Last year, Oaklandsocialist reported on the A’s previous attempt to take over Laney Community College by building a stadium on their property a year ago. Defeated there, they went to Plan B, which is a new land grab/real estate speculation. Now, they’re moving to build a new stadium at a part of the Port of Oakland. This would be a huge blow to the port and the (well paid) longshore workers’ jobs there. The Longshore Workers Union (ILWU) is the lone union to oppose this move. All the rest see “jobs”. This includes the Service Employees Union.
This morning, I went to a “community” meeting, supposedly organized to oppose the move. The meeting, organized by some NGO’s, was in West Oakland, which is one of the few remaining mainly black, working class parts of Oakland. Knowing these NGO’s, I didn’t have my hopes up too high.
As I signed in, I saw the last question to be answered, which was: “Are you interested in helping with a CBA?”
“What’s a CBA?” I asked.
“A community benefit agreement,” came the answer.
Oops! I should have known. “How can the community possibly benefit from this move?” I asked. “That’s like trying to get the hens to benefit from letting the fox into the henhouse.”
Smiles and no answer. So I went on about John Fisher, the A’s owner. They didn’t even know who he was, and certainly didn’t know that he’s right in league with Betsy DeVos, Trump’s education secretary, plus the Walton family.
Then I looked around, trying to figure out where to sit down. All I saw was tables filled with these young nonprofiteers, plus tables that looked like they were filled with small business people, who I figured were simply trying to figure out how they could get a few dollars kicked down to them. Then I noticed one guy sitting at a table alone. He was about my age and was wearing a cap of the ILWU, so I sat there and struck up a conversation.
He had just retired and we started talking about retired life. Then we got to talking about the A’s, about this CBA, and all sorts of stuff. A really nice conversation. A young guy came round handing out little colored sheets of paper. He passed us by for some reason, but I called him back. He gave us the paper and explained that that was in case we had any questions. We could write them down and hand them in and they would answer them.
“Why can’t we just get up and ask a question on our own? And suppose we have something we want to say?” I asked.
The young guy gave an embarrassed smile, said he understood my concern, and said we could ask “that person over there.”
“Yeah, but do you agree with me?” I asked. He refused to answer.
I explained that the brother sitting next to me and I were retired union workers, that Oakland is – or used to be – a working class town, and that we knew from our experience that you cannot organize working class people without making space for them – us – to speak freely. Again, the guy smiled and suggested we talk to “that person over there” and went on his way.
This longshoreworker and I got to talking about the situation. “It’s a done deal,” he said. We agreed that what this was all about was trying to figure out how to get some hush money. Overall, we were having a really nice conversation. I was glad that I had come, despite everything.
Then the bottom fell out.
A third guy came and sat down. He was some sort of small time contractor/real estate developer. After some preliminary talk about real estate developing, he commented about politics that it seems it’s human nature, that everybody gets into office with good intentions, and then they get corrupted.
“No,” I said. “I don’t think they had good intentions from the start.”
The Longshore worker came in. “Obama did. He had good intentions, but shall I tell you what happened?
“He got taken over by the rich Jews,” he said.
In most cases, with workers who aren’t absolute bigots, when they make comments like that, they will back off the “Jews” part when challenged. I even found that when I went to Egypt during the 2011 uprising there. Not this guy. The more I challenged him, the more I said that it wasn’t the fact that some of them were or weren’t Jews, it was that they were capitalists, the more I said this, the more adamant he got. “That’s simply anti-Semitism,” I told him. “I’m Jewish descent.” He wasn’t fazed. “I would react the same if somebody was talking about black people like that,” I said. He continued on.
So I got up and walked away. I didn’t want to listen to his reactionary crap.
Then the meeting started, and they had some group get up and sing some songs.
So I left.
All is not well in the City of Oakland.