Charlie Costello is communications director at Operating Engineers local 3.
For the third time in the past six weeks I found myself at the Oakland International Airport’s Control Tower Construction Site for a press conference about the same issue, extending the FAA’s reauthorization bill before it expires at midnight, Friday September 16, 2011. In the back of my mind, I couldn’t help but think that I may be back here again but as a glass-half-full kind of guy, I quickly dispelled that thought.
While introducing U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood at the press conference, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan remarked back on the last one, saying, “Last month, Barbara Boxer warned us that we might be back here again. We are hoping that the third time is a charm.”
On Tuesday, Aug. 23, Senator Barbara Boxer addressed a crowd of construction workers, airport officials and the media at a press conference organized by the Oakland Port Authority. It felt like déjà-vu, as I had stood there at the same spot less than three weeks earlier at a similar press conference that helped turn the tide in getting an FAA reauthorization extension bill approved, just as the politicians were about to go on their summer recess. But this time, there were a few things different: the gate to the job site was open, the crane was set up and working, there were close to 100 construction workers there, and Senator Barbara Boxer was in attendance.
At the Berkeley City Council meeting on Jan. 18, 2011, the Council voted to adopt a resolution as noted on the action calendar for that evening “authorizing the City Manager to execute a contract with the Building Trades Council and twenty two labor organizations regarding the provision of labor to City construction projects in excess of $1 million dollars for a term of three years.”
This landmark Community Workforce Agreement will not only put local residents back to work but is a model to persuade other cities to work in partnership with their local communities and labor organizations to bring the jobs home.
The California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) sent out a notice in October about a prevailing wage survey of all construction employers in California’s 18 counties in the Central Valley. There has never been a survey conducted of this size and scope in the history of the state, and it is just the beginning of what will become a full-blown frontal assault on workers’ wages.