City of Eureka "Fair Wage Act" Minimum Wage Initiative, Measure R (November 2014)

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The Eureka Minimum Wage Ordinance Initiative, Measure R, also known as the Eureka Fair Wage Act, ballot question was on the November 4, 2014 election ballot for voters in the city of Eureka in Humboldt County, California, where it was defeated.

Measure R would have increased the minimum wage to $12 per hour, with the exception of small businesses employing 25 or fewer workers.[1]

The minimum wage throughout the state of California was increased to $8 per hour on January 1, 2014.[1]

Again, the minimum wage statewide increased to $9 an hour on July 1, 2014, and is set to move to $10 per hour in 2015.[2]

Oakland voters also had a chance to raise the minimum pay in the city to $12.25 per hour in November 2014. San Jose's minimum wage was raised by voters in 2012 according to Measure D and stood at $10.15 per hour, as of November 2014. San Francisco electors voted in November on Measure J, which was designed to gradually raise the minimum wage from $10.74 per hour, California's highest as of September 2014, to $15 per hour by July 2018.[2]

Moreover, the city councils of Berkeley, Richmond and San Diego voted to increase each city's minimum wage to $12.53 per hour by 2016, $12.30 per hour by 2017 and $11.50 per hour by 2017 respectively. San Diego's council had to overrule a mayoral veto to finally enact its minimum page proposal.[3]

According to researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the living wage for a single worker in Eureka--as well as all of Humboldt County--is about $8.76 per hour. This goes up to $19.73 per hour for a single adult with one child and $17.81 for two adults with one child. The same calculating algorithm estimated Oakland's living wage for a single adult to be $11.51 per hour. It put San Jose's at $12.01 per hour.[2]

Election results

City of Eureka, Measure R
Defeatedd No4,38961.09%
Yes 2,796 38.91%

Election results via: Humboldt County 2014 Post-Election Report

Text of measure

Ballot question

The question on the ballot was:[1]

Shall an ordinance be adopted that (1) requires (a) payment of minimum wages in Eureka at $12.00 per hour for employers with 25 or more employees (including Welfare-to-Work Programs) with an annual increase, if any, based on the Consumer Price Index beginning the ninetieth (90th) day after certification; (b) City Attorney enforcement through fines, penalties, or civil actions; (c) City Council authority to amend the ordinance with regard to implementation or enforcement; and (d)voter approval of substantive changes to the ordinance; and (2) allows private enforcement through civil actions?[4]

Ballot title

The official title given to this initiative measure by the city attorney was:

Minimum Wage Ordinance[1][4]



The city attorney provided the following summary of the Minimum Wage Ordinance:

If approved by the voters, this initiative would add a new chapter to the Eureka Municipal Code to provide that employers, who employ 25 people or more within the City of Eureka shall pay employees no less than a minimum wage of $12 for each hour worked beginning ninety (90) days after the approval of the initiative by voters.

Under the proposed initiative, beginning on January 1, 2014 and each year thereafter, the minimum wage would be increased by an amount corresponding to the previous year’s cost of living increase. The cost of living increase would be measured by the consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers, U.S. City Average for All Items. The minimum wage requirement would be applicable to Welfare-to-Work programs subject to limitation that participants would not be required to work more than a number of hours equal to the value of all cash benefits received during the applicable benefits period. The minimum wage requirement would also be applicable to nonprofit corporations within eighteen (18) months after voter approval. The proposed initiative designates the City Attorney as the public official responsible for promulgating guidelines or rules to assist employers and employees in determining their rights and responsibilities under the ordinance; publishing the adjusted minimum wage each year; reviewing employer’s payroll records; investigating all reported violations, and; initiating a civil action or issuing administrative citations to employers who violate the proposed ordinance.[1][4]

Full text

Read the full text of the proposed legislation here.



A coalition of residents and groups called the Fair Wage Folks filed the petition for the "Fair Wage Act" and helped to gather the requisite signatures. This coalition included members who were active in the following groups:[5]

  • Occupy Eureka
  • Veterans for Peace
  • Richardson Grove Action Now
  • People Project
  • Peoples’ Action for Rights and Community

Arguments in favor

Supporters argued that a higher minimum wage boosted the economy in other cities and could work in Eureka as well. They argued that, with more money to spend, the average worker would be able to live comfortably and put more money back into the economy, leading to a higher demand for goods and services and a more robust business base and job market.[2]

