CONTACT: Martin Ricard, Oakland Community Organizations, 510-432-5481, firstname.lastname@example.org
East Bay Summit Calls for Good Jobs for Excluded Workers
OAKLAND, CA — On Saturday, December 7, leaders from East Bay community- and faith-based organizations from Richmond to Hayward brought together diverse populations struggling to find employment at the Work For All: Building an Inclusive Economy summit. Planned as the kick-off event for a long-term initiative, the summit focused on a trend that has too often been ignored: While the Bay Area economy as a whole continues to recover, there is still a need to create good jobs for those who have historically been left out of the economic growth. The summit showed that by bringing like-minded people together to build inter-faith, multi-racial, multi-ethnic and inter-organizational alliances, communities can begin to break down the barriers that exclude some segments of our population from the workforce. Building those alliances will also help create the steps needed to remedy the problem.
“To build an inclusive economy in the East Bay, it’s important to look at the barriers that impact the formerly incarcerated, the undocumented folks, the nail salon workers and all these folks who are experiencing a rapid level of unemployment,” said Brandon Sturdivant, an organizer with OCO. “That’s what we accomplished with this summit and that’s the message we’re trying to spread to the region: We’re changing the inequity in our job market by supporting excluded workers.”
More than 275 people participated in the event and attended workshops such as Building Bridges to Good Jobs for Formerly Incarcerated, Immigrants & Refugees and Demanding Quality Jobs from Big Development Projects. Due to the diversity of participants, workshops and summit materials were translated into Spanish, Vietnamese and Bhutani.
Attendees also learned the results of a pre-summit survey that looked at the current employment and hiring experiences of East Bay workers who have been historically excluded from the region’s economic growth. Nearly 1,500 surveys were collected this fall at community meetings and online. What was found in the surveys was troubling.
The Bay Area is the 19th largest economy in the world. Last year, the region saw 9,400 jobs added to its payrolls each month. Yet, on the other side of the Bay in the flatlands of cities like Oakland and Richmond, some communities—comprised of high concentrations of people of color—have seen little economic opportunity. The surveys also revealed that:
- Less than one-third of the people in these communities are employed full-time;
- 41% are unemployed;
- Unemployment rates are higher for residents who are undocumented, formerly incarcerated and non-English speaking;
- 57% of working adults do not make a living wage, which means they can barely aﬀord to pay rent or buy groceries for their families.
“When I was asked to be a part of this survey, I said, ‘This is easy. I know people can’t get jobs. I know people who’ve got murders on their records. Everybody else, y’all ain’t got no record. Ya’ll don’t have an excuse.’ Wrong,” John Jones, a formerly incarcerated individual, said at the summit. “It shocked me to see that we’re all in the same boat. It doesn’t matter our ethnicity or our religious background. It doesn’t matter what community we come from. We’re all in the same boat because this is a people problem.”
At the end of the summit, participants agreed to continue meeting and organizing around the issues discussed in the breakout sessions. Over the next several months, the organizations that planned the summit are looking to reconvene another public action focused on excluded workers—only next time, businesses and key elected officials will be invited to participate in creating the solutions.
One of the largest and most historic community organizing networks in Oakland, Oakland Community Organizations currently organizes with 60 congregations and schools across the city of Oakland. A powerful, multi-ethnic organization that is transforming Oakland into a place of justice and equity, OCO’s mission is to develop leaders who build power through their organization to bring about systemic change and improve the quality of life for their families. OCO is the founding affiliate of the PICO National Network, one of the largest and fastest growing community organizing efforts in the country. Learn more at www.oaklandcommunity.org.
East Oakland Building Healthy Communities brings together youth and adult residents, community based organizations, schools, business, health care service providers, and government agencies to work towards improved community and individual health. The ultimate goal: a thriving East Oakland. East Oakland Building Healthy Communities is one of 14 sites selected by The California Endowment to participate in the statewide Building Healthy Communities initiative, a 10-year plan to improve health in underserved, geographically and ethnically diverse communities throughout California. Learn more at www.eobhc.com.
East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE) is works to create a just economy based on good jobs and healthy communities. We do this by building bridges between workers, community, and faith, conducting independent research, advocating for sound policy, and running winning campaigns. EBASE has been raising standards for workers, increasing job access, and creating economic and social justice since 1999. Learn more at www.workingeastbay.org.