Community members are raising concerns about what has happened to the promise of jobs for Oakland residents at the $1.2 billion Oakland Army Base development project.
“Less than 10 percent of jobs are going to the people of West Oakland. They are giving some jobs in other places but not at the Army Base,” says Oakland resident Margaret Gordon, a member of OaklandWorks, who was involved in negotiating the project’s community benefits agreement.
Inflated promises of jobs, running from 1,500 to 8,000 or even higher, appear to have been overblown marketing hype meant to stampede Oaklanders into supporting the project.
While some people have been hired at construction jobs, the question remains: How many of these jobs are going to Oakland residents? How many are going to people who live in East Oakland and West Oakland?
How many are going to Black workers?
According to Phil Tagami’s California Capital & Investment Group (CCIG), a total of 425 jobs have been created so far on the project.
As of July 16, the project had hired 91 new Oakland workers, though even these are not necessarily Black or Latino workers, or any of the many residents who over the years have been unable to overcome the barriers to finding work in the relatively highly paid building trades.
“Staff is saying is they’ve exceeded the goals of local hire, mostly by percentages or hours worked,” Councilmember Lynette McElhaney said. However, they do not say if 2,000 hours were worked by Oakland residents represents 10 people or two people, she said.
Recent data indicates that the West Oakland Jobs Resource Center, the tool that was created to funnel West Oakland and other local residents into jobs at the project, has found 11 jobs for Oaklanders at the Army Base. They have found some jobs at other places.
“I had not heard that the numbers of people hired through the Jobs Resource Center were that low,” McElhaney said. “That’s shocking to me. It raises the question of whether Tagami and the subcontractors are serious about working with the center.”
In recent years, only 5 percent of journeymen hours on city-funded developments have gone to African Americans. Community members want to know what the racial breakdown is at this project.
Community members also want to know why the community benefits jobs policy, negotiated with community input over a period of several years, is turning out to be weaker than the city’s general jobs policy.
During the long negotiations over community benefits, it was agreed that there would be preference for hiring West Oakland residents, but that preference was eliminated from the final construction labor agreements, says Gordon.
“They have not fulfilled that obligation,” Gordon continued.
There was supposedly a fairly ironclad agreement to hire 50 percent Oakland residents, which seemed to have been the case, at least up to a few months ago.
However, the city on May 22 sent a letter to Master Developer Phil Tagami, saying that under the army base agreement, contractors only have to make a good faith effort one time to hire local residents. If they are not able to find anyone, they are free from that point on to hire anyone they want.
A good faith effort constitutes contacting a city department and the Jobs Resource Center.
For Oakland’s other projects, “waivers” are issued for only 160 hours for work performed by a nonresident when no resident is available for immediate referral.
“The city needs to stop letting developers write these contracts. Each development project in the city is different; how it’s spelled out and how it’s going to be implemented,” said Gordon.
In addition, Gordon is asking why the city is not carrying out the agreement to provide the zip codes of the workers who are hired. She is asking the city to produce the zip codes.