Verbena Lea, also known as Kimberly Starr, was one of the organizers of the Fair Wage Folks. She pointed to examples in San Jose and San Francisco to argue that Measure R would help Eureka's economy and to respond to opponents who said the opposite. She said, "The people who are against this say it will hurt the economy and mean a loss of jobs, but the data from places that have tried this shows that the opposite is true. Raising the minimum wage actually brings more jobs to an area. The businesses that already exist in the area do better, and new ones are created."[6]

Scott Myers-Lipton, a professor of sociology at San Jose State University, was responsible for a lot of work that inspired Measure R. He wrote, "Opponents painted a doomsday scenario, saying that jobs would be cut and employee hours reduced." But he responded, saying, "It is clear that raising San Jose's minimum wage has been an incredible success. The data shows that under San Jose's minimum wage, unemployment was reduced, the number of businesses grew, the number of minimum wage jobs expanded, average employee hours remained constant and the economy was stimulated."[6]

James Decker, a proponent of Measure R, said:

In the 13 states that raised their minimum wage last year, they had much higher growth — 25 percent more growth — than the states that didn't. It's a glaring difference. If you can stimulate demand at the bottom, you can get the economy going. But there's lots of resistance to this from people who are at the top end: the Waltons and the Koch brothers are notorious for trying to impose low wages on American workers. chambers of commerce and groups like the Restaurant Association of America are funded by large businesses, and they're constantly trying to claim that a higher minimum wage is a job killer. They've never been proven right by any data, but their interest is in keeping their constituents rich, so they continue to put out the same tired old story.[4]

—James Decker[6]

Raul Gardea, a political science student at Humboldt State University and a Fair Wage Folks volunteer, said:

It's really not about whether you're a Democrat or a Republican, it's about how much you value the work that people are putting into their workplaces and communities. Most people are pretty reasonable, and when we show them how this will benefit the whole community they've been very receptive. This measure may only directly affect about 1,500 workers in the city, but the entire community will benefit from the indirect effects like lower unemployment.[4]

—Raul Gardea[6]

Zack Thiesen, a local restaurant worker and a volunteer with the Fair Wage Folks said:

When you raise the minimum wage above the market wage, the old guard says it should lead to layoffs. But paying above the minimum wage inspires an effort above the minimum. It doesn't work the other way around.

I've worked at jobs where I worked really hard, but the raises just never come, even after years of service. And then you just move on and start over. When you pay people a poverty wage, treat them like they're utterly replaceable, make them work insane hours and multiple jobs so that it takes them over a decade to put themselves through school with any quality of life to spare, and call them unskilled, then don't be surprised when you come away with low morale, high turnover and terrible customer service. Employers who have voluntarily paid a higher wage have seen these elements of their business totally reversed.[4]

—Zack Thiesen[6]

Official arguments

The following was submitted as the official argument in favor of Measure R:[1]

Vote “YES” for Measure R, Eureka’s Fair Wage Act. It is essential to rejuvenate the economy of Eureka and this entire region.

Measure R raises our minimum wage to $12 an hour, to be paid by large employers, enabling people who work hard to earn a fair wage, pay their bills, and take care of their kids.

Measure R reflects our sense of fairness, addresses economic realities, and is sound public policy.

Minimum wage increases boost local business because low-wage workers spend their money here. Higher earnings will continuously stimulate our economy. Cities that raise their minimum wage see their economies thrive. The multiplier effect from additional money in people’s pockets will lower poverty rates and grow our economy. In San Jose’s first year with a higher minimum wage, employment rose and 9,000 businesses started.

Measure R reduces working people’s reliance on government aid. California’s minimum wage fails us and is not indexed to inflation. Measure R is indexed, so if the cost of living goes up, workers’ wages will keep pace.

“Mom and Pop” stores are not required to pay the higher wage under Measure R’s small business exemption.

Over 65% of people who will directly benefit from Measure R are working women, many of them raising children. One third of workers who will get higher wages are over 40. Almost 90% of workers who will directly benefit from Measure R are older than 20.

City cost of enforcement can be recovered from violators. Community members created Measure R to improve the economy and our lives.

