By Kitty Kelly Epstein
At least four actions must be taken by the City Council if jobs at the Army Base for Oakland residents are going to be more than a promise. Up to now Oakland flatland residents have not been allowed to work on construction projects, even when those projects were funded with city money. City statistics indicate that only 5% of the journeymen hours on these projects were worked by African-Americans in the recent past.
These statistics will not change unless the Council takes action on these four loopholes which were part of the Army Base jobs policies they passed earlier this year
1) The original policy passed by the Council allows a person living in Oakland for seven days to be considered a resident. This makes “local hire” a joke.
2) The Council allowed a loophole on one phase of the project whereby contractors could employ an unlimited number of people who have worked on other jobs in any part of the country, even if not one of those people was an Oakland resident.
3) A Jobs Center is a major part of the jobs policies. All Army Base jobs will go through the center, so that it is clear to the entire community how hiring takes place and who is getting the jobs. The problem is this: Those who are profiting from the millions of dollars this project will produce have not agreed to fund the Jobs Center. So now the City is counting on two debated sources of funding: 1) Billboard revenues from yet to be built billboards which are opposed by some; and 2) a pot of money called the West Oakland Community Fund over which the West Oakland community, not the developer, has decision-making power.
4) There needs to be transparency and strong penalties for contractors who do not follow the local hire policy. Council member Brooks has proposed some policies which should be adopted.
The Council’s interest in jobs policy is commendable, but the Council should not sign any final agreements on this project, until the loopholes are fixed, strong penalties are passed, and fair, reliable funding mechanisms are in place for the Jobs Center.
We need to read our own marketing materials – Oakland is a treasure and our Port is a dynamo. No agreements should be signed until our local “one-per centers” agree to policies and funding that allow Oakland residents of all ethnicities to work on all phases of this project.
Kitty is a professor of education and urban studies and the author of two books on Oakland, including the newly released, Organizing to Change a City.