Open Letter: Support the Right of African Americans to Work on City-funded Construction Projects
Jun 24, 2018
To Council Members, Mayor, City Staff, and Members of the Public:
Three principles should prevail in upcoming discussions of public land: 1) Democracy and transparency; 2) Racial justice and 3) Housing the current residents of Oakland.
What Should Not Happen:
- The City should not sell any more public land before discussion and adoption of a policy.
- The city’s land should not be used for housing affluent non-residents. It should house current residents of Oakland who are mostly low- or middle-income, or it should be used to serve the needs of those communities.
- The City should not adopt a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) in a resolution on Public Lands Policy.
Many Oakland residents have never heard of a PLA. Even the title of the item on the City Council committee agenda which proposes a PLA does not mention that it is being discussed “Subject: Receive A Report on the Public Lands Policy Process and Analysis from Councilmembers Guillén And Kaplan”
Residents of the city have a right to a detailed, open, well-publicized discussion of proposals about how the expanding amounts of work that their taxes are paying for are being awarded.
African-Americans obtain only nine percent of the work on city-funded construction projects (City of Oakland statistics). African-Americans are 25 percent of the city’s population and the largest percentage of the unemployed and unhoused both nationally and locally. A project labor agreement could contribute to maintaining that status quo.
What the City Council Should do Instead:
- Immediately enact the ordinance establishing a 180-day moratorium on the sale of public land or until the Council adopts a comprehensive “Public Lands” Policy. A properly vetted public lands policy will take time. Harmful sales of public land cannot be allowed in the meantime.
- Separate the discussion of jobs policies and lands policy and organize a transparent, understandable, democratic discussion of each. The Department of Race and Equity should be asked for an equity assessment of proposals
Among items that could be part of a thorough jobs policy discussion:
- Discuss the differences between a PLA and a public city-adopted jobs policy;
- Remove discriminatory barriers that result in only 9 percent African-American employment in construction;
- Prioritize employment of disadvantaged workers;
- Protect the union rights of employees;
- Fund job-training and apprenticeship programs that are geographically accessible to Oakland residents;
- Living wage requirements;
- Employ at least 50 percent local Oakland residents;
- Ban the box to assist the employment of formerly incarcerated;
- Require a twice-yearly report to Council including trade-by-trade demographic statistics;
- Increase funding for contract compliance to reflect the expanded work being required by new construction;
- Incentivize contracting with women and “minority” owned business and other provisions.
- OaklandWORKS Alliance (Founding organizations include the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP), Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA); Oakland Parents Together (OPT); John George Democratic Club; Oakland Branch NAACP; Oakland Native Give Back).
- Brian Beveridge, Co-Director, West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project
- Gay Plair Cobb, Member, BWOPA State Board; Executive Board member, NAACP
Henry Hitz, Oakland Parents Together
- Robyn Hodges, OaklandWORKS
- Pastor Anthony Jenkins, Taylor Memorial United Methodist Church
- Kimberly Mayfield Lynch, Dean of the School of Education, Holy Names University
- Kitty Kelly Epstein, Professor; Community Assembly of the Post Salon, Host of Education Today on KPFA
- James Vann, Co-Founder, Oakland Tenants Union and member of the Community Assembly of the Post Salon