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Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

    Transcript of interview with Andreas Cluver

    B&CTC
    Okay to record?
    No, that’s fine.
    Q: I’d like to ask you some issues…. I was in the carpenters union… From that point of view,
    when I look at the owner of the A’s, he is a major gentrifier in San Francisco. Also, I’m assuming
    you know Betsy DeVos, or know who she is….
    A: (silence)
    Q: She’s the secy. of ed. for Trump and Richard Fisher has a long time commitment opposing
    public education, which is essentially union busting in the education field and so, I’m just
    wondering if for yourself, in the building trades, if those two things are not a concern for you.
    A: (inaudible — something about developers) Developers are who they are and given….. We
    have to do prehire agreements with developers (inaudible) developers are who they are.
    (inaudible, something about depending on developers with a progressive agenda we’d have no
    work) Yeah, it’s a concern, but our responsibility is to get work for our members. If the
    developers aren’t hiring our contractors, our members aren’t working.
    Q: There’s work for our member and there’s work for our members. For example, I don’t know
    what was the position of the BTC on that coal facility that Phil Tagami wants to build. Does the
    BT support that?
    A. I think ____
    Calls back….
    That’s a very complicated issue. We took a neutral position on that as far as supporting Tagami.
    Phil Tagami is one of the most pro-union developers around. In my opinion Phil Tagami as a
    business person saw that the city had made a huge mistake and when they signed that
    development agreement not banning coal and that was really the city’s mistake and as a result
    he’s probably working out a settlement agreement in his favor. I think it’s a much more complex
    situation. On the other hand, Phil Tagami is one of the few developers that I trust with a
    handshake I know I’m going to have an all union job. He’s done extremely well, better than any
    developer on the Oakland Arm base project in terms of local hire and brining in new Oakland
    apprentices. Right? So I think things are much more complicated and complex than they seem
    to be.
    Q: Aren’t there limits as to what the BT should support, what sorts of construction they should
    support? Aren’t there limits to that?
    A: Oh, yeah, I think we do look at projects and if it’s just an atrocious project with no community
    benefits we would not support that. I don’t sign any PLA’s that don’t have strong local hire and
    pathways to apprenticeships within them.
    Q: I understand as far as local hire, but I’m talking about what is going to be the purpose of the
    project. Aren’t there limits?
    A: I think you have to look at it on a project by project basis. The answer is ‘yes there are’, but
    we take it on a project by project basis. And we have a responsibility to our membership. The
    leadership is elected. We’re a democratic institution and so if you are taking positions that is
    losing our members work, un, that’s very difficult. If you’re going against a project that is going

    to lose a lot of work for your members, you’ve got to be able to convince your membership that
    you’re taking a positive position on this and ultimately the membership is going to have to take
    the decision.
    Q: I talked with a couple of officials from LIUNA
    A: Are we having a debate or an interview? Are you taking a neutral position as a journalist? I’m
    fine either way.
    Q: I guess it’s a bit of both. As you know all journalists have a position, just some of them hide it
    and some don’t.
    A. Well, I think there’s different schools of thought on that, right? I’d first like to know where
    you’re coming from.
    Q: As a long time construction worker who’s getting a pension from the carpenters pension plan
    and also one who’s been unemployed, I know what it’s like all around. but also as one living in
    the general area, and being a student, I’m very much opposed to this project. Number one, I
    cannot see how Laney could survive with 10, 15, 20,000 people going to the stadium at the
    same time that Laney students are trying to get to class there. And number two, I see it as
    almost the final nail in the coffin as far as gentrifying that whole area and gentrifying Oakland in
    general. From my point of view, as a union person, I think as that starts to happen that the
    unions’ political clout in Oakland will decline drastically.
    A: And so what about the 3,000 that are mainly union workers of color that are tied with the
    Oakland A’s at the Coliseum. What do we tell those folks? Do we not fight for their jobs?
    Q: Of course we have to fight for jobs. But if we are going to make ourselves the slave of the
    financiers, then how far are we willing to go with that? If Trump wants to build his wall, and he’s
    going to build it union, are we going to support that?
    A: It’s two different issues. You’re talking Trump vs. capitalism, okay?
    Yes, we are slaves in the capitalist economy to the financiers. They create the jobs.
    Private capital creates the bulk of the jobs. And so, can we change it? Do I think a different
    system would be better? Yeah. But that’s not where we are and so, as a building trades, we’re
    dependent on private financing for our livelihood. That’s a reality. Should we change it? Yeah.
    but at this point our membership needs to work. And so, the answer is ‘yes we are. That’s the
    nature of the capitalist system.’
    The other issue is, okay, yeah, if the A’s are unable to do the project on the Peralta site
    there’s a very good chance that they’re going to get up and leave. So the other option is, are
    you willing to say let’s publicly finance the project out at the coliseum. Because the A’s can do it
    at the coliseum but they would need significant public financing. Above and beyond what
    normally would be done? So, are we willing to invest public funds in order to achieve public
    policy goals? That’s another question.
    Q: From my point of view I would say declare eminent domain, make them publicly owned just
    like the Green Bay Packers are and then they are an asset of our entire community, not just an
    asset of one of the richest men in the United States.
    A: Yeah. That would be the ideal thing. That’s not going to happen.
    Q: It’s not going to happen because the political will isn’t there. I’ve done a bit of research into
    who the local politicians are and basically they’re all financed by the same financiers.
    A, And that’s a reality. And so, let’s not pursue strategies that are unatainable for whatever
    reason. Hypothetically, yes, there are a lot of better ways of doing things and a lot of better
    ways of organizing business and commerce to be more equitable and more just but that’s not

