Far-reaching plan for Army base redevelopment

Oakland City Council OK’s plans for Army base

by: Marilyn Bechtel

Posted to peoplesworld.org June 21 2012

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)

Activists applaud Obama, renew push for DREAM Act


by: Dan Margolis

Posted to peoplesworld.org June 19 2012

 

President Barack Obama’s June 15 announcement that the Department of Homeland Security would no longer seek the deportation of eligible undocumented youth set off both excitement in the immigrant community and fury amongst the Republican Party leadership.

Immigrant young people have expressed enthusiasm at the move, which they said is a political step forward. Undocumented young people – the DREAMers – see the president’s move as a result of their more than two years of organizing.

DREAMer is a reference to the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act.

Obama’s move allows undocumented immigrants who came here when they were under 16 and are now under 30, are in or have graduated high school, and who have no criminal history to apply for “deferred action.” This means that they are able to go to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and apply to keep the agency from initiating deportation proceedings against them for two years. This status can be renewed every two years, and the young people can also apply for the right to work.

According to analysts, this is as far as the U.S. Constitution allows Obama to go without legislative action.

Therefore, immigrant rights advocates while applauding the executive move, say passage of the DREAM Act and comprehensive immigration reform is still necessary. The DREAM Act would legalize the status of the eligible young people and offer them a path to citizenship.

“We all took time to celebrate,” said a press release from United We Dream, which had taken the lead in fighting for an end to deportations of DREAM Act-eligible youth.

“We only hope that we can use this momentum to engage more dreamers and allies across the country. Only in this way can we continue to grow, and only by growing can we hope to achieve more victories like this one. Victories that ensure protection and equal rights for all immigrants.”

What undocumented youth should actually do in the wake of the new executive order is far from settled. United We Dream organized four webinars, for which more than 3,500 people – so far – have signed up. The group intends to use these and other means to inform undocumented young people of their choices and the most sensible options going forward.

The group says, “We have also received hundreds of questions from dreamers in all parts of the country, all of which we are currently working to answer.”

“I’m not sure what to do yet,” said an undocumented Miami Dade College student from Hialeah who did not wish to be identified.

“But I’m happy. I wanted the deportations to end, and now I don’t have to worry about that. Obama really helped us, he did. But the problem isn’t solved,” he said.

“I still don’t know what I’ll do when I graduate.”

In a presidential election year, Republicans were quick to accuse Obama of acting illegally, calling it immigration reform.

Legal experts say the order falls under the principle of prosecutorial discretion. It is up to the executive branch to decide whom to prosecute under immigration law, and it has the discretion to not enforce certain punishments.

The same principle was applied at least as far back as Republican Ronald Reagan’s administration, they say.

Plus, the American people back the president. A Bloomberg poll released today shows likely voters approving the move by a 2-to-1 margin, 64 percent to 30 percent.

The order has renewed the fight for the DREAM Act.

On June 20, more than 40 leaders of the DREAM Act movement will declare “their Right to Dream,” and will announce “a massive public education campaign to ensure that the Latino and immigrant communities are energized and ready to fully participate in the implementation of the president’s decision and the civic life of our country,” United We Dream announced.

Despite backing from Obama and Democrats, Republicans killed all attempts to pass immigration reform through the Senate filibuster rule and other measures.

During the 2010 lame duck session of Congress the DREAM Act was brought to a vote and passed in the then-Democratic controlled House, but killed in Senate by Republicans who threatened the filibuster, refusing to allow the bill to come to the floor for a vote.

Photo: Students watch the broadcast of the announcement by President Barack Obama about the new U.S. immigration law, at the Arizona Dream Act Coalition office in Phoenix, June 15. Mark Henle/The Arizona Republic/AP