Building on progress

Pub date July 30, 2013
WriterParker Yesko

A month-long labor standoff at the Hunters Point Shipyard redevelopment project has been put on hold as the city steps in to provide workforce mediation and oversight. But community-based organizations are left wondering how their workers will actually benefit.

Aboriginal Blackman United (ABU), a Bayview organization representing roughly 300 construction workers, announced on July 15 that it was calling off demonstrations at the construction site that had begun just before a June 26 groundbreaking ceremony (see “Lennar finally breaks ground amid controversies,” July 10).

ABU President James Richards suspended the protests after the Successor Agency to the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency informed him that Young Community Developers (YCD), another neighborhood nonprofit, would no longer exclusively manage job placements at Lennar Urban’s shipyard project.

The Hunters Point construction is expected to create 1,500 jobs annually, over the course of a 15- to 20-year build out. But critics have taken issue with local hiring guidelines hashed out in a 2003 development agreement with Lennar Corp. that are limited to good-faith promises rather than binding quotas.

Since then, community-based organizations have urged Lennar and the Building Trades Council to formalize their commitment to hiring from within the Bayview-Hunters Point community.

Building Trades Secretary-Treasurer Michael Theriault has so far been resistant to these efforts. “There is no inherent flaw in good faith,” Theriault said of local hire promises by Lennar. “Like any system, you have to enforce it.”

Until last week, Young Community Developers (YCD) was tasked with meeting local hire goals by recruiting and training tradespeople from the neighborhood and facilitating their placement on the project.

But Richards and other community advocates were skeptical of this arrangement because Theriault is vice president of YCD’s executive board. “How can [Theriault] be against mandatory hiring and be on YCD’s board?” asked Richards, who viewed it as an obvious conflict of interest.

ABU’s protests finally prompted Lennar and the Building Trades Council to seek the involvement of CityBuild, a workforce-training program and centralized referral network administered by the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development.

YCD Executive Director Shamann Walton said a meeting between the two organizations produced “a gentleman’s agreement that there will be an MOU in place between YCD and CityBuild,” designating CityBuild, rather than YCD, as the primary recruiting coordinator on the project.

YCD will be just one of a handful of community-based organizations that will assist in training and placement — others will include ABU, Anders & Anders, and the A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI). APRI San Francisco Executive Director Jacqueline Flin says she supports a switch to CityBuild because it provides “a very good prospect of goal delivery. They have a fair process that’s been proven to work and the city’s invested in the effort.” Flin added, however, that she hadn’t yet heard any real details of the new arrangement with CityBuild. SFOEWD did not respond to the Guardian’s requests for comment. Terry Anders, director of the Anders & Anders Foundation, expressed disappointment that negotiations were taking place behind closed doors. Anders wants to see all the stakeholders brought to the table. He was quick to point out that, though CityBuild promises to be above board, “it is not a neighborhood organization.” “Somebody is making backroom deals,” Anders asserted, “and I am not for it. I don’t like being left out of the process.” He demanded an inclusive and transparent discussion, but a week after bargaining seemingly began and ended, it was unclear whether he would get one. “Lennar’s main concern is getting the buildings up, and they don’t care who does it,” he said. And though Richards is hopeful that CityBuild will be an improvement over YCD, he too was measured in expressing full confidence in the municipal agency just yet. For a lasting solution, CityBuild will need to work very closely with ABU and others. “We stopped all traffic ongoing to the shipyard and coming out for about a month,” to get this far, explained Richards, “the only way we guarantee that our people get jobs is that we are involved.”