Elk Grove City Council Pounds Chest on Being Business Friendly, But What About Labor?

September 1, 2013 | Over the last several years, the Elk Grove City Council has proudly proclaimed in both words and deeds that th...

September 1, 2013 |

Over the last several years, the Elk Grove City Council has proudly proclaimed in both words and deeds that the city is streamlining processes to make the city business friendly. While the city has made changes, the more astute observers of city governance really see 'business friendly' broken into two general categories with one special case. 

The special case of course was the multi-million dollar incentive granted to the state prison health system to move, not create, several hundred jobs to the city. While the merits and long-term benefits of transferring the jobs from Sacramento can be argued, the incentive at least gave some of the authorities Elk Grove employees a shorter commute and helped absorb some vacancies.

The two other categories where the city has been quite business friendly has been for auto dealers and builders. Elk Grove Auto Mall dealers have been awarded hundreds-of-thousands of dollars and fees have been greatly reduced and loosened for home builders.

While the city council could argue, with limited merit, the auto dealer and prison authority incentives support middle-class wage jobs, the reduction of construction fees is just a big gift delivered to the council’s benefactors - home builders. Think of them as Elk Grove's version of the hedge fund managers and Wall Street types who own just about every politician in Washington D.C.

Sure, most construction workers and affiliated trades make good wages if they are covered by project labor agreements, but once those houses are built, the jobs move.

Of course given the city's laser-focus on building more homes once the city annexation of the 12-square miles is complete, they could argue that those construction workers will be employed for years to come. But the city's lust for annexation and its negative environmental effects are a whole other subject.   

So while the city has done an effective job making the city a business friendly place, as they define it, what about the other side of the equation - labor? Just what has the city done to make Elk Grove friendly to labor?

From what we see, not much.

City council members do have an opportunity though to show that not only they are business-friendly, but also cognitive of the types of the jobs we have in Elk Grove. Realistically there are only two of the current council members who are candidates to stand up for those on the lower end of the economic ladder.

Specifically, if they have the courage those two certain council members could stand up for the small guy and attempt to put a ballot item on one of the two ballots next year proposing a city wide minimum wage ordinance. San Jose voters did just that last November and they established a city-wide minimum wage of $10 hour.

First let’s look at the number of fast food joints in Elk Grove, which as group are major employers. For our purposes, we will just consider that national drive-thru fast food establishments, there are at least 25 in Elk Grove and this does not include the numerous other fast food establishments, much less mega retailers such as Target or Wal Mart. See interactive map below for a graphic representation of Elk Grove's fast food drive-thru outlets.

View Elk Grove Fast Food Elk Grove's Real Destination!- in a larger map

If each one of those establishments have the approximately 10 full time equivalent employees, we are looking at least 250 jobs. If we consider all the other fast food establishments and the polifera of other retail jobs, there are probably be two thousand people employed at minimum wage jobs in the city.

Also consider that in spite of the notion that these jobs are filled mostly by teenagers, by some accounts the median age nationally of fast food workers is 28 and for women, who make up two thirds  of this group, is 32.

Of course there will be strenuous objections to this on several different fronts, which ironically could  include the city itself. Their objection would probably center on the perceived negative effect it would have on the work of Randy Starbuck, the city’s director of economic development.

To that we say if we are to take the city at their word they are making Herculean efforts to recruit high quality employers to the city, would these targeted employers not already be paying wages far above the minimum? Of course if Starbuck’s and the city council’s idea of economic development is the recruitment of more retailers and fast food outlets, they have a valid argument. 

Furthermore, perhaps the ballot could be written in such a way that truly small businesses with say fewer than 15 employees or those with two or less locations that are not nationally-affiliated outlets, such as a McDonald's franchise, would be exempt. 

While the big retailers, fast food franchisees operators and every anti-worker interest group will howl in objection and seek to discredit the proposal by any means necessary, can you realistically see McDonalds, Wal Mart, Target or Yum Brands pulling up stakes and leaving the city in protest?

Will this be the doomsday prophecy they often paint - not likely. Even Henry Ford recognized about 100 years ago what good is it to make a product if workers can't afford it.

It is of no small coincidence that this year’s Labor Day Celebration falls on the heels of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington D.C. While most people remember that day for Dr. Martin Luther King's epic speech on civil rights, as the button on the top of this post reminds us, people were marching for jobs and pay equality too. 