    what’s going to put food on people’s table now. So, you know, again, we got to talk reality and
    what we can do. And, um,
    Q: So what do you say to the students, teachers and other workers at Laney college who feel
    very reasonably that if the stadium goes up, Laney College may be doomed. What do you say
    to them?
    A: I don’t believe that. I would beg to differ there. I believe that the project is going to be a
    windfall for the Peralta system and Laney college. I would say, on those issue, in terms is it in
    the best interests of Laney College and the Peralta system, I think that decision is best deferred
    to the Peralta board. That’s not my place to say. They’ve hired a very good consultant to that
    analysis. And I think that’s their job to do and to make an arrangement whereby they feel they’re
    going to benefit. And if they feel they’re not going to benefit from the project, then I would
    encourage them not to approve it. That’s a decision that they have to engage in with their
    constituents and they have to make that decision.
    Q: which consultant were you referring to?
    A: Sharon Cornu.
    Q: Sharon Cornu talked about putting Laney students to work installing the scoreboard. In other
    words, brining in non-union labor.
    A: No she did not.
    Q: Yes, she did.
    A: No, no, no. What we’re talking about with Laney: See right now Laney is currently training
    students to put them to work on non-union projects. That’s how Laney’s construction program
    works. This actually provides us with the opportunity, finally, to sit down with Laney College and
    provide a pathway to union apprenticeship through Laney College. Something that we have not
    been able to do for various reasons that I won’t go into. but now we have the opportunity to do
    that… She’s talking about taking the Laney students who are in the construction program and
    creating a pathway to get into the apprenticeship programs.
    Q: Maybe that’s what she meant, but that’s not what she said last night.
    A: Well, I disagree. Because we’re deeply involved in that process and we as building trades,
    we would never allow…. Currently Laney is training people for our nonunion competition….
    Q: If the majority of students, and we all know that elected officials do not always fully represent
    those who elect them, if the majority of the students and others at Laney, if they continue to feel
    that this is not in the interests of Laney, what are you going to say to them? Then you have the
    students and others at Laney at the throats of the building trades. That’s not a good situation.
    A: You’ve got to allow the democratic process to work. I’m sorry. You’ve got an elected board
    that has the power to make these decisions. The question to ask the board is how are they
    going to involve the students and others to be involved in the decision making process. That’s
    what they should be doing. Okay? But at the end of the day the decision is: Is the elected
    board…. If there’s a big group of students that are against this, then they have to organize to
    make it very clear to the elected body that they’re going to be organizing against them. That’s
    fair. That’s how we do things. That’s the democratic process. A constituent group is going to be
    asserting influence over board members. That’s what happens. And that’s fair and that’s what
    should happen. But the students aren’t the ones who should decide. The faculty aren’t the ones
    who should decide. The community college serves all people. And the residents from the area
    that benefit from the (inaudible), they’re the ones that are going to have to make the decision.
    So, I think we need to uphold the… I mean, you’re right. Do elected officials represent the

