Unemployed workers protest lack of local hiring

January 27, 2011 7:44:18 PM PST
Unemployed local union members have blocked construction workers from entering the front gate of a University of California at San Francisco Mission Bay project site Thursday, marking the third consecutive day of protests of the university's hiring practices.

Those were the chants of about two dozen protestors today outside a construction project in San Francisco's Mission Bay neighborhood chanted, "If we don't work, don't nobody work. Our kids don't eat, their kids don't eat!"

UCSF is building a $1.5 billion hospital complex and construction began last month. The protestors are local residents, mostly African-Americans from the nearby Bayview and Potrero Hill neighborhoods and they say they are union members who are being excluded from the jobs.

Michelle Carrington says she is a skilled laborer trained to work construction sites. The 58-year-old began to cry as she talked about protesting at the construction site.

"I've lived here all my life and this is what I have to do to get a job? It's not fair. It's not right," she said.

UCSF says it is hiring local residents and will be bringing more on the job once the project is well underway. It began in December and is expected to be completed in the summer of 2014. Cindy Lima is Executive Director of the UCSF Medical Center. She says the goal is to hire 20 percent locally in the first year and increase that by five percent each year thereafter. UC says last month's figures show they hired 78 workers and 17 of them were local.

"In fact, many from the groups that are protesting," Lima said.

San Francisco supervisor John Avalos attended a meeting between UCSF and community members and says his sympathies lie with those who are trying to get jobs. Avalos was the chief sponsor of an ordinance which requires contractors working on city-funded projects to meet local hiring goals.

That law takes effect in March. It will not cover UCSF because no local dollars are involved. Still, Avalos believes UCSF should make a robust effort because the city is contributing to their ability to build the medical center.

"Certainly, San Francisco has done a lot to contribute to their ability to build the project. there's land use policy, public infrastructure and makes sense they would want to have a more robust effort around hiring locally," he said.

Unemployed worker Bobby Richardson says he is tired of being told to be patient.

"We are always the ones to be a little patient, while everyone else is working," he said.