Building on progress

ABU ends picket of Lennar's Shipyard project after city agency agrees to oversee local hiring process

SF Examiner file photo by Cindy Chew

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.

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