Peralta Community College District