 1st increase of $1.30 is unwarranted.
Mayor Ally Medina stated the Minimum Wage Ordinance as it is reflects the values of Emeryville and that she had been elected specifically to support the ordinance as voiced by many voters when she was elected to the Council in 2016.  She and Vice Mayor Christian Patz voted NO to the roll back proposal.

The vote was the so called 'First Reading' of the ordinance change and the Council will vote again at their next meeting in the required second reading before the law is changed.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

E'Ville Eye Editor Says Emeryville Has Criminally Attacked Free Press

E'Ville Eye Tantrum:
News Blog Editor Calls $2000 Gift From the City Too Little, "An Attack on a Free Press"

Rob Arias Resigns From City's Bike Committee 
in Protest

Calls City Council "Criminal", "Unethical"

The Emeryville City Council recently approved a gift of $2000 from the City’s Community Grant Program for this year to the Emeryville Historical Society, an amount that business advocate, local news blogger and Society member Rob Arias says is less than what they had asked for and further, that amount is so little that it constitutes a criminal act of biased retaliation against him he said.  Mr Arias, the editor of the conservative Emeryville centric pro-business blog The E’Ville Eye said in a sharply worded letter to the Council the paltry $2000 subsidy of taxpayer funds granted to his Historical Society group, is so miserly, that it is “biased” and amounts to a “criminal retaliation against a free press”, referring to the fact that he is editor of that news blog.
Editor and Former
Bike Committee Member
Rob Arias

Says the City's $2000 grant is a
"criminal attack on a free press".
He quit his Bike Committee
position in protest. 
An anguished Mr Arias, who in addition to being a Historical Society member, renders services to the group and stands to materially benefit from the City’s largess, told the Council in the rambling and pointed May 6th letter that Emeryville is no longer “worthy of his efforts” and that he is quitting his position “effective immediately” as a member of the Pedestrian/Bike Committee in protest.  The Historical Society had requested a community grant of $7150 for this year.

The Society reported to the Council at the April 16th meeting that they wish to digitize their private collection of some 1000 photos and any subsidy from the City to the group would primarily be used for that endeavor.  The Society, which has no public access address but holds its archive of photos in the home of a founding member who lives in Oakland, said the pictures, once digitized, would be available for viewing online. The group maintained their right to keep the photos as their private property.  The online public presumably would need permission to reproduce the images and pay a fee to do so.  Mayor Ally Medina concurred, telling the audience, “The community doesn’t own these photos once they’re digitized.”  The online photos available for single use viewing would likely have a standard overlay stamp claiming ownership rights.
Regardless of the Oakland address of the photo collection, the Society listed the Emeryville home address of Rob Arias as their place of business for purposes of their grant application.

The City Council, who yearly grants money to groups they believe do valuable work in the interests of the community, gave a total of $73,500 this year to 11 groups such as Head Over Heels gymnasium, Friends of the Golden Gate Library and California Poets in the Schools.  Most, but not all of the groups on the list received the amount they asked for in their respective grant applications.

Reviewing the Historical Society’s request for $7,150, the City Council took issue with the amount of money the group said it would cost to digitize 1000 photos.  Mayor Medina said she checked industry standard pricing for digitizing and reported that the amount cited in their grant application as too high, “Far, far over anything I could find online” she said.

Perhaps the most surprising allegation in the Arias letter is the charge he leveled at the Council as being “out of step with the desires of the community.”  Long time Tattler readers will recognize the irony in that statement.  We have long chronicled the history of Mr Arias’s political editorializing in Emeryville and have noted that in every ballot initiative, measure plebiscite and race for elected office that has come before Emeryville voters over the years, Rob has always backed the losing side.  Not once has he endorsed the winner, making his claim to know the desires of the people of Emeryville a stretch.

City Hall’s lack of full funding to the Emeryville Historical Society’s request has brought out some overwrought if baffling charges in Mr Arias’s missive. Citing the $2000 endowment as a slap in the face, he’s making it out as a City Council crusade against the community and him personally, a “vindictive” attack on “working families” in Emeryville he says.  His letter calls out Council members Christian Patz and Dianne Martinez as “unethical”, projecting their vote to give his group less money then he asked for as “petty and vindictive”.  He added that he believes Mayor Medina is complicit in the Council's scheme to inadequately fund the Historical Society, equating her silence on the issue as an act of “cowardice”.

$2000 is not enough!

