A coalition of local organizations is pushing for the Port of Oakland to create living wage jobs for Oakland residents at a logistics center the port is getting ready to build.
More than six weeks of intense negotiations between the community coalition and the port have focused on the first warehouse in the project, which could produce up to 120 jobs. The warehouse, proposed to be built by CenterPoint Properties, would provide logistics space for transferring and loading cargo and distribution services on a 27-acre plot of the 185-acre Oakland Army Base parcel that belongs to the port.
More is at stake, however, than the local hiring agreement for jobs at this first warehouse. This agreement is likely to become the model for local hiring at other warehouses and companies that will be built on the port property, according to organizers.
CenterPoint is a private Chicago-based company, but it is owned by CalPERS, a state agency that manages public employee pensions, including those of many local residents who are SEIU members.
Members of the coalition held a public meeting last Thursday evening at Taylor Memorial United Methodist Church in West Oakland to report to the community on the progress of negotiations.
“As a community coalition, we are holding the port to their promise to do the same or better” than the jobs agreement signed by the city for its portion of the army base development, said Jahmese Myres, campaign director for the Revive! Oakland Coalition, which includes labor, community and faith-based groups.
What is being discussed, she said, is 50 percent local hire and 25 percent for disadvantaged workers in the port’s “local impact area,” and cities Oakland, Emeryville, Alameda and San Leandro.
“The port is hoping to strike a deal by Sept. 22, but there are still a lot of outstanding hot issues. We need to ramp up our organizing and our pressure on CenterPoint… to get a better deal than we did with the city,” said Myres.
“The port and CenterPoint need to understand that this is an issue that is not going to go away with them running out the clock,” she said.
Also speaking at the meeting was Margaret Gordon of OaklandWorks and West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project.
She explained that the “roots of the planned project” can be traced back to developer Phil Tagami and then Mayor Jerry Brown.
When the U.S. Army closed the Oakland Army Base in 1999, the land was divided between the port and the City of Oakland. Tagami won the contract to develop the city’s side of the property.
“All of this is public money –the roads, electrical lines, the sewers,” she said. “The developer has not had any private money doing anything – it’s free infrastructure. Now they are talking about building a (private) warehouse.
“The recycling companies, truck parking, warehouses – there are all jobs.”
Carroll Fife of OaklandWorks, who chaired the meeting, underscored the importance of winning a good jobs agreement.
“We have an opportunity to set a precedent on how jobs are distributed to Oakland residents,” she said. “There is an ethnic cleansing that is happening in the city right now, and we have to say we aren’t having it.”
Fred Pecker, secretary treasurer of warehouse union ILWU Local 6, said that many companies staff their warehouses with temp workers.
“You have a workforce that is always in the shadow, (workers) that do not assert their rights (because) if they do, they disappear,” he said. “We want stable jobs in the community and stable (work) standards.”
Kitty Kelly Epstein said that “local hire” agreements so far have not meant that Black people are getting hired. “This is our public money, and Black people are not getting jobs on city-funded projects.”
She said reported data show that African Americans are only getting 5 percent of construction jobs on city projects. The port and its developers need to produce demographic statistics on their projects, too, she said.
The coalition of organizations is holding a protest Thursday, Sept. 8 at noon to demand that the port sign a jobs and community benefit agreement with the community. The protest will be held at the meeting of the Port Commission, 530 Water St. in Oakland.