It will take the courage for the city council’s two Democratic members to propose this, but they need to answer to themselves if they want their legacy to be that of just another hack-politician or as someone who is on the right side of history for one of today’s pressing socio-economic issues.   

So on this September 1, the traditional Labor Day, do Mayor Gary Davis and Council Member Jim Cooper possess the requisite courage to stand up for labor?

Post a Comment Default Comments


Anonymous said...

So much for non-partisanship. Keep prolificating political lines.

Michael said...

This article is not partisan at all. The city council IS partisan, however.
And the council always needs a third vote. Trigg?
The cost of boosting $8/hour jobs to $15/hour means bumping the retail cost of a food item by about three cents.
Go to any wealthy area (SF, Los Altos, Los Gatos, etc.) and the consumer always pays extra for fuel, whether gas or junk food.
The prior comment is thoughtless when anyone considers that labor puts value into the fixed-capital potatoes or meat that is bought by franchisees.
Celebrate Labor Day.
After all, there isn't a Corporations Day, or CEOs Day.
They don't deserve it.

Connie said...

There was a reason back in the early 1900’s citizens banned political parties, and partisan politics in general, from local city and county governments. They were fed up with corruption.

Call some of us naïve in that supporting whom we thought were the best candidates for Elk Grove City Council we focused on the candidates and not the party. We actively sought to elect them, caring not if they have an "I," “D” or “R” after their names. Even the candidates would say as much when running for local office. But alas, it is not true. As soon as the candidate took to the dais, partisan politics crept in.

Instead of focusing on the qualifications of our elected local officials including their history of community involvement, their personal integrity, and their knowledge and expertise in solving our local problems, many of us have begun to "like" or "dislike" an elected official based on their political party. And why is that? But our elected officials are equally to blame here because their voting records have resembled “How would the party vote?”

It is a reality, very much present on the Elk Grove City Council, and so how do we fix it?

After all, what do party politics have to do with ensuring our potholes are filled? But apparently, it does and we have seen it time and time again.

Lynn said...


I will respond to your comment; many residents do vote along party lines so the choosing of a candidate unfortunately is heavily influenced by the parties and of course the size of one's campaign chest. I really don't know how to change this because I was indeed naive and believed people do base a vote on a person and not a party. I walked 9600 homes, I did not get the voters registration list because I wanted to stop at all homes and have a dialog and discussion. The first question asked; what party do you belong to? When one gentleman pushed me refusing to listen first to my message I told him. His response to me "your party is what is wrong with this country". I didn't stop and pushed. Maybe because I was tired after 7 hours of walking a neighborhood...but he heard my story and it was not in a quiet voice. I don't know if I earned his vote after my message, it did cause him pause to tell me he was sorry for his initial comment. I will say now I appreciate everyone who supported me in my run for office knowing that with my self imposed campaign spending limit the odds were not in my favor! So Connie; how can what is going on be fixed in Elk Grove? Change how much locals can spend on campaigning. We saw by those who applied for the Mayor's district 4 spot that there are those who truly would want to serve. I wish they would return to participate in cc meetings...however, the process was awful and I don't blame them for not.

Jill said...

Connie makes valid points. Davis, Hume and Detrick were all elected to replace unpopular incumbents. Davis is by far the biggest disappointment. At least we knew what Briggs stood for. Davis is so pro-development and anti-teacher. What a mistake we made when we hooked up with him.

it's not about the chickens said...

Will the money circle ever be unbroken? Developers and unions funnel cash to feed campaign warchests--developers gets projects approved and turn dirt into cash--construction unions extort developer with "project labor agreements" or threaten to drag out and/or litigate project approvals. Written off as cost of doing business. Everyone wins, well almost! Happy Labor Day to the poor retail workers who had to work today...

Anonymous said...

The truly shameful part of this is that the two men who could do something to help those retail workers on duty today will turn a blind eye on them. What a disgrace they are to their party and blind supporters.

Bill Tobey said...

Furthermore, perhaps the ballot could be written in such a way that truly small businesses with say fewer than 15 employees or those with two or less locations that are not nationally-affiliated outlets, such as a McDonald's franchise, would be exempt.

So you are not really for a higher minimum wage you are only for better pay for those who work for the "big boys".

If a higher minimum wage is "just" then it is just for everyone.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the good laugh. You lefties and your dreams of a "workers paradise" always crack me up. Forget the all the lessons learned from history about the failings of your economic policies, we all know that it'll work this time as the modern economy now runs on unicorn dust.

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