Op-ed: In minimum wage debate, respect business owners

By Marian Lever

Marian Lever is a Berkeley resident.

In the growing conversation about minimum wage and establishing a fair balance for workers and businesses, it would be an unforgivable oversight to forget what makes Berkeley such a special place to live in. Small neighborhoods. Stores owned by individuals and families where people are recognized and greeted like members of those families.

Remembering the number of independent book stores that were thriving in Berkeley 10 years ago and then counting the brave survivors, is a tough marker of where we are headed as a town.

The communities that populated Cody’s and Black Oak Books were real communities in the truest sense of the word. Bookstores like Mrs. Dalloway’s on College Avenue survive on a wing and a prayer — and a lot of extraordinarily hard work and good citizenship by its owners and employees.

What Berkeley has worked so hard to maintain could be lost in a right-minded but perhaps too hasty proposal to change the minimum wage without giving true, independently owned businesses an honest role in the conversation and an opportunity to responsibly plan for any determined change.

Anyone who knows an independent store owner in Berkeley understands the razor-thin survival margins and how difficult it is to both support customers and employees and be a dedicated, upstanding member of the community.

Let’s not forget the complete equation of what Berkeley is trying to address and balance. Let’s not be any less respectful of the small business owners than we are of the employees. And let’s not be anything but civil in this entire discourse.

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