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Oakland Victory: An Old Army Base Becomes a Job Creator

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Working for change often means facing insurmountable obstacles and pooling together scarce resources to challenge well-funded opponents.  We’re David versus Goliath, grabbing every small stone we find to launch out of our slingshot, pushing toward victory no matter the challenge.

And last week, we won big.

In Oakland, California, our city council moved forward with the redevelopment of the former Oakland Army Base, a massive complex that stretches southward from the foot of the Bay Bridge. It will now be transformed into a warehouse center and working waterfront serving the adjacent port.

And here’s the exciting part – attached to this project are unprecedented standards that ensure real access for local residents to good-paying jobs for our generation and the next. It’s an incredible package – different than anything we’ve won in Oakland and groundbreaking for the warehouse industry.

This project is expected to produce more than 2,800 construction jobs and 2,000 operations positions. Without any intervention, we run the risk that the jobs in warehousing – an industry that received recent notoriety for reports of wage and hour violations – could provide little meaningful opportunity for local families.

Last week, hundreds of residents, union leaders, youth activists and clergy members came out to stand with our city officials. Hearing the call, the city approved an agreement with local company CCIG and Prologis, the biggest warehouse developer in the world, that will deliver on the promise of good jobs for local families.

After years of organizing efforts, we won an unprecedented jobs package.

Every job on site is guaranteed a living wage — currently $11.35 with health benefits, and $13.05 without health benefits. (These figure will be adjusted July 1.) All the new construction apprentices will be from Oakland. Warehouse companies will hire Oakland residents, create opportunities for people who have criminal records and limit company use of temp agencies. The city will create a job center so our friends and neighbors know where to access these jobs.

I say WE won because this win belongs to all of us.  It comes after years of hard work by hundreds of community members and activists who came together under the banner of the Revive Oakland Coalition to call for, define and push a set of good jobs standards.

We built on the foundation of employment and jobs policies passed in Oakland by the dedicated leaders who came before us.  We learned from the collective wisdom of coalitions across the country pushing the envelope to ensure that economic development meets the needs of local communities. We built on the successes of the nationwide movement promoting real job pathways for people with criminal records.

And we’ve been inspired by the courageous warehouse workers who called out the injustices of an industry that is racing to the bottom, using temporary staffing agencies to undercut wages and job stability.  We are hopeful that the standards at the old Army base will mean a different story for our warehouse workers and the Oakland community — and we’ll be there every step of the way.

Kate O’Hara is the Campaign Director of Revive Oakland at the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE) in Oakland, CA.

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