Public Comment


By Dave Blake
Tuesday June 03, 2008 - 08:48:00 AM



Editors, Daily Planet: 

Councilmember Darryl Moore (District 2, southwest Berkeley) posted a letter on the Planet site Monday, June 2, in which he wanted to “set the record straight” regarding my, in his words, “flat-out false” claim in these pages that Tom Bates, supported at the mike by Nancy Skinner, voted against the Berkeley Bowl workers June 13, 2006. Moore’s letter doesn’t even rate the usual temperate response, “right, as far as it goes.” It’s a series of misrepresentations and distractions, one worse than the next; it’s ironic that his letter was entitled “Misinformation.” 

Moore complained that I had argued (again citing his letter) that “the City Council had the option to place a requirement on Berkeley Bowl’s use permit to give workers the ability to achieve union representation.” I made no such argument. Indeed, because Skinner has made (no surprise) the identical argument Moore makes to try to paint her activity that night as less despicable than it actually was (because there was nothing the council could do), I carefully deconstructed that falsehood in the very article Moore is supposedly ”setting straight”. I said her argument was “cynical misdirection: there were two independent issues before them: the permit and the zoning-map change. Though they couldn’t write a condition for a permit to operate a grocery store that would require a union election, nothing stood in the way of simply refusing to give Yasuda his $7 million industrial-to-retail change while they had the crucial leverage.” 

Moore further compounds his pastiche of distortions with a tedious recitation of all the votes the council took that night while leaving out the only significant one. As I explained in my article, Bowl owner Glen Yasuda had circulated a rumor that morning that he would abandoned the West Berkeley Bowl project if the council failed to approve it that night. The workers, having failed to get Bates or Moore to support them by refusing to vote for Yasuda’s zoning-map change request until he came to terms with the union, asked instead only for a one-week continuance to make it clear the council wouldn’t knuckle under to his second-hand threat and to pressure him to negotiate the issue. It was on this motion that Bates voted no, sealing the workers’ fate. 

Readers should know why this issue is of so much importance to Moore: he himself abstained on that crucial vote. While an abstention usually has no effect on the outcome of a motion, in the case of a continuance, it has the identical effect of a “no” vote. When the West Berkeley Bowl opens without a union, or even the right for the workers to vote on a union, Bates and Moore will share the responsibility equally. I’m sure the two of them will make a great show of support for the unionization effort that will ensue, because their votes that night will also prove to have been responsible for the likely eventual loss of the union at the Shattuck Bowl should the effort to unionize the new Bowl fail. 


Dave Blake is a former chair of the Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board.