EBASE: Meeting Challenges, Seizing Opportunities

December 20, 2008 -- East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable...

2008 will long be remembered as a year of change – a time of shifting political landscapes, economic uncertainty, and renewed hope in the power of community organizing.  Here at the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE), we have found ourselves even more deeply grounded in the struggle to make the economy work for working people and facing new challenges with passion and commitment.

2008 was a time of transition, as we said farewell to our founding executive director, Amaha Kassa.  While we continue the search for a new executive director, our staff has proven itself capable of stepping into various positions of leadership during this transition period.  Nikki Fortunato Bas has effectively served as Interim Executive Director over the past six months, leading the organization with a cadre of strong program directors.

Community Benefits Program

For the Community Benefits Program, 2008 was a year of building solid foundations across multiple economic development campaigns in the Bay Area.  In Emeryville, we partnered with residents who formed their own organization to advocate for responsible development.  The organization was recently cited in the New York Times and started its own alternative news source in Emervyille.  In Oakland, we helped influence criteria for the redevelopment of the former Army Base and garnered media attention around the base’s potential to create good jobs for Oaklanders.  Together with the Partnership for Working Families, we released Rebuilding the Base: Lessons from Four California Communities' Efforts to Reuse Closed Military Installations and held a successful convening to strategize around winning community benefits from base reuse projects.  In Richmond, in collaboration with the Richmond Equitable Development Initiative, we moved closer towards winning the adoption of enforceable job quality standards in the city’s updated General Plan.  Lastly, through the work of the Oakland NetWork for Responsible Development (ONWRD), we are forming a new campaign to pass a policy that analyzes community impacts from new development projects.

Research Team

The research team worked with affiliates of the Partnership for Working Families to publish a Labor Day census data summary. EBASE’s report, Flatlined: Economic Pain in the East Bay, found that the lowest income households in the East Bay earned only 6.5 cents for every $1 earned by the richest households in 2007.  EBASE also published one of the first reports that inventory community benefits policies in the Bay Area. Titled Building a Better Bay Area: Community Benefits Tools and Case Studies to Achieve Responsible Development, the report showcases a growing trend toward “win-win” development models in the area, profiling over 200 policies in over 78 jurisdictions.

Coalition for Clean and Safe Ports

EBASE continues to lead the Coalition for Clean and Safe Ports (CCSP), an 80-member coalition fighting for a comprehensive truck management program at the Port of Oakland.  In July, with the Mayors of Oakland and Los Angeles showing their support, CCSP organized a 2,000 person march to demand good jobs and clean air from Oakland’s sea port.  We also hosted a two-day Port Leadership Summit with participants from around the country. Despite the challenge of the Port’s economic crisis, CCSP has succeeded in keeping the Oakland Port Commission focused on the need to take action to reform the broken Port trucking system and clean up the air. We look forward to working with our new Port Commissioners - community leaders James Head and Pamela Calloway, along with newly-elected President Victor Uno and First Vice President Margaret Gordon - to secure good jobs and clean air at the Port of Oakland.

Campaign for Worker Justice at the Woodfin Suite Hotel

2008 was the third year of struggle in the campaign for worker justice at the Woodfin Suite Hotel in Emeryville. We held pickets outside the hotel, received dozens of commitments to honor the workers’ boycott, and led a 350-person march through Emeryville to call for justice.  In April, a judge upheld the constitutionality of Measure C, Emeryville’s Living Wage law.  On January 15, 2009, the Emeryville City Council once again affirmed an order for the hotel to pay some $200,000 in back wages to hotel workers.  EBASE will continue to defend the living wage law and support the workers until they finally receive what they are owed.  You can read more about the courageous struggle of these immigrant workers in a new book by David Bacon entitled, “Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants."

Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice

For our interfaith organizing committee, 2008 was a year of incredible growth.  In April, the Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice (ICWJ) held its most successful breakfast event ever, with over 170 faith leaders, community members, and labor allies in attendance.  ICWJ provided valuable support to EBASE’s campaigns, including street theatre actions for the Woodfin campaign, prayer circles and vigils for immigrant workers, and “blessings of the fleet” for Port truck drivers.  With Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice-California (CLUE-CA), ICWJ supported the statewide campaign of UC service workers fighting for a fair contract.  Last Fall, ICWJ organized two weekends of “Labor in the Pulpits”, bringing immigrant worker speakers to various faith communities in the Bay Area.  Labor in the Pulpits engaged 26 congregations at 52 different faith-based services, making it possible for workers to share their stories and struggles with thousands of people of faith.

Workplace and Immigrant Civil Rights Program

For the Workplace and Immigrant Civil Rights Program, 2008 was a year of planning and action.  EBASE convened and staffed the Worker Immigrant Rights Coalition (WIRC), which includes two dozen labor unions and community organizations who recently developed a unity statement on the principles of immigration reform.  WIRC helped coordinate the Oakland May Day march.  Days later, WIRC and our interfaith committee organized a 200-person response to the ICE raids at a Bay Area taqueria chain, where 60 employees were arrested.  WIRC trained 40 workers to share their immigration stories at faith-based services during the “Labor in the Pulpits” and reached 120 union members in know-your-rights and raid response trainings.  Lastly, WIRC trained 20 rank-and-file members to become spokespeople on immigration through media messaging training.

And our work has not gone unnoticed!  EBASE has been in the news, featured time and again in radio, print, and televised media.  Visit our media center and read about our work at http://www.workingeastbay.org/section.php?id=6.

While 2008 was a year of change and opportunity for EBASE, we look forward to grounding our work even deeper in 2009.  But we can’t do it without you!  Please visit us at www.workingeastbay.org to learn more about our work or to make a donation.  Your partnership and support is what makes it possible for us to continue to grow and seize opportunities that better the lives of working families.  Here’s to 2009!