Op-Ed: Uber Should Help Address Issues Facing Oakland


By Orson Aguilar, President, Greenlining Institute


Uber is a disruptive force and Oakland is a disruptive city, but for innovation to occur, disruption must be coupled with new and better ways to address the needs of current Oakland residents. 


As a new corporate resident of Oakland, UBER should use its core skills and immense resources to help address the critical issues facing Oakland, including affordable housing for residents, quality employment opportunities, business opportunities and affordable transportation options.


Rapidly rising commercial rents Oakland as a result of UBER’s surprise announcement is having tremendous negative impacts on many non-profit organizations that serve Oakland low-income residents.


Low-income residents will feel the impacts of rising housing costs as Uber attracts thousands of jobs to Oakland. UBER is developing a new workforce of drivers with no protections or benefits and who are strangely called “partners”. Those “partners” will join countless Oakland residents who cannot afford to live in Oakland.


That said, we believe that UBER’s appetite for disruption can serve Oakland well, especially if UBER commits to a truly disruptive plan to battle the gentrification UBER is causing.


Given UBER’s immense resources, we call on UBER to commit to the following corporate responsibility practices.


Housing: UBER should make a $100 million investment in an Oakland Affordable Housing Development Fund that provides low-cost capital for non-profits that are working to retain and build affordable housing in Oakland.


UBER can use its immense fundraising power to attract 10 investors to match Uber’s Investment to achieve a $1 billion anti-displacement fund for long-time Oakland resident.


Support Non-Profits Serving Oakland’s Low-Income Communities: UBER should establish free or low-cost and permanent office space to several Oakland non-profits, with a priority on organizations that are working to train tomorrow’s diverse tech leaders.


In addition, UBER should establish long-term partnerships with other area organizations that are training tomorrow’s technology employees. UBER should at least commit to $50 million in philanthropy ($10 million a year) to support Oakland based non-profits, with a priority going to organizations that are helping long-time residents stay and thrive in Oakland.


Employment: UBER should Engage in local hire programs that provide an entry into good paying jobs, career pathways for young women and men of color and establish a comprehensive multi-year plan for internships and other types of job training aimed at young women and men of color.


UBER can be the leader in ban the box policies for all Uber employees and contractors. UBER should provide full-time jobs with full benefits to janitors, security personnel, and other low-wage workers at the Uber complex.


Business: UBER should engage local minority-owned businesses in the construction of downtown campus and suppliers of goods and services to the Oakland and other Bay area office and business sites. UBER will establish a local procurement program that focuses on local and regional women and minority-owned businesses and set goals for doing business with minority-owned businesses.


Diversity: Uber will commit to disclose workforce (non-driver) diversity data within 30 days and release its data within 90 days. UBER will develop a comprehensive plan to further diversify the Uber workforce with community input.


Finally, we recommend that Uber establish a 15-member community advisory board that will meet on a quarterly basis with top executives to review the Community Plan.


We urge Travis Kalanick, Uber’s CEO to meet with Oakland leaders and conduct a joint announcement of the Plan at a community celebration. Anything less than this will make us wonder why we let the Trojan Horse into Oakland on a red carpet.


Greenlining and the Oakland Post will convene a meeting of Oakland leaders to develop a long-term action plan aimed at holding UBER accountable to Oakland. We hope you will join us.


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