By Jordan Rosenfeld
OAKLAND -- After years of negotiations, community meetings, and sustained pressure, the Oakland City Council passed a resolution on July 24th, that directs city staff to work with the Building and Construction Trades Council and other community stakeholders to develop a “community workforce agreement” for all large public projects.
The CWA resolution was sponsored by City Council members Abel Guillen and Annie Campbell Washington. Community workforce agreements are similar to project labor agreements, but also include community benefits such as support for local businesses, and provide local residents job training and employment opportunities.
This resolution is an attempt to work with the building trades, the contractors and the community “to come up with policy with more certainty and assurance when it comes to hiring and contracting for the city of Oakland,” Guillen said.
“We see a lot of new cranes going up in Oakland. However, we know that a lot of Oakland residents may not be benefitting,” Guillen explained. He said it’s not uncommon for companies to fly in or drive in workers from out of the area, taking work that local residents should have access to.
“There have been attempts in the past to work some agreement out, so I’m glad we’re finally taking a step in the right direction to make sure Oaklanders, businesses and contractors benefit,” Guillen said.
According to Andreas Cluver, secretary and treasurer of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Alameda County, the goal for the resolution is “to use the community workforce agreement as a recruiting tool for Oakland residents, and disadvantaged residents, to get careers and to strengthen the pipeline for Oakland residents to get into the trades,” Cluver said.
Cluver hopes they will follow the Oakland Army base model, “Basically, putting together a task force of community constituents that addresses these issues is the best way to go.”
The resolution “initiates a process to develop recommendations for a Community Workforce Agreement (CWA) through an inclusive, robust community engagement process with input from racially and economically diverse stakeholder communities as well as an Equity and Race Impact Analysis,” according to a July 5 report from the Public Works committee meeting.
The committee report also states that a CWA may have additional benefits including contracting opportunities for local businesses, which could boost the local economy and generate tax dollars and other income for the city.
CWAs are used on both public and private projects, and their specific provisions may be tailored by the signatory parties to meet the needs of a particular project. The agreement may include provisions to prevent any strikes, lockouts or other work stoppages for the length of the project. CWAs typically require that employees hired for the project are referred through local union hiring halls and that those employees enjoy local prevailing wages for their work.
Guillen was pleased by the great turnout by Oakland residents who work in the building trades.
Cluver said, “A lot of our members turned out, which I was happy to see.”
He said that a lot of members showed up who had benefited from project labor agreements in the past “to testify that these things actually work.”
When it comes to the city of Oakland’s public works projects right now, according to Cluver, “There’s no direct pipeline, no real commitment or guarantee on city projects that workers get into union programs.”
“A community workforce agreement provides a career pathway to the building trades.”
“These are our tax dollars at work and we want to make sure these tax dollars are reinvested in the city,” Guillen said, thanking voters who passed the $6 million Bond Measure KK in November 2016 for infrastructure maintenance.
“I’m excited by the potential for our construction projects in the city of Oakland [to] get built by Oakland residents,” Guillen said.