Oakland City Council OK’s plans for Army base

ban box

OAKLAND, Calif. - The City Council chamber was jammed to the rafters June 19 as council members voted to approve far-reaching redevelopment plans for the long-shuttered Oakland Army Base. The vote was 7-1 with one abstention.

The agreement with developers includes precedent-setting community benefits provisions to hire local workers, assure disadvantaged workers, including the formerly incarcerated, a chance for jobs, and involve the community in ensuring compliance. A jobs center is to provide all-around help to job seekers.

The former base, next to the Port of Oakland - the country's fifth busiest container port - is to become a warehouse and goods movement facility. It is expected to bring thousands of new jobs to a city with 13.7 percent unemployment, with joblessness far greater in working-class communities of color.

Redevelopment plans, in the works for several years, have been the subject of lengthy negotiations involving labor, faith and community organizations, developers and City Council members

Community representatives involved in the talks said last-minute improvements in the agreement were reached in the week following a June 12 City Council committee meeting. At that meeting, many speakers expressed concern about loopholes regarding use of temporary workers and local hire requirements, and urged strengthening a "ban the box" provision so people don't have to state a criminal conviction on their initial job application.

In a telephone interview, Nikki Fortunato Bas, executive director of the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE), called the final agreement "definitely a momentous step toward putting folks to work and winning good standards for quality jobs in Oakland." She said the pact's provisions to extend living wage, local hire and limits on temp workers beyond the construction phase into the warehouse industry may be a national first.

EBASE is the convener of the 30-organization Revive Oakland! labor, faith and community coalition that has spoken for the community in the negotiations.

Though not all the labor and community groups' demands were fully met, Bas said, their intense pressure during the past week "really moved the ball forward," and work will continue to ensure the greatest possible access to all the new jobs.

Some 143 people signed up to speak at the June 19 meeting. Many speakers stressed the urgency of "ban the box," while others expressed concern that dangerous gaps still remained in local hire and temp worker regulations.

"This is really a proud day in Oakland," Alameda Labor Council head Josie Camacho said as she called for a round of applause for the organizations that worked together to help achieve the new agreement. "This has not been easy, bringing together a coalition with the elected officials, city staff, developers, community stakeholders and the labor partners," she said.

One of the most significant of the last-minute agreements is the oversight commission that is to be set up with community and labor representatives, to work with the city in ensuring compliance.

The redevelopment plan requires that all workers at the former base must be paid a living wage. At least half must be from Oakland, with emphasis on economically hard-hit neighborhoods.

During construction all new trade union apprenticeships are to go to Oakland residents, and a project labor agreement will ensure safe conditions and quality jobs.

Warehouse and operations jobs will have sharp limits on use of temp workers, a 50 percent local hire requirement for employers with 40 or more workers, and sharp limits on pre-screening for prior criminal records.

The Council's June 19 action was the first of two votes; a final vote must still be taken on the project.

Photo: (PW/Marilyn Bechtel)

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