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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Local Hiring Protesters Shadow UCSF Hospital Groundbreaking

Posted By on Thu, Oct 28, 2010 at 2:05 PM

click to enlarge Protesters outside the UCSF VIP groundbreaking on Tuesday
  • Protesters outside the UCSF VIP groundbreaking on Tuesday

This week, UCSF Mission Bay held groundbreaking ceremonies for its new children's, women's, and cancer hospitals -- a $1.5 billion complex being built on the edge of a neighborhood with the highest unemployment in San Francisco.

Proponents of local hiring policies say the hospital development could provide huge benefits for the residents of Bayview-Hunters Point. They want the hospital's contractors to give priority to construction workers from the neighborhood.

While UCSF reps say they won't be ready to announce their local hiring goals until December,

there have been growing complaints from

community job placement agencies that UCSF's local hiring will only amount to "window dressing."

click to enlarge MC Hammer with ABU leader James Richards
  • MC Hammer with ABU leader James Richards


Several local groups, including the Aboriginal Blackmen United, Anders and Anders, Positive Directions, the A. Philip Randolph Institute, and the Brightline Defense Project, mounted protests outside the VIP ceremony on Tuesday, as well as at yesterday's community groundbreaking.

Over the summer, UCSF had tried to play nice with the city's community job placement agencies,  which serve as brokers between construction projects and their own out-of-work constituents. But on Tuesday, these groups informed UCSF by e-mail that they were pulling out of the collaborative that UCSF had formed this summer, citing concern over the lack of a concrete community hiring plan.

Barbara Bagot-Lopez, UCSF's director of community relations, said UCSF is still meeting with contractors, and that the formal groundbreaking ceremonies should not be confused with the beginnings of the real work on the project. 

UCSF has a stated, voluntary commitment to local hiring that goes back to 1993, but it's unclear how substantive that commitment will be in practice. Over the past 17 years, an average of 12 percent of construction workers on UCSF projects have been hired through its Community Construction Workforce Program (UCCWP). In comparison, San Francisco city and county projects averaged 20 percent participation by local workers over the past year.

Rodney Hampton, Jr., a candidate for District 10 supervisor and a longtime partner of UCSF on hiring issues, was selected as the point person for UCSF's local jobs outreach this summer. He told the SF Weekly today that his goal is for UCSF to commit to  50 percent local hiring for an expected 6,000 jobs. That commitment should include hiring 1,500 neighborhood workers from Bayview, 500 new apprentices, and working through local unions to hire 1,000 additional local workers from across San Francisco, Hampton said.   

Supervisor John Avalos has been pushing for a mandatory local hire quota for city projects -- a quota Avalos intitially set at 50 percent, but that he has since agreed to lower to below 30 percent, after conversations with union members. A city-funded labor market analysis released last week concluded that, given "high unemployment rates and underemployment among incumbent workers" there is a supply of construction workers to satisfy a mandatory quota of "20 to 25 percent" local hires.

Since UCSF's construction project is not currently funded by state or city money, their local hiring compliance is voluntary.

But protesters outside the VIP groundbreaking on Tuesday received an unexpected boost from VIP attendee MC Hammer (he was available), who was at the ceremony to support his friends Marc and Lynne Benioff -- who donated $100 million to the children's hospital. Hammer drove his orange sports car past the picket line, then re-emerged to talk to the protesters and promise to make their concerns heard.

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Lois Beckett

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