OAKLAND, Calif. - A major milestone was passed April 16 in the long struggle to win jobs for local workers in redevelopment of the Oakland Army Base, as the City Council voted funds to support a West Oakland Job Resource Center and a commission to monitor fulfillment of broad community benefits requirements approved last year.
Redevelopment of the base, and its future function as a site of logistical and warehouse operations for the neighboring Port of Oakland - the country's fourth busiest container port - is expected to bring thousands of new jobs to the city.
The jobs center is seen as essential to the success of provisions won by community, labor and faith organizations, including requirements that at least half the workers on the city's portion of the former base must be from Oakland, and all new union apprenticeships during construction must go to Oakland residents.
Chants of "More jobs, less violence!" focused on Oakland residents' concerns about the city's high rates of both joblessness and violence, as participants in the 30-organization Revive Oakland! coalition rallied outside City Hall before the council meeting.
While high in the city overall, unemployment soars far higher in economically challenged areas of West and East Oakland , which have large populations of people of color.
"I'm tired of seeing our young people who want to work, without jobs," Pastor Phil Lewis of the Israelite Missionary Baptist Church told the crowd. "I'm tired of seeing our young men going in and out of prison because they have to hustle instead of going to a good job every day, even though they are looking for jobs."
Shirley Burnell of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) said the jobs center is vital "so people can go there to get connected with the jobs, get connected with the training that's available, counseling if they need it, to make sure they are job-ready."
Burnell emphasized the importance of the oversight commission to be appointed by the mayor, as she pointed out that "everything we've won so far is just words on paper until it's implemented." The commission will include representatives of the community, labor, employers, and the city.
Andreas Cluver, who heads the Alameda County Building and Construction Trades Council, stressed the importance of job quality: "Our job is to make sure the construction workers out there on the job site are getting a good middle class wage, including pension and medical benefits, and that they are safe and come home with all their fingers and toes ... A good job in construction, in transportation and in the warehouse is a union job, a career. So Oaklanders have a pipeline to good middle-class careers."
The City Council's action will fund the Jobs Resources Center with $300,000 annually for two years, and appropriate $200,000 annually for two years to provide city staff to aid the oversight commission's work - funds coalition members see as a good start to what they hope will become ongoing support.
When the Oakland Army Base was decommissioned in 1999, its land - the size of 200 football fields - was divided between the city and the Port of Oakland. Revive Oakland! is also active in efforts to win similar community benefits in redevelopment of the port's portion of the huge former base.
Photo: April 16 rally in front of Oakland City Hall. Marilyn Bechtel/PW