Major league baseball’s Oakland A’s plan to build a 34,000-seat stadium and 4,000 luxury housing units on top of the Port of Oakland, the fifth largest port in the U.S. and an important source of living-wage jobs in Northern California. Capitalists and their city government representatives want to replace decent-paying union jobs at the port with expensive condominiums West Oaklanders cannot afford. The Party for Socialism and Liberation joins the ILWU and others to fight back!
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union — representing dock workers at the Port of Oakland — hosted a community discussion Sept. 21 in West Oakland to discuss the Oakland A’s plan. West Oakland surrounds the Port and will experience the most immediate and direct devastation should the stadium and condos be built. With militant determination and revolutionary politics, the ILWU and other community members kicked off the fight-back movement to defend our jobs and homes from the capitalist interests driving the Oakland A’s new stadium proposal.
Houselessness in Oakland has increased by 47 percent since 2017, with Black Oakland residents most impacted. While there are more empty residences in Oakland than there are people without housing, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf insists that the primary cause of houselessness in the city is a shortage of housing.
In reality, Schaaf’s job as mayor is not to house the unhoused but to oil the machine that necessarily creates houselessness in the first place — the capitalist system that produces and distributes housing to maximize profit instead of to fulfill human needs. Our city governments are instruments for the exploitation of the oppressed class — maximizing profits for billionaires at the expense of the rest of us.
Developers profit from a housing market that decimates communities through high rents and property rights backed by police terror. Working-class neighborhoods — like historically Black West Oakland — are already targeted by divestment and predatory lending that result in evictions and foreclosures.
If the proposed expensive condominiums are built at the Port of Oakland, the price of everything around them will increase. At accelerated rates, West Oakland residents will be forced out of their homes to make way for wealthier people who can afford to pay more for housing.
It’s clear that billionaire John J. Fisher — child of the founders of the nation’s largest clothing retailer, San Francisco-based Gap Inc., and owner of the Oakland A’s — intends to capitalize on and accelerate gentrification in Oakland.
Fisher and other stakeholders want to turn Howard Terminal, a key part of the Port of Oakland, into the Oakland A’s parking lot. About 72,000 jobs are generated from the economy that the Port of Oakland creates, and the ILWU guarantees its members a retirement plan as well as decent earnings well above minimum wage. While the Oakland A’s pay executives and some baseball players millions, the majority of Oakland A’s workers get low-wage, part-time jobs without benefits, vacation or retirement.
“This [stadium and luxury housing] development is an example of how the economic elites — or the ruling class — siphons off the wealth of our jobs, our communities, and our families,” ILWU member Clarence Thomas summarized for community discussion attendees. “This is how capitalism works.”
In no state can a worker making minimum wage afford a two-bedroom unit at market-rate while working a 40-hour week. In California, 88 hours of minimum wage work per week are needed to afford market-rate rent.
The Oakland A’s million-dollar condominium and ball-park project is another stride towards de-industrialization — since the 1980s, manufacturing jobs in the U.S. have been replaced with underemployment and unemployment and the rapid expansion of prisons.
“As countries develop, manufacturing often declines as production is shifted to trading partners where costs of labor are lower,” ILWU member Derrick Muhammad explained. Millions of people in the U.S. now work in non-union low-paying service jobs — more than 85 percent of all non-farm jobs in the U.S. are in the service industry.
The ILWU and others, including the Party for Socialism and Liberation, are determined to fight back — we must defend our jobs and communities from continued attack by rejecting the Oakland A’s new stadium and condominiums proposal.
“It’s worth fighting to keep these jobs,” said Thomas. “We were able to get the Civil Rights Bill passed. We were able to get the Voting Rights Act passed. When I was at San Francisco State, we were able to challenge the state — and get Black Studies and the School of Ethnic Studies, I know of which I speak. We can win this struggle, and it’s going to take a movement to do it.”