Your “YES” vote allows working individuals and families to meet their needs, while enhancing the quality of life for everyone in our community. Our relatives, friends, and neighbors deserve to be paid fairly. Measure R empowers you to make that a reality.[4]

—Representatives of the Fair Wage Folks[1]

Graphics contest

The backers of the proposed Minimum Wage Ordinance organized a contest to find the best graphic to represent the movement. A $100 dollar prize was offered for the graphic that took first place in the contest. Below are the two images that took first and second place in the graphics contest.[7]

Second place winner: Jaimal Kordes
First place winner: Talon Gibbs



Liana Simpson, president of Sequoia Personal Services, was a strong, outspoken opponent of Measure R.[2]

Don Smullin, secretary of the Greater Eureka Chamber of Commerce, wrote the official arguments in opposition to Measure R.[1]

Arguments against

Liana Simpson disagreed with a minimum wage increase limited to just the city. She said:[2]

This pits Humboldt County businesses against one another when competing for talent. I care about employees, workers, the area and the business community, but it's such a convoluted measure because it's not countywide — it's citywide. People from places like Arcata and Fortuna may be swarming into the Eureka market if they can, but Eureka won't be able to absorb those workers. A lot of current workers in Eureka will experience layoffs due to economies of scale — employers won't overnight be making a lot more money and something will have to give, which usually means layoffs. I think employers will have to cut back. Everyone's working on tight budgets as it is.[4]

—Liana Simpson[2]

Simpson went on to respond to arguments from proponents that put Berkeley and San Jose forward as examples of success with higher minimum wages. She said:[2]

It's comparing apples and oranges — they're very different economies. They can't say the minimum wage increases have improved the job market because the job market has improved. Period. I don't think people realize when the minimum wage goes up every other wage goes up, because the minimum wage sets a minimum standard. It's not about a livable wage. It's called a minimum wage for a reason.[4]

—Liana Simpson[2]

Simpson concluded:[2]

It allows for people to be hired with minimal skills. Employers are going to have to give employees raises to make it competitive for them, which skews all the theories of compensation, fairness and employment. It will be much harder for young people to secure employment because if the minimum is $12, employers will be forced to look for the highest skill set, and they can pull it out from Arcata and Fortuna and justify it because those employees may have more to offer.[4]

—Liana Simpson[2]

Don Smullin, executive director of the Greater Eureka Chamber of Commerce, said:

I don't see how it could generate enough money to generate the economy. It can increase expenses to businesses, which doesn't help the economy. Businesses don't have an infinite amount of money. When expenses go up, they have to cut or find more revenue. It's hard in a declining economy to find more revenue. The answer in Eureka is we need jobs.[4]

—Don Smullin[2]

Official arguments

The following was submitted as the official argument in opposition to Measure R:[1]

The City of Eureka already suffers from a fragile economy. Many storefronts stand empty, and businesses are struggling to stay open. While our residents are struggling to find jobs, Measure R threatens to cause layoffs, worker hour reduction, and it creates a disincentive for businesses to expand or increase staff. Many businesses have reported they may have to close down or leave the city. Measure R was poorly designed and harms our community:

1) Since it only affects employers with more than 25 employees, the ordinance selectively hurts midsize businesses and small businesses trying to expand. Many employers with less than 25 employees will resist expansion while employers over 25 employees may lay-off employees to avoid being affected by the ordinance.

2) Measure R does not account for benefits and other non-wage compensation as other cities have done with similar measures. Employers have reported they will cut employee benefits as an offset. Passing measure R will mean that employees stand to lose health care insurance, vacation pay, paid sick time, and other important benefits.

3) Measure R places Eureka businesses at a competitive disadvantage to those outside of the city limits, decreasing our tax base, threatening resources for public safety, and further harming Eureka’s economic development.

4) Measure R threatens the very existence of many non-profit organizations with fixed funding and no method to increase revenues. The 18 month amnesty for non-profits will only delay the loss of important services for the most vulnerable of our population.

We urge you to vote NO on Measure R in favor of a measured and responsible approach to lifting wages and improving our local economy; one that increases available employment, supports our non-profits and improves public service by growing our business tax base.[4]

—Don Smullin, secretary of the Greater Eureka Chamber of Commerce[1]

Other opinions

Erick Eschker, a professor of economics at Humboldt State University, expressed a different opinion on Measure R, neither condemning it nor condoning it. He displayed understanding for why the working class would want an increase in the minimum wage and also expressed concerns about possible layoffs and harm to the job market. Ultimately he focused on alternatives to raising the minimum wage, saying:[2]

You might find small effects in some industries like restaurants, the hotel and fast food industries — the businesses that have a lot of minimum wage employees — you might see employers laying off workers. It's probably no surprise why you see places have significant increases in minimum wage because of the rise of income inequality. It's well-documented that people are kind of fed up at the lower end, or even middle class, and want to see it go up. A better way to go about it would be earned income tax credit, which is taxing higher-income people more and taxing lower-income people less.[4]

—Erick Eschker[2]

Reports and analyses

Impartial analysis

The following impartial analysis was prepared for Measure R:[1]

This initiative ordinance, if approved by a majority of the voters, would add a new chapter to the Eureka Municipal Code (“Code”) requiring employers with 25 or more employees to pay employees a minimum wage of $12.00/hour for work performed within the City of Eureka. The minimum wage required by California law is currently $9.00/hour, and the federal minimum wage is currently $7.25/ hour. Employers within the City are required to pay the highest of the local, state or federal minimum wage. The new minimum wage, if passed, would take effect ninety (90) days after certification of the election results and require the City to adjust it each year beginning January 1, 2014, based on increases in a Consumer Price Index.

