The City of Oakland is currently negotiating with local building trades unions for a citywide project labor agreement (PLA) that will ensure apprentice opportunities and family-sustaining wages for workers building developments on public land. Project labor agreements set labor standards that support family-sustaining wages and career opportunities.
Despite such an agreement bringing good paying jobs and career opportunities for hundreds, if not thousands of Oakland workers, a citywide PLA continues to face opposition from a few politicians within the city government.
Fixing Oakland’s rising inequality requires strong labor standards. The city has in the recent past agreed to that principle. It has signed or embraced PLAS before, both on the old Oakland Army Base and on the new Brooklyn Basin project. Why can’t all development in Oakland be like these projects?
The city-owned portion of the Oakland Army Base will become a sprawling shipping, packaging and distribution facility known as Oakland Global. It will employ about 1,500 workers when operational. A project labor agreement worked out between the city administrator’s office and local unions ensures that at least half of the estimated 2,800 positions for construction of the distribution hub will be union, with at least 20 percent of the workers being apprentices, and at least 50 percent of the apprentices being from Oakland.
The Brooklyn Basin project will generate 10,000 jobs over the 15 years of planned construction. A project labor agreement negotiated between the Alameda County Building Trades Council and the master developer, Signature Development, ensures that the construction jobs will be beneficial to local workers. Among other perks, the project will provide about 300 Oakland residents with construction career entry opportunities, as 300,000 hours of construction must be worked by Oakland residents in the very early stages of their apprenticeships. A community benefits agreement between the developer and local community groups ensures, among other things, that Signature will spend $1.6 million on job training to help workers prepare for union apprenticeship programs and meet local hiring requirements.
Keeping people in the city will require not only giving them homes, but giving them good jobs and career opportunities. After all, people can’t live in houses they can’t afford. The city has understood this principle in the past, but seems to have forgotten it. PLAs should be standard on all projects being built on public land.
So ask your councilmember, “Why can’t all projects in Oakland be like Brooklyn Basin?”