Dear Emeryville Councilmembers:
Oakland Indie Alliance, representing dozens of Oakland restaurants, has been engaged in various Bay Area Cities examining worker-centered legislation which is being advanced in various ways. Many of our members have restaurants in multiple cities (including Emeryville), and are concerned about the ongoing series of changes to laws at the state and municipal level which are threatening our continued existence.
With regard to the EBASE/ACCE-sponsored ‘Fair Workweek’ proposal in front of Council. We urge you to:
Exercise caution with regard to increasing legislation which affects small businesses, either directly or indirectly
Create a clear definition of small/local business, which will help limit the impact workers' rights measures to their intended targets: formula retail and fast food. Attached is a draft of a proposal that we're working on with Oakland City Council that might be applicable in Emeryville
If you value small/local business in Emeryville, take concrete action to not just protect, but help us continue to exist. Emeryville is already predominantly a formula retail town, and small businesses are losing. In the last 12 months, some of our peers have closed their Emeryville restaurants - this will accelerate and continue if without some corrective action.
It's important that you understand that small locally owned restaurants and other small businesses, especially those which are labor-intensive, are suffering as we navigate the current economic transition. We absorbed an unprecedented increase in minimum wage just a year ago, and the effects of this change have yet to fully unfold. Although our workers are heavily tip-compensated, we’re still required to pay this higher wage, which exacerbates problems of wage inequity in our own businesses that we’re working to address. At the same time, both commercial and residential rents are increasing in double digit percentages annually, and our supply chain, which is absorbing all these costs, is passing them on to us in the form of increased cost of goods. As we raise our prices to compensate for these increased costs, we're alienating many of our long-time customers - regardless of their sympathy for our situation or that of our workers, many are just unable or unwilling to pay more.
We as small business owners are watching our profits evaporate, and with more changes looming, we're not optimistic about our future.
We are supportive of fair wages and good working conditions for workers, but without some relief, you'll be throwing out the baby with the bathwater - small businesses will fail and be replaced by chain stores. Opportunities for small-scale entrepreneurship will become increasingly daunting, or flat out not worth it. All this is bad for our workers, and bad for our local economy, now and in the long run.