    communities? That’s a deep fundamental conversation, right? But that’s a deep conversation.
    but that’s what we’ve got to work with.
    Q: There is that concern, for example, we saw with the Dakota Access Pipeline, where the
    Native Americans were getting imprisoned, were getting the hell beaten out of them, just like
    union organizers used to get in the past and I believe will again, and the building trades wrote to
    the governor saying enforce the full letter of the law.
    A: What does that have to do with this project?
    Q: It… People see these things and they say “aren’t they concerned with anybody other than
    their own members?”
    A: Well, I think very naive people see that. I’ve been involved in a lot of community coalitions.
    I’ve been having very in depth conversations with a lot of our partners about this project and for
    somebody that has not been involved, they may see that. But I’m not concerned about the kind
    of folks that we don’t have the kind of partnerships with. There are a whole bunch of labor
    community coalition tables where these things are being discussed.They’re very difficult
    conversations because it’s not just the building trades. It’s going to be the other unions that
    represent the 3000 plus workers that are going to be ultimately in a position to, they’re going to
    be in agreement with the A’s, and they’re going to be in the same position where, you know…
    Our responsibility is to protect the work and the jobs of our members. That’s our responsibility.
    And as much as we can, we need to partner with community folks. Like I said yesterday [at the
    board meeting, presumably] there needs to be a very strong community benefits agreement on
    this.
    And if you look at what’s happening, gentrification is not something new to those communities.
    The Brooklyn Basin project alone is going to be a massive gentrifyer. But these issues weren’t
    issues and the very groups they were part of negotiating the agreement for the Brooklyn Basin.
    and I believe that there is a good opportunity here for groups to get first of all the kind of interim
    measures that are necessary to protect the residents currently. Because just the announcement
    alone has begun to accelerate the process. So you need to take quick measures in terms of
    protecting both and then you need strong mitigation efforts and enhance efforts. I think this is a
    great opportunity. A lot of the communities that are represented in terms of Chinatown and the
    lake and get construction jobs for a lot of those people for this project and for other projects too.
    So I think there are some real good opportunities here. And I believe the communities should
    organize and the communities should fight hard to get the best benefits plan they can out of this.
    And the flip side about this if the community folks are serious about wanting to have the stadium
    at the Coliseum, then they need to have discussions with the A’s about what it would take to
    have them do it there. Because at the end of the day the A’s have made a business decision
    that the Coliseum is probably not a viable place to put a stadium for various reasons. So the
    conversation becomes one of what is it going to take. And if the conversation becomes one of
    ‘what is it going to take’ and if there is a decision to say ‘we need to publicly subsidize the
    stadium at the coliseum to make that a viable option, maybe that’s worth doing. Maybe it’s worth
    using public funds to prevent the project in the downtown Chinatown area. But you’ve got to
    engage. You’ve got to engage the A’s. You’ve got to engage council members on this.
    A: Matter and Ross quote somebody from the warriors as saying, ‘look, all these stadium deals
    are not about the franchise, it’s about what you can build in the surrounding area.” So it’s not a
    matter of whether it’s cheaper to build at the coliseum or across the street from Laney, it’s a
    matter of this is extremely valuable potential property for gentrification, for building hotels,
    condos, boutique stores and so on. And if you look at the history of John Fisher, you can see
    that’s what he’s after.
    A. And that’s why you have to protect yourself from that and why you have to reach agreements
    to protect yourself from the inevitable development. I mean, gentrification is already happening.
    It’s not like suddenly… It’s the biggest problem i Oakland right now. It’s going to happen with the

    A’s or without the A’s it’s going to happen. I don’t want to speak on behalf of the community.
    That’s not my role. but i do think that you’ve got to be involved in the process for trying to work
    an agreement. That would be my advice. Trying to say it’s better to be at the table, as they say,
    than to be part of the meal. So I think that a strategy in place where you are really pushing for
    protections and benefits from a project like this is important.
    Because if the A’s go to the coliseum it’s going to be the same issue. The issue came up when
    we were looking at Floyd Gephart, it’s the same issue. These are issues of development and I
    think there’s a great opportunity here to work with, you know, council members and policy
    makers are going to be coming up with ways to address the issues, and I think the A’s as a
    partner have a willingness to really make this work.
    And if you’re at the table and these guys are being total idiots, that’s a different story. If they’re
    saying “we’re not willing to do this or we’re not willing to do that”, then you rally round, organize,
    just say “hey, they’re not willing to invest and buy a lot of the housing and put it into a land trust
    or they’re not willing to do the kind of mitigation that they’re not committed to hiring union jobs
    with local labor.” Then you organize around that.
    And that’s my advice. I’m in no position to tell any community folks what to do. but I think there’s
    a strong opportunity. I think, within in the Chinatown community, as you saw yesterday [at the
    board meeting], you’ve got to build a certain cohesiveness around capital will always split you
    apart. So you’ve got to do some organizing around that. I’m not saying these aren’t difficult
    issues, but I’m saying that you’ve got to think about organizing on different levels.
    Q: Are you familiar with Tony Mazzocchi? Were you around when he was around?
    A. I don’t know Tony.
    Q: He was the national secretary treasurer of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union.
    Back in the late 80s and early 90s he started a campaign for a labor party. And he never pushed
    it as far as he could have, but to get back to what we were talking about earlier, when you said
    “that’s just not going to happen,” that’s why it’s not going to happen, because the labor
    movement continues to depend on these corporate politicians in both the Republican and
    Democratic Parties. We saw that when the building trades, the national leaders of the building
    trades, had this nice chummy sit-down, this photo op, with Donald Trump of all people.
    A. And you may be right.
    Q: And we will never be able to do that when we say, “our responsibility is to protect the work of
    our members,” as you say, rather than “our responsibility is to the entire working class.”
    A: But we’re democratic institutions and structures. And I have seen a lot of business managers
    [of different unions] lose their seats for taking different positions. So, I don’t disagree with you
    that there has to be a rethinking of the labor movement.

    About the Contributor
    In the fall of 2019, The Laney Tower rebranded as The Citizen and launched a new website. These stories were ported over from the old Laney Tower website, but byline metadata was lost in the port. However, many of these stories credit the authors in the text of the story. Some articles may also suffer from formatting issues. Future archival efforts may fix these issues.  
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