Black Construction Workers Overcome Obstacles to Land Army Base Jobs

May 29, 2014

Posted in Army Base JobsEconomic DevelopmentLabor

City Administrator Fred Blackwell’s office donated work boots and supplies to four Oakland residents this week to help them in the process of qualifying for jobs on the Oakland Army Base. Left to right, Johnny Evans, Fernander Thompson, Otis Duckett, Jonothan Dumas, employment services supervisor with the Contract Compliance & Employment Services Division, and Jeffery Duckett. Photo by Ashley Chambers

By Ashley Chambers

Four experienced Oakland construction workers have been trying for years to qualify for jobs that have been promised to local residents on the Oakland Army Base development but have found themselves mired in union, bureaucratic and financial obstacles until now.

This week, Jeffery Duckett, Fernander Thompson, Johnny Evans, and Otis Duckett received a donation from a division of City Administrator Fred Blackwell’s office in answer to their call for help to purchase work equipment.

The Post recently started a campaign advocating for jobs on the Army Base – pushing to make sure the city would fulfill its commitment to 50 percent local hire on the project – and helped set up a Worker Assistance Fund to assist job seekers to pay union fees and purchase work supplies.

As a result, each job seeker received all his basic supplies: work boots, masks, tool bags and belts, gloves, helmets, knee pads, pliers, wrenches and a measuring tape.

The supplies were donated by the city’s Contract Compliance & Employment Services Division and organized by Jonothan Dumas, employment services supervisor, and Deborah Barnes, department manager.

“I’m appreciative of you stepping up and putting yourself in the position for someone to help you,” Dumas said to the job seekers. “You’re standing here and not having somebody carry you.”

Having himself worked in construction for 30 years, Dumas volunteered to be an “ongoing resource” for Duckett, Thompson, Evans, and Duckett as they continue working through the job process.

These four construction workers are the first to receive assistance from The Post’s Worker Assistance Fund, organized by a committee of six of the newspaper’s staffers: Paul Cobb, Ken Epstein, Ashley Chambers, Maxine Ussery, Majeedah Rakman and Tasion Kwamilele.

The group so far has raised $2,000.

The four workers said they grateful for the generosity of Dumas and Barnes and are committed to setting an example that with hard work and determination, opportunities can abound.

The Post looks forward to continuing to follow the progress of these workers and help others overcome the obstacles to employment in the future.

For more information or to make a contribution, call the Post at (510) 287-8220.