Oakland needs port jobs, funding for schools and housing, not a new ballpark

Oakland needs port jobs, funding for schools and housing, not a new ballpark
By Jack Heyman April 29, 2019 Updated: April 29, 2019 5:33 p.m.

Shipping containers line the the Charles P. Howard Terminal, a possible location for a new Oakland Athletics baseball stadium, on Monday, Sept. 17, 2018, in Oakland, Calif.
Photo: Noah Berger / Special to The Chronicle 2018

Perhaps the hottest clash in the Bay Area baseball world since the 1989 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A’s was interrupted by an earthquake is peaking now — the $600 million-and-counting, privately financed proposal by Oakland A’s owner John Fisher to build a stadium at Howard Terminal in Jack London Square.

This proposal is backed by politicians and real estate developers. It is opposed by environmental groups and many trade unions led by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents dockworkers and boatmen. Ostensibly, maritime and railroad companies also oppose building an A’s stadium in the port.

The ILWU plans to shut down the port in protest with a rally and march in the port on May Day, the traditional celebration of labor that is promoted by the international labor movement.

Fisher’s proposal promises affordable housing and jobs. His opponents view those promises as a ploy. A recent event in West Oakland billed as a “community meeting” turned out to be a PowerPoint presentation by professionals pushing the stadium. Promoting project benefits to the predominantly African American audience, one presenter explained that the stadium would provide part-time jobs, such as peanut sellers and parking lot attendants. Affordable housing was also gratuitously promised.

Sports arenas are being built all over the country, often amid controversy. Hardly ever are these grandiose promises of jobs and housing kept.

For instance, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., home of the Brooklyn Nets and New York Islanders (and formerly known as the Atlantic Yards), the community is still waiting for the “affordable housing units.” After 16 years of planning, more than half are not built. Now the owners are asking for a 10-year extension because they didn’t meet their obligation within the agreed upon time frame. And the jobs ...“fugetaboutit!”

On April 22, representatives of the Oakland A’s went to Sacramento to try to enlist the support of politicians. Already some Democratic state lawmakers are working behind closed doors to pass fast-track legislation to permit the stadium. That’s right from the Democratic Party’s 1993 fast-track playbook to pass the North American Free Trade Agreement: Tell workers you’re a “friend of labor” to get their vote and oppose NAFTA, then, when you’re elected, put the legislation on the fast track claiming it’ll bring more jobs. Clearly, workers need their own party to fight for jobs.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf says she’s “encouraged” by the Howard Terminal proposal. Oakland A’s President Dave Kaval said, “We’re building a new neighborhood in this part of the city.”

In other words: Promoting gentrification, which will displace West Oakland residents.

Fisher, the billionaire owner of the A’s who also owns the Gap clothing retailer, uses his wealth to privatize public education with the KIPP and Rocketship charter school chains, which he controls. Oakland teachers, who went on strike this spring to win wage and working condition improvements, questioned why the port, which boasted a record-breaking year in 2018 of 2.5 million containers and collected millions of dollars in tariffs, didn’t pay a penny to fund Oakland public education. The Port of Long Beach helps fund city social services and schools. Why not the Port of Oakland? Mayor Schaaf was formerly director of public affairs for the Port of Oakland — she should know.

Hundreds of activists march from the Port of Oakland as part of May Day protests in Oakland, California on May 1, 2015. In 2015, protests focused on stopping tech worker buses and widening inequality in the Bay Area. This year, the May Day protest focuses on stopping a proposed new baseball stadium at Howard Terminal.
Photo: Josh Edelson / AFP / Getty Images 2015
The longshore union has a proud history of making the Bay Area a progressive place to live and work:

• Leading the Bay Area labor movement in the 1934 San Francisco General Strike;

• Initiating a racial integration campaign of union ranks 30 years before the Civil Rights Act;

• Striking against a ship from South Africa to help topple the apartheid regime;

• Financing affordable housing in San Francisco in St. Francis Square;

• Shutting down Bay Area ports to protest racist police violence.

Now the ILWU, the longshore union, is calling on the Bay Area’s working people to continue the struggle to keep and expand good-paying union jobs with benefits, to build real affordable housing, to fund public education and defend immigrant rights. And to reject a new ballpark at Howard Terminal.

Jack Heyman, a retired ILWU member, worked in the San Francisco Bay Area as a longshoreman and boatman for over 30 years.

ILWU May Day rally to protest A’s stadium at the port

Where: Intersection of Market and Embarcadero West, Oakland (Howard Terminal)

When: 11 a.m. to noon, Wednesday, May 1, march to Port of Oakland headquarters, 530 Water St.

2 p.m., march to Oscar Grant Plaza (in front of Oakland City Hall).

4 p.m., march with Sin Fronteras to Lake Merritt.

What: Protest demands are:

Stop the proposed Oakland A’s stadium in the port.

Support good-paying union jobs.

Build affordable housing.

Fund public education — oppose Oakland school closings and charter schools.

Defend immigrant rights, support sanctuary for all, support “No Ban, No Wall” campaign (No federal ban on immigration from seven Muslim nations, no U.S.-Mexico border wall).