Opinion: Disguised Discrimination Against Black Workers Returns to City Council Agenda

Hold Public Hearings Before Passing a Project Labor Agreement

By Paul Cobb

Black workers get only 9 percent of the work on city-funded projects, although Black people make up 25 percent of the Oakland population.    The City Council is scheduled vote next week to continue or even reduce this small percentage of Black employment.

The proposal for a Project Labor Agreement (Item 13 on this week’s City Council agenda) is actually not as complicated as it sounds.  For most employment you apply for a job, and if the employer discriminates you make a complaint.

With a citywide Project Labor Agreement, the construction unions decide who works and you cannot complain, if you do not belong to the construction union.

Of course, in most industries we support what unions ask for, because they are working for the common good.  In the case of the construction unions,  they will not disclose their membership by ethnicity, and from all the available evidence they have few Black members.

So guaranteeing them all the work is guaranteeing that Black people will have little of it.

Making this Council motion even more deceptive is the fact that it is hidden in a social justice proposal to use public land for public good.  So council members and the construction trades have set up good folks to oppose an important policy on public land, because they insist on hiding a discriminatory policy on employment within it.

What should happen?

Council members (Kaplan and Guillen) should:

  • Separate the two issues;
  • Pass a strong public lands policy; and
  • Hold public hearings on the Project Labor Agreement so that Oaklanders can understand the issues, deliberate, and propose Oakland city policies that both protect all workers and enhance Black participation in construction.

Published December 11, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post