Port of Oakland approves “groundbreaking” Good Jobs Policy for new warehousing complex
Marilyn Bechtel/PW

OAKLAND, Calif. – Labor and community leaders and activists gathered here Nov. 9 to celebrate, as the Port of Oakland Board of Commissioners unanimously gave initial approval to a “groundbreaking” Good Jobs Policy for its new state-of-the-art warehousing complex, on public land once occupied by the now-decommissioned Oakland Army Base. A final vote is set for Nov. 30.

Industrial real estate developer CenterPoint Properties is expected to start construction early next year on a 440,000 square foot logistics center on the Port’s part of the former base. In 2012, the City of Oakland reached agreement for development of its portion.

The pact with the Port is even stronger than the earlier agreement with the City, rally participants said.

The new agreement, worked out during 20 months of talks between the Port Board, the Revive Oakland! and OaklandWORKS coalitions and CenterPoint, requires living wages, local hire including disadvantaged workers, protections for subcontracted workers, and a Ban-the-Box policy said to be one of the country’s strongest.

At a rally before the Port Board meeting, Revive Oakland Coalition director Jahmese Myres told the assembled union, community and faith leaders, “What is making us so excited about this new policy is how we are transforming the warehouse industry.”

Myres said the agreement will help to transform what has been a “low-road industry that exploits its workers, is unstable and often unsafe.” She said the pact, agreed at a time when the Trump Administration is trying to exploit workers and communities and further racial and economic inequality, “will have reverberations across this city, the region, the state and the country.”

E.J. Pavia of the Urban Peace Movement and John Jones III of Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice both emphasized the importance of the strong ban-the-box provisions.

Pavia cited the issues his formerly incarcerated brother faced in finding a job and trying to put his life back together. “My brother’s life would have been completely different if the policies we just won had been around 17 years ago,” he said. “Moving forward, this new policy is a racial justice victory” for black and brown communities “experiencing the brunt of job discrimination and chronic unemployment.”

Jones, himself formerly incarcerated, spoke of his inability to find a job over an 18-month period after he returned home, “because I had to mark a box. How does that contribute to public safety?” With the new pact, he said, “solutions are here, we’ve done it!”

Agustin Ramirez, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union’s lead organizer for Northern California, emphasized the importance of “good paying, family sustaining, ILWU union jobs.” Saying the ILWU “has divisions all these workers can fit into,” Ramirez called attention to the Port of Oakland’s position as the country’s fifth largest port for containers. “As we know,” he said, “warehousing is the key component” of the logistic changes now happening in the industry.

All speakers emphasized the importance of monitoring how the agreement is carried out going forward, and its importance for enabling workers to stay in their communities and not be displaced by the area’s soaring housing costs.

The agreement’s provisions include:

  • Wall-to-wall living wage jobs at a minimum of $13.32 per hour with benefits, and $15.31 without benefits, plus annual cost-of-living increases.
  • Fifty percent local hire within the Port’s Local Impact Area, including the cities of Oakland, Emeryville, San Leandro and Alameda, with priority hiring for Oakland’s “flatlands” zip codes, to make sure residents there can have resources to stay in their homes.
  • Twenty-five percent hiring of workers experiencing barriers to employment including single parents, former foster youth, veterans, chronically unemployed, formerly incarcerated, or recipients of public benefits, so that those who are struggling and most often left out of jobs can gain access.
  • One of the country’s strongest “Ban-the-Box” policies to end discrimination against formerly incarcerated workers. This will significantly narrow the scope of background checks and assure transparency before and after allowable checks are done.
  • Equal protection for subcontracted workers, and limits on temporary workers.
  • Priority to job-seekers coming from the West Oakland Job Resource Center, established as a part of the City of Oakland’s 2012 agreement with the Port.
  • Community enforcement through an oversight body and a legally-binding Cooperation Agreement between the Port of Oakland and the community.

Environmental concerns urgently need further discussion, Earth Justice’ Adenike Adeyeye told the Board during the public comment portion of the meeting. She called attention to the need to significantly cut emissions that are contributing to major health problems experienced by nearby West Oakland residents, as freight and warehousing operations grow.

Earth Justice is working with other organizations including the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, to assure that those issues are thoroughly addressed.

“We know some environmental issues remain, and we believe this is not an either-or but a both-and,” Myers told the Board. “We need good jobs and healthy communities … communities of color are often at the center of both economic and environmental injustice. We are committed to continuing to work with the port to make sure environmental issues are addressed.”


CONTRIBUTOR

Marilyn Bechtel
Marilyn Bechtel

Marilyn Bechtel writes for the People’s World from the San Francisco Bay Area. She joined the PW staff in 1986, and currently participates as a volunteer.

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