Below is the full text of the Rob Arias resignation letter:

May 6th, 2019
Marcy Greenhut - City of Emeryville Environmental Programs Technician
and Committee Secretary
1333 Park Avenue Emeryville, CA 94608

City of Emeryville Staff and Council,
Please accept this letter as notice that I will be resigning from the
Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee effective immediately.
I've enjoyed my time on the BPAC and have developed camaraderie with
many of its members. While I fell short of my personal goals of
improving pedestrian access in my own neighborhood including obtaining
sidewalks on the strip of Hubbard b/t Park & 40th and improving
thoroughfare on Halleck, I felt I made a meaningful contribution to
the city's efforts to be more bike/ped friendly. I'm especially
satisfied with the walking tours I contributed to including the
sponsorship of the 2018 post-ride happy hour at Rudy's where I spent
$250 of my own money.
I'm a 15 year resident with a long track record of advocacy for the
residents and small businesses within our city. I've served on panels,
graduated from EPD's Citizens' Academy and serve on the nonprofit
board of our city-run daycare ECDC. I'm the neighborhood captain for
the annual National Night Out event and created Emeryville's only news
website The E'ville Eye that keeps citizens informed on important
issues. Recently, I turned my efforts toward the preservation of our
city's unique history through my involvement with The Emeryville
Historical Society. I've devoted my personal time to helping modernize
their platform, fundraising and achieving nonprofit status.
Unfortunately, what I witnessed at the April 16th City Council meeting
contradicts everything I hold dear about this city and is out of step
with the desires of our community. For the second straight year, the
Historical Society was recommended for a community grant by a
subcommittee. For the second straight year, the grant was subjected to
unparalleled scrutiny and denied the grant as requested. This is more
than a coincidence. This is bias. This is retaliation against a free
press. This is criminal.
Councilmembers Patz and Martinez' pettiness, lack of ethics and
vindictiveness toward working families and members of our senior
community is deplorable. Mayor Medina's silence is cowardice and
complicity. Any body that ignores the bias that was exhibited and
blatant to everyone in the room that day should be ashamed.
There are many great causes worthy of my personal time and dedication.
If this is the behavior I should expect from those that purport to be
leaders in our community, then this city is not worthy of my efforts.

-Robert Arias

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Breaking News: City Council Considers Minimum Wage Ordinance Roll Back

Business Owners Convince City Council to "Hit Pause" on Minimum Wage Ordinance

BREAKING- (City Hall)
In a major turn around of long standing City policy, tonight the City of Emeryville is considering a roll back of its landmark Minimum Wage Ordinance.  After hearing from individual Emeryville business owners following an agendized presentation of the Minimum Wage Ordinance, the Council suddenly moved to consider overturning central provisions of its hugely consequential ordinance, set to increase workers wages on July 1st.  Expressing urgency, the Council directed the City Manager to make a vote possible before that date.
The roll back action was initiated by Mayor Ally Medina and enthusiastically taken up by Council member John Bauters who called upon his desire to “hit pause” on the ordinance.

Emeryville’s Minimum Wage Ordinance was enacted in 2015 after consideration of business community concerns and testimony from the minimum wage workers in town.  Tonight however, after hearing only from the business community, the Council proclaimed that the provisions for wage increases be stopped before the July 1st wage scheduled increase, a job the City Manager said would be very difficult owing to a lack of time. 
There was very little back and forth among the Council members tonight about the ramifications of this drastic proposal; the majority of their time was spent finagling around Brown Act directives to make sure any vote taken to overturn the ordinance would be legal.

Council member Christian Patz took issue with the cavalier manner in which his colleagues jumped into amending the long standing ordinance.  The other Council members expressed no such reservations.  A special meeting will be announced soon by City Hall so that the State required two ‘readings’ of a change to the ordinance can come in under the July 1st wire.

The Tattler will report in more detail on this fast moving story in the days to come.  Watch this space…

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Emeryville Releases New Minimum Wage Study

Most Businesses Have Accepted the Minimum Wage Ordinance

Restaurant Sector is Still Angry 

Wages Up Regionally as Neighboring 
Cities Follow Emeryville's Lead

The City of Emeryville this week released a revised and recommissioned academic study for its minimum wage ordinance, the results showing a business community that has largely come to terms with the 2105 ordinance, excepting a defiant restaurant cohort who’s animosity towards the ordinance has grown since the release of the first business study in 2016.  The current data rich study, called the City of Emeryville Business Conditions Report and commissioned by the City, is comprised of a comprehensive city-wide business survey with an analytical academic investigation.  It was conducted by the Lorry Lokey School of Business and Public Policy at Mills College, the authors of the first Minimum Wage Ordinance (MWO) study.  This most recent study was completed last summer.

Unlike the first MWO study with it’s look exclusively into the effects on Emeryville’s businesses, the current iteration is more expansive.  Findings have been based on a survey focused on “…how City of Emeryville Labor Ordinances (i.e., Minimum Wage, Paid Sick Leave, and Fair Workweek) have impacted revenues, prices, and employment patterns among local businesses” according to the study’s executive summary.

The survey part of the Business Conditions Report included only Emeryville business owners or managers, workers were not surveyed. The survey, sent out to 319 private Emeryville businesses across the spectrum of business types netted 101 respondents.
All Business Owners' Sentiments About the MWO
as a Percentage

More are neutral and positive about it than against it

but more are against it than in 2016.

Most business owners in all cohorts responded that ‘business is worse’ at a rate of 33% over those who found business to be better (14%) since the MWO was enacted.  However most also found that their productivity had increased 22% versus 19% stating a decline.  Morale has been found to have improved dramatically because of the MWO at Emeryville’s businesses with 33% reporting an increase over 18% stating a decline.  Another factor that has improved for businesses the survey reports, is the number of job applicants for business owners to select from; a 27% increase.  This improvement comes against a generally improving employment rate in the Bay Area that is credited with driving down the number of job applicants in the aggregate at businesses outside Emeryville.
Emeryville businesses have been shown to have increased their prices in response to the challenges brought by the MWO’s implementation by wide margins, especially in the food service sector.

Emeryville's Retail Business Likes The MWO
The green pie slices represent those businesses that
like the MWO.  The red and yellow are those who don't. 
Business owners’ reaction to the ordinance is evenly split the study found, independent of their bottom lines.  After the Minimum Wage Ordinance wage increases hit $15 per hour for small businesses in 2018 ($15.69 for large businesses), business owners collectively responded favorably, seeing it as good or fair at a rate of 21% for those businesses affected by it with an additional 7% expressing favorability for those businesses not affected by the MWO. These numbers were offset by a rate of negativity about the MWO at 24% with an additional 4% of business owners responding negatively whom are not affected by the wage increase.

Food Service Sector Unhappy
Those most unhappy with the MWO, by far, have been shown to be restaurant owners/managers.  An entire section of the study is devoted to them.  Their overwhelmingly negative responses dragged down the overall rate of satisfaction for all business types citywide.  When viewed separately, restaurant owners were found to be dissatisfied with the MWO’s latest wage hike in 2018 at a rate of 67%, owners stating the wage increase negatively impacts their businesses. The category of taxes and regulation, which includes the MWO, are very unpopular with restaurant owners; 41% responding that is their biggest problem in Emeryville, closely following parking availability, 42% of whom found that to be their biggest problem running a business here.

For businesses not in food service, the study shows business owners as mostly favorable to Emeryville’s MWO.  The retail sector generally showed an acceptance of or even support of the MWO.  Overall, about 22% of the retail managers have negative feelings about the Minimum Wage Ordinance, while 47% report support for the ordinance.

Neighbor Cities Raise Theirs
The passage of Emeryville’s landmark Minimum Wage Ordinance caught many municipal neighbors by surprise and many have rushed in to effectively meet Emeryville’s challenge.  Beginning in 2019, the cities of Berkeley and El Cerrito have matched Emeryville’s small business $15 per hour rate while other neighbors have also raised their minimum wages in response to Emeryville’s lead.  This reaction, predicted by the Tattler in 2015, represents a new effective progressive regional minimum wage reflecting the shared values in the Bay Area and serves as a moral counter to previous calls for a ‘regional minimum wage’  at a much lower rate en masse by the business community.
Emeryville's minimum wage, formerly the highest in the nation, has recently been eclipsed by SeaTac Washington.  However, Emeryville's rate increase scheduled for July 1st could put it back on top by a few cents.

Emeryville's Minimum Wage Ordinance Elevates the Regional Wage
A 'regional minimum wage' can be poverty rates region-wide if no city
makes a move to raise theirs
region-wide livable rates if one city moves to raise theirs.

The City of Emeryville Business Conditions Report can be seen HERE.
The first MWO Business Study from 2016 may be seen HERE.
Actual Response From a Restaurant Owner to a Survey Question
The redaction provided by the City of Emeryville
...but you get the picture.