Oakland workers use May Day rallies to demand developers hire locals

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Union leaders say construction in Oakland is booming and they want local labor to be part of it.

"There is a problem in the City of Oakland when construction is happening, but the jobs are not being given to the residents of this community. That's a distress call. That's May Day! May Day!" says Elizabeth Ortega Torro, with the Alameda Labor Council.

Construction workers in hardhats and safety vests held a May Day rally for about an hour at Oakland City Hall Wednesday morning. That was after two other May Day rallies were held earlier in the morning at two construction sites in the city.

May 1st is International Workers Day. Its origins were the demand for an eight-hour workday and safe working conditions.

A fourth rally was held at the Howard Terminal at the Port of Oakland, where union workers blocked the main entrance. Howard Terminal is the proposed site for a new Oakland A's baseball stadium and luxury apartments and hotels, which some unions oppose.

Union leaders claim not enough union workers are being hired by developers, as a way to cut costs, says Andreas Culver, with the Alameda County Building Trades. "It's money, it's greed, is what it is," he says.

Labor union say union jobs are a path to financial stability, especially as Oakland faces increasing gentrification. The city did pass a public lands policy, which addresses some of the unions concerns. Though approved, it still hasn't been implemented.

Some city officials believe, even with union requirements, Oakland can still attract developers.

"I don't believe it will impede developers. As you can see there are cranes throughout Oakland, people want to be here," says Rebecca Kaplan, Oakland City Council president.

In an email to ABC7 News, Catherine Aker, Vice President of Communications and Community with the Oakland A's wrote: "We fully respect and support ILWU's right to express themselves. We have met with them on multiple occasions and have incorporated their valuable feedback into our plans. We are pleased with the progress we are making on our new ballpark that will be built with union labor, protect 300 current jobs, create 5,000 new jobs, and generate millions in new revenue to support and enhance the entire Port for decades to come."

In a statement to ABC7 News, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf says, "Oakland celebrates May Day because Oakland values and honors our workers. Our city punches above our weight. We work hard and champion social justice. Union strength is woven into Oakland's DNA and I'm grateful for labor leaders who've led the fight to pass recent laws that increase minimum wages, protect hotel workers, and strengthen the rights of all workers."

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