Opinion: Oakland Mayor Should Reject Jobs Policies That Increase Discrimination Against Black Workers


Black Americans have twice as much unemployment as white workers.

You can see one of the causes if you walk by any construction site and count up the number of Black workers you can find.

In Oakland, Black workers get only nine percent of the work on city-funded construction projects even though they are 25 percent of the population.

Nationally, 90 percent or more of electricians, painters, construction supervisors, tool and die makers, cement masons and others are white.

Yet Mayor Schaaf is considering a policy that will increase that discrimination by giving all the work on city-funded projects to members of organizations that have few African-American members.

In order to inform herself about the consequences of the policy she is considering, the Mayor should:

  • Ask the Oakland construction unions to release statistics on their membership by trade and ethnicity, so that the public knows exactly what it would mean in terms of ethnic representation to award almost all the construction work in the city to members of their organizations;
  • Wait for completion of the disparity study, which is being paid for by the city should be completed, so that we can see the extent to which there is current discrimination against minority and women-owned businesses.
  • The Department of Race and Equity should do an assessment of the impact of Project Labor Agreements on various segments of the population.
  • There should be public discussion in neighborhoods on both jobs policy and public lands policy.




In Oakland we need to do what is fair and just.


Kitty Kelly Epstein, PhD, Professor of Education and Urban Affairs; member of OaklandWORKS, author of “Organizing to Change a City” (2012);
Paul Cobb, Publisher, Post News Group;
Ms. Margaret Gordon, Co-Director, West Oaklamd Environmental Indicators Project, former Port Commissioner
Brian Beveridge, co-director, West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, OaklandWORKS Alliance;
Robyn Hodges, OaklandWORKS Alliance;
Pastor Anthony L. Jenkins Sr., Taylor Memorial United Methodist Church;
Kimberly Mayfield Lynch, EdD, dean of the School of Education, Holy Names University, member of Black Women Organized for Political Action


  1. While there may be substance to your arguments, your methods are questionable. Rather than just spouting your opinions by randomly looking out your window at construction sites, it might be more useful to actually put some work in and do a more in depth analysis of disparities in different ethnicities at job sites. What are the actual figures on who works at construction sites? I don’t think it’s mostly white people. Also, are there qualified African-Americans who are not being hired or is there a lacking in qualified people? Why is this so, where can resources go if so? What are the wages? Are the workers unionized, legal, etc.? Has this changed over the years? Inform people about what it takes to work in these jobs, where this training can take place, expected wages, where to apply, etc…Thanks.


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