New Chapter in Push for Army Base Jobs

By Post Staff The story of jobs at the Oakland Army Base might make a good movie.   There have not been any car chases, but there has been every other sort of drama. Two years ago, Oakland’s African-American organizations were not even invited to the conversations the Army base developer was holding in his office about “community benefits.” A coalition of West Oakland and African-American groups complained to then-Mayor Ron Dellums that the “community” that was being discussed without them was their community. Dellums convened a meeting of African-American groups, other activist groups, the developer, labor, and several City Council members. He insisted that everyone had a right to be at the table. The result has been two years of intense organizing, petitioning, positioning and debate.   This past Tuesday’s Council meeting culminated with a set of resolutions which may ultimately be strong enough to produce some real jobs for African-American Oaklanders, the group which has historically been left out of every major opportunity for construction jobs in this city. The OaklandWORKS Coalition and ACCE have argued that without enforcement the developer will not comply with the city’s policy of 50 percent local hire. Kitty Kelly Epstein, speaking for OaklandWORKS, told the Council, “For a while it looked like we would have a jobs policy with no local jobs, because there was no enforcement in the agreement.”   The penalties defined in the original Army Base agreement were less than the city’s usual penalties, so small that they would have no impact. A resolution introduced Tuesday by Councilmember Desley Brooks has two critical components.  First, it requires the city to create a public web site that will show who is working the Army Base jobs by ethnicity, zip code and other demographic characteristics. Oaklanders will not need to wait a year for some obscure city report to discover whether or not local people, the residents of West Oakland and African-Americans, in particular, are finally getting some of this good-paying work. Being able to check out the jobs scorecard on line every day ultimately may have more effect on enforcement than anything else in these agreements. Second, the resolution requires financial penalties of one-and-a-half times the hourly rate of the job in question, if the contractor is out of compliance on local hire.  Tuesday’s meeting also established an oversight committee of community, labor and the contractors to work with the city’s contract compliance office to enforce the provisions. The struggle is not over.    The developer needs to pay for the Jobs Center. Jobs are the only “community benefit” asked for or offered. Yet the community is now essentially being asked to pay for the jobs center through billboards and the West Oakland Community fund.  And the construction unions, which have agreed to hire local residents in 100 percent of apprenticeship positions, need to figure out how this can happen when all the apprentice programs are located far outside of Oakland.
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