The proposed ordinance would apply to most employers, including not only those who are subject to the Business License Tax, Chapter 110 of the Code, but also those who assign an employee or employees to perform work within the geographic boundaries of Eureka. The proposed ordinance seeks to apply to participants in welfare-to-work programs, administered by the County of Humboldt, by limiting the number of hours the participants will be required to work to the number of hours equal to the cash benefits divided by the minimum wage. The minimum wage requirement would not apply to a person who works less than two hours per week.

The proposed ordinance includes a number of administrative requirements and enforcement provisions. Covered employers would be required to post current and prospective minimum wage rates at the place of employment, notify the employees of current and prospective minimum wage rates, and maintain certain payroll records. The proposed ordinance would prohibit retaliation or discrimination against any person seeking to enforce the rights provided by the ordinance. The City Attorney would be required to administer and enforce the provisions including, investigating possible violations, issuing administrative citations and compliance orders, and filing a lawsuit in court. Remedies include back wages, civil penalties, equitable relief, and payment of reasonable attorney’s fees and costs. Any person harmed by a violation, or any member of the public, would have the right to sue in court to enforce the requirement.

A “yes” vote is a vote to require payment of a minimum wage of $12.00/hour for work performed in Eureka under certain circumstances and to approve the implementation and enforcement of the requirement as described above.

A “no” vote is a vote to continue payment of the state minimum wage of $9.00/ hour and the federal minimum wage, which is currently $7.25/hour.[4]

—Cyndy Day-Wilson, Eureka City Attorney[1]

Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing local ballot measures in California

On February 7, 2013, supporters of increasing the minimum wage turned in approximately 2,700 signatures to the city clerk. These signatures were verified by the city clerk and county elections office, and the initiative petition was certified. This gave the city council the choice to pass the ordinance as proposed or to set an election in which to present the ordinance to a vote of the people. The Eureka City Council voted 5 to 1 against enacting the ordinance, opting to put the measure on the November 4, 2014, election ballot instead. Linda Atkins was the only city council member who was in favor of enacting the ordinance rather than sending it down for a voter decision.[8]

Similar measures


Approveda City of Oakland Minimum Wage Increase Initiative, Measure FF (November 2014)
Approveda City of San Francisco Minimum Wage Increase Referred Measure, Proposition J (November 2014)
Defeatedd City of Eureka "Fair Wage Act" Minimum Wage Initiative, Measure R (November 2014)
Approveda Raise Wisconsin minimum wage increase advisory referendums
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot City of San Diego $12 per Hour Minimum Wage Initiative (November 2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot City of San Diego $13.09 per Hour Minimum Wage Measure (November 2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot City of Las Cruces Minimum Wage Increase Initiative (November 2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot Washington D.C. Minimum Wage Initiative (November 2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot City of Seattle $15 Per Hour Minimum Wage Increase Veto Referendum (November 2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot City of Seattle $15 Per Hour Minimum Wage Initiative (November 2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot City of San Francisco Minimum Wage Act of 2014 Initiative (November 2014)
Approveda Philadelphia Minimum Wage Ordinance, Proposition 1 (May 2014)
Approveda City of Chicago $15 Per Hour Minimum Wage Referendum (March 2014)
Approveda SeaTac "Good Jobs Initiative", Proposition 1 (November 2013)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot City of Richmond Minimum Wage Increase Ballot Question (November 2014)


Approveda Alaska Minimum Wage Increase, Ballot Measure 3 (2014)
Approveda Arkansas Minimum Wage Initiative (2014)
Approveda South Dakota Increased Minimum Wage, Initiated Measure 18 (2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot California Minimum Wage Supplement for Home Health Workers (2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot Idaho Minimum Wage Initiative (2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot Massachusetts Minimum Wage Increase Initiative (2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot Michigan Minimum Wage Initiative (2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot Missouri Minimum Wage Initiative (2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot New Mexico Minimum Wage Amendment (2014)

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