Port of Oakland approves “groundbreaking” Good Jobs Policy for new warehousing complex

November 14, 20179:13 AM CDT BY MARILYN BECHTEL

OAKLAND, Calif. – Labor and community leaders and activists gathered here Nov. 9 to celebrate, as the Port of Oakland Board of Commissioners unanimously gave initial approval to a “groundbreaking” Good Jobs Policy for its new state-of-the-art warehousing complex, on public land once occupied by the now-decommissioned Oakland Army Base. A final vote is set for Nov. 30.

Industrial real estate developer CenterPoint Properties is expected to start construction early next year on a 440,000 square foot logistics center on the Port’s part of the former base. In 2012, the City of Oakland reached agreement for development of its portion.

The pact with the Port is even stronger than the earlier agreement with the City, rally participants said.

The new agreement, worked out during 20 months of talks between the Port Board, the Revive Oakland! and OaklandWORKS coalitions and CenterPoint, requires living wages, local hire including disadvantaged workers, protections for subcontracted workers, and a Ban-the-Box policy said to be one of the country’s strongest.

At a rally before the Port Board meeting, Revive Oakland Coalition director Jahmese Myres told the assembled union, community and faith leaders, “What is making us so excited about this new policy is how we are transforming the warehouse industry.”

Myres said the agreement will help to transform what has been a “low-road industry that exploits its workers, is unstable and often unsafe.” She said the pact, agreed at a time when the Trump Administration is trying to exploit workers and communities and further racial and economic inequality, “will have reverberations across this city, the region, the state and the country.”

E.J. Pavia of the Urban Peace Movement and John Jones III of Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice both emphasized the importance of the strong ban-the-box provisions.

Pavia cited the issues his formerly incarcerated brother faced in finding a job and trying to put his life back together. “My brother’s life would have been completely different if the policies we just won had been around 17 years ago,” he said. “Moving forward, this new policy is a racial justice victory” for black and brown communities “experiencing the brunt of job discrimination and chronic unemployment.”

Jones, himself formerly incarcerated, spoke of his inability to find a job over an 18-month period after he returned home, “because I had to mark a box. How does that contribute to public safety?” With the new pact, he said, “solutions are here, we’ve done it!”

Agustin Ramirez, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union’s lead organizer for Northern California, emphasized the importance of “good paying, family sustaining, ILWU union jobs.” Saying the ILWU “has divisions all these workers can fit into,” Ramirez called attention to the Port of Oakland’s position as the country’s fifth largest port for containers. “As we know,” he said, “warehousing is the key component” of the logistic changes now happening in the industry.

All speakers emphasized the importance of monitoring how the agreement is carried out going forward, and its importance for enabling workers to stay in their communities and not be displaced by the area’s soaring housing costs.

The agreement’s provisions include:

  • Wall-to-wall living wage jobs at a minimum of $13.32 per hour with benefits, and $15.31 without benefits, plus annual cost-of-living increases.
  • Fifty percent local hire within the Port’s Local Impact Area, including the cities of Oakland, Emeryville, San Leandro and Alameda, with priority hiring for Oakland’s “flatlands” zip codes, to make sure residents there can have resources to stay in their homes.
  • Twenty-five percent hiring of workers experiencing barriers to employment including single parents, former foster youth, veterans, chronically unemployed, formerly incarcerated, or recipients of public benefits, so that those who are struggling and most often left out of jobs can gain access.
  • One of the country’s strongest “Ban-the-Box” policies to end discrimination against formerly incarcerated workers. This will significantly narrow the scope of background checks and assure transparency before and after allowable checks are done.
  • Equal protection for subcontracted workers, and limits on temporary workers.
  • Priority to job-seekers coming from the West Oakland Job Resource Center, established as a part of the City of Oakland’s 2012 agreement with the Port.
  • Community enforcement through an oversight body and a legally-binding Cooperation Agreement between the Port of Oakland and the community.

Environmental concerns urgently need further discussion, Earth Justice’ Adenike Adeyeye told the Board during the public comment portion of the meeting. She called attention to the need to significantly cut emissions that are contributing to major health problems experienced by nearby West Oakland residents, as freight and warehousing operations grow.

Earth Justice is working with other organizations including the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, to assure that those issues are thoroughly addressed.

“We know some environmental issues remain, and we believe this is not an either-or but a both-and,” Myers told the Board. “We need good jobs and healthy communities … communities of color are often at the center of both economic and environmental injustice. We are committed to continuing to work with the port to make sure environmental issues are addressed.”

Via People’s World

California legislature sends “landmark” housing bills to governor for signature

September 29, 2017 11:28 AM CDT BY MARILYN BECHTEL

OAKLAND, Calif.—Among hundreds of bills passed by the California legislature this year, and now awaiting action by Gov. Jerry Brown, is a package of bills to address the state’s long-standing and rapidly-worsening housing crisis, which affects low-income Californians most sharply. The governor has until Oct. 15 to sign or veto legislation.

Both houses of the legislature, and the governorship, are in the hands of Democrats.

Three bills heading the list would provide substantial funding for affordable housing, put an affordable housing bond issue on the 2018 ballot, and ease requirements for developers in cities not meeting state housing requirements.

  • Senate Bill 2, introduced by Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, would mandate a fee of $75-$225 on real estate transactions, and could bring in over $250 million a year for low-income affordable housing and fighting homelessness. Atkins said the bill “will deliver relief to many residents who are struggling under the weight of housing instability, bring people experiencing homelessness in off the streets, and spur production of homes for people of all income levels throughout the state.”
  • SB 3, by Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, would put a $4 billion affordable housing bond issue on the November 2018 ballot. $1 billion would help military veterans buy homes with no or little down-payment, while $3 billion would go to affordable housing development. Beall said his measure will result in over 70,000 new affordable housing units and create nearly 137,000 jobs.
  • SB 35, by Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, would let developers in cities not on track to meet state zoning requirements for housing at all income levels bypass local government review. The bill would require prevailing wages on buildings of more than nine units. Wiener called the package of bills “a very healthy down payment” toward addressing the state’s housing shortage, but warned that it will take “years of sustained focus and work” to overcome California’s massive housing shortage.

Among a dozen other bills in the legislative package, passed by the state Senate and Assembly, are measures to increase effective enforcement of state housing laws and requirements, remove barriers to housing development at all income levels, strengthen local housing planning laws, and provide more affordable housing for farmworkers across California.

State Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, called the package now on the governor’s desk “landmark measures to help those with the fewest options when it comes to housing.” And Gov. Brown has said through a spokesperson that he supports all the bills. Some of the versions awaiting his signature are the result of serious negotiations in which he played a part.

The present dire situation for housing in California has a long history.

For decades, the building of new housing has lagged far behind need, with the greatest gap affecting housing affordable to those with low incomes. Among the contributing factors: cities and towns largely determine where and what kinds of housing can be built. Many have felt pressures from residents who don’t want those with lower-incomes, or people of color, in their neighborhood.

Rapid growth of the high-tech industry in some parts of the state has brought sudden population expansion to urban areas.

Land in California’s coastal areas can cost several times as much per acre as it does in other large urban areas around the country, and state laws mandating that communities earmark land for housing at all income levels haven’t been consistently enforced.

An important factor, housing experts say, was the passage of Proposition 13, a state constitutional amendment passed by voters in 1978, freezing property taxes at 1975 levels plus 2 percent a year for “inflation,” and limiting reassessment of property value to times when ownership changes or new construction is undertaken. Prop. 13 gave the state the responsibility of distributing property tax revenues to localities, and any new or increased state tax requires a two-thirds vote in both legislative houses. In the years since, numerous attempts to remove or change Prop. 13 have failed.

Statewide, median monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,750, and a two-bedroom unit costs $2,110, with rents soaring far higher in the state’s largest cities. With the current median cost to buy a home $565,000—and higher in coastal areas—ownership is rarely possible for those with lower- or even middle-incomes. Housing costs are considered a major factor in California having the highest poverty rate of any state, with one in five Californians living below the U.S. Census Bureau’s “supplemental poverty threshold” in the last few years.

A study by the University of California, Berkeley, released earlier this month found that some 56 percent of voters have thought about moving because of soaring housing costs. Many have considered leaving the state. Across California, nearly half of voters—and nearly two-thirds in the San Francisco Bay Area—say the crisis is serious.

Housing analysts are calling this year’s package of bills the state’s most ambitious move in many decades, but warn that the measures will take years to bear fruit.

Meanwhile, rents and home prices are likely to keep moving upwards, and affordable housing advocates are vowing to keep up the struggle.

Via People’s World