Ever since our big win on the Army Base jobs agreement, I’ve received dozens of calls – reporters looking for the scoop, allies calling to congratulate us, and, most of all, messages like this:
“Hi this is Mr. Carter. I’m calling about the jobs at the Army Base I heard about. I want to find out how to apply. I really need one of those jobs. Please call me back.”
Each of these calls is like a blow to my gut, taking the wind out of me for a second. I am reminded of the thousands in Oakland who are unemployed and underemployed. Many of them came out to rallies, watched the news, or read the paper and are hoping this is a chance to bring badly needed cash to their families and stability to their lives.
What we won when the Oakland City Council approved the redevelopment of the Old Army Base with an unprecedented set of jobs standards was a huge victory. Every worker on site will be paid a living wage. All the new construction apprentices will be from Oakland. Warehouse companies will hire Oakland residents, open opportunities for people who have criminal records and limit how often they use temp agencies, which can undercut wages. This is what change looks like.
And, for people interested in change, it’s worth noting a few of the ingredients for our success: A broad coalition brought together a forward-thinking labor movement who committed time and resources to winning both good jobs and real access for local residents; community organizations rooted in thousands of members facing economic hardship who stood up for their families’ futures; and powerful clergy leaders who put faith into action, turning houses of worship into centers for change.
Together we called for, defined, and pushed for real access for Oakland residents to good-paying jobs for our generation and the next. We started early, winning job standards in the City’s initial developer selection process in 2008. We built on past victories, crafting our proposals on the foundation of existing city policies for local hire, living wages and “banning the box”.
We broadened our reach, talking to thousands of residents, finding that 86% of Oakland voters support these policies. We took to the street – lifting our voices in churches, neighborhoods and workplaces– to make it clear that we are here to collect on a long-made promise.
And, we stayed at the table, working with community stakeholders, labor leaders, the city and the developers, CCIG and Prologis, who were willing to creatively craft standards that would work in this industry and for our community.
All of that took years of work, hours of dedication and daily commitment from dozens of grassroots leaders, activists and staff. Our investment has already paid off in the agreements adopted and new precedents set, particularly in the warehouse industry.
For the movement, our work has given rise to new leaders, like 20-year-old Rayna Smith, who began this campaign as a rookie and now calls councilmembers by their first names and coaches the up-and-coming youth on their talking points. All of this contributes to our huge victory.
But you know what? This is just the beginning.
We are a year away, at least, from shovels in the ground. And three to four years away from warehouses up and running with workers driving forklifts in them.
In the coming months we will work with the city and our partners to establish a jobs center so our friends and neighbors can connect to training, services and employment. We will turn to the Port so that they adopt the same jobs standards for their portion of the old Army Base. And we will monitor the project every step of the way to realize our vision of opportunity and prosperity for all of Oakland.
We couldn’t have come this far without the broad, deep support of all of Oakland. I hope you will stay with us as we continue to work for good jobs. Because, as we all know, for Mr. Carter and the thousands more like him, these jobs can’t come soon enough.
Kate O’Hara is the Campaign Director of Revive Oakland at the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE) in Oakland, CA.