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Saturday, June 8, 2019

Labor Group Starts Petition Drive to Defend Emeryville's Minimum Wage Ordinance

Bauters, Martinez & Donahue Face Petition Defending Minimum Wage

Labor Across County United Against Three Council Members

A coalition of labor and community groups known as East Bay Working Families has begun a ballot initiative petition drive in response to a recent City Council move to roll back Emeryville’s Minimum Wage Ordinance.  The coalition partners refer to the targeted minimum wage ruling made at the May 29th Council meeting as a “corporate minimum wage loophole” that cuts the wages of restaurant workers in town.  The newly amended legislation, forwarded by Council members John Bauters and Dianne Martinez, provides a carve-out in the existing law meant to protect all workers’ wages, specifically cutting the wages of workers in restaurants with up to 55 employees in Emeryville, including chains with up to 20 locations globally.  The vote to roll back the wages of restaurant workers ended when holdout Council member Donahue joined the two progenitors to the action, leaving Mayor Ally Medina and Vice Mayor Christian Patz in the minority.

From the East Bay Working Families
anti anti-minimum wage campaign

Emeryville's three Council wage cutters are identified by name.
Sent out to 135,000 union members.
The petition now circulating around town, needs to show 661 legitimate signatures of Emeryville registered voters in order for the ballot initiative to be successful, a number a spokesperson for East Bay Working Families predicts will be relatively easy.  “We’re on track and we hope to get 1000” Liz Ortega, Executive Secretary of the Alameda County Labor Council told the Tattler, “we feel comfortable we’ll get it” she added.  The group claims they had obtained more than 200 signatures only two days after they began their drive, an indication that Emeryville’s minimum wage is popular with Emeryville citizens.

Many Emeryville residents joined East Bay Working Families in decrying the May 29th roll back decision, noting that the City Council had only heard from business owners in town.  A business survey conducted nine months before the May 29th vote did not include any findings about or opinions from workers themselves, a fact that is driving criticism of the harried May 29th vote by the Council. Gary Jimenez, a regional vice president with SEIU 1021 noted City Hall’s fact finding asymmetry, “This poorly drafted legislation was written without input from the workers or the community and it shows” he said.  The lopsided ‘business only’ testimony brought denunciations against the two Council members, especially John Bauters whom Working Families has reserved special condemnation, “Is Emeryville turning into ‘Trumpville’? asked Ms Ortega.  She called out Mr Bauters specifically for his attack on the lowest paid workers in town, “Is it Trumpville when we have a councilman like John Bauters leading the charge to cut wages of the working poor?”  She called his action, “very disappointing”.

The new Emeryville legislation freezes wages for the restaurant workers now and allows for small increases over the next eight years when their wage will finally catch up to other minimum wage earners in town.  The workers will have a July 1st expected raise of $1.30 snatched away from them by the Council's action.

That the attack on Emeryville’s landmark Minimum Wage Ordinance came from its former City Council backers, John Bauters, Dianne Martinez and Scott Donahue, came as a surprise to labor leaders, “Frankly, we expected something like this from the business community” a member of Working Families who wished anonymity told the Tattler, “…not from the [air quotes] progressive Emeryville City Council” he added.  Other labor leaders added their disapprovals; “Adding a flawed loophole to the minimum wage doesn’t reflect [Emeryville’s] values and is fundamentally unfair” said Kate O’Hara, Executive Director of the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, a group that helped write the Minimum Wage Ordinance in 2015.  Liz Ortega from the Alameda County Labor Council agreed adding, “One job should be enough to support a family and pay the bills.  The minimum wage in Emeryville is fair and we should not be giving exemptions to restaurant chains” she said.

Working Families, who represent 135,000 labor union members in Alameda County, will have 30 days to gather at least 661 signatures and if they are successful, the City Council must either repeal the restaurant rider to the ordinance or put it before voters, probably this November.

More information on EBWF's protect Emeryville's minimum wage campaign can be found HERE.


  1. I am also surprised these council members did this. Especially John Bauters. They are selling out Emeryville's carefully cultivated reputation as a progressive leader in the Bay Area. Take away from poor families all to protect some chain restaurants. I don't understand this.

    1. Yes, I's incongruous. If you listen to their campaign literature from when they ran for council, all three of them, this roll back doesn't jibe. The answer, I think, will begin to appear over time as it usually does. Thanks for commenting. Watch this space....

  2. Respectfully disagree. This petition will fail because Emeryville voters know how the highest minimum wage in America is destroying our town. If these union thugs convince enough people to sign it will never win in an election.

  3. I can see Martinez and Donahue cutting poor people's wage. Bauters IS surprising. I've always seen him as a champion for the downtrodden. You should get his side and report it.

  4. There's apparently an attitude that restaurant workers are itinerant, low-skilled people less worthy than others. That's bunk.

  5. I can't wait to sign this petition. I cannot believe how betrayed I feel by these three Council members I voted for, campaigned for, and encouraged others to support. What the hell do we have to do to get a progressive council with spine?

    1. Yes, this is a problem in Emeryville. People running for city council always assure the electorate that they’re the real deal progressive. Their campaign literature is always impressive, highlighting the things residents would want; it’s always parks this and social justice that and livability here and bikes there. Then when they get elected, suddenly it’s less the citizen’s interests they care about and more developers or business owners interests. Alas, this is the way of the world. But it’s not as if we are totally powerless in the face of this kind of cynicism. I’ve always said that litmus tests are a good idea; voters demand candidates sign their names on positions ahead of time. By sign, I mean actually sign. This kind of accountability is best done by community activist groups like RULE but it can be used by individuals as well. It’s much harder for elected officials to weasel out of a position they have signed their names to, especially when it can be made public (like for instance in the Tattler).