Labor/community alliance in Oakland tells City Council: ‘We need jobs, not more cops’

A labor/community alliance is growing in Oakland, Calif., as city leaders pour more money into one of the most contentious police departments in the country.

Service Employees Local 1021, representing most city workers, and the Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) Local 21 rallied 400 strong before the Oakland City Council’s final budget hearing on June 27. They had the support of the Justice for Alan Blueford Coalition (JAB), among other community representatives. Also attending the rally were members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, BART workers, who, along with SEIU BART employees, have given a 72-hour strike notice to their employer.

After the rally, the workers marched into the City Council chambers for the budget hearing, chanting, “Enough Is enough.”

Addressing City Manager Deanna Santana, SEIU staffer Joe Keffer talked about the 99%. He said, ”Deanna, we don’t want you in the club.” Santana draws a $273,000-a-year salary and has direct oversight of the Oakland Police Department, among other responsibilities. Keffer is also a member of the JAB coalition seeking justice for Blueford, who was killed last June by police officer Miguel Masso.

Another SEIU representative from the Sewer Department added, “In 2011 we all had pink slips. Tonight, Deanna, city workers give notice of your termination!” as he held up a giant pink slip with her name.

Jeralynn Blueford, mother of Alan Blueford, said, “What they do with the budget is lies. Money was spent for OPD lapel cameras. Masso turned his off!” Adam Blueford, Alan’s father, said, “We don’t need police schools. We support SEIU. We need programs and jobs.” Mollie Costello, also of JAB, talked about the lack of accountability of the OPD.

The City Council ended the evening voting for a budget that will include four new police academies in the next two years. This was in total disregard of all the community testimony about the racist practices of the OPD and their lack of compliance with a federal monitor’s orders.

SEIU 1021 Oakland city workers, along with the IFPTE workers, have called for a one-day unfair labor practices strike, beginning midnight of June 30. A special community support meeting was held June 28 at the 1021 hall. About 60 community supporters turned out to support the upcoming city and BART strikes. Local 1021 leaders announced they will picket major city sites, including the main police station and the Eastmont station, near where Alan Blueford was killed. The JAB coalition will help staff that picket line. Representatives of the Fight for $15, Oakland campaign agreed to help staff the line at OPD headquarters downtown.

The unions are planning to converge in front of City Hall for a rally at noon on July 1. They are expecting support from UNITE HERE 2850 and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. As of June 29, the BART workers also still plan to strike on July 1. Solidarity actions for the BART workers are planned in San Francisco at noon and 5 p.m.

An excerpt from an SEIU statement about why they will strike reads: “The city has pitted workers against residents and fair wages against public services, but workers have paid the price by balancing the budget on their backs. They have lost 25% of their take-home pay since 2008. In that last five years, city employees have given back $122 million. It’s not just a worker strike, but an Oakland strike, uniting workers, residents and taxpayers in calling for Wall Street to pay back the money it owes Oakland.”