Carpenters in Action: push for Oakland jobs
Union carpenters made a big difference over the last few months in moving the $500 million Oakland Airport Connector (OAC) project in a positive direction.
The OAC, an elevated tramway running from the Oakland Coliseum BART station down Hegenberger Road to the airport three miles away, now has a better chance of success, due in part to UBC members who spoke at five public hearings this spring.
Thanks to all the dedicated members who came out to help move this project toward a green light.
The other positive note in pushing for these much-needed jobs in the East Bay goes to federal stimulus dollars from the Obama administration. The idea of connecting BART to the Oakland Airport has been around for years, but financing a project like this has always been the challenge.
Fortunately, the American Recovery and Re-Investment Act, better known as the stimulus bill, provided an infusion of money for infrastructure projects in Northern California.
The first step was getting the OAC on the project list for these funds. UBC members from Locals 22 and 713 attended the meeting of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, and supported staff recommendations to allocate $70 million to the OAC, over the objection of some transit advocates, who wanted to spend the money on bus maintenance. Members successfully argued that the intent of this money is to create construction jobs, and build projects that will have lasting value for the region.
Big Wins at Bart and the port
The battle then moved to the BART board, where both sides delivered their arguments again. This time, the Carpenters in Action team from Local 713 and Drywall/Lathers Local 9068 jumped in, and nearly 20 members showed up to support the Connector project.
Several members spoke as residents of Oakland, and urged the BART board to seize the opportunity to make the OAC a reality. After two meetings at BART, there was another significant hurdle—the Port of Oakland.
The Port owns the Oakland Airport, and the Port Commission had to agree to provide about $50 million in funding for the final piece. Once again, members of the CIA from Local 713 and Local 9068 showed up and spoke in support.
At the final meeting, UBC members again packed the room, and watched as the Port Commission voted to approve the funding. The opponents were gracious enough to support union construction, saying, “Well, if you’re going to move ahead, at least insist [BART] agree to a Project Labor Agreement like you have at the Airport.”
As we go to press, negotiations are underway for a Project Labor Agreement that would cover the entire $500 million project.
Thanks to consistent involvement by UBC members, this project has moved several steps closer to reality, although a few important roadblocks remain. Stay tuned to this paper next month for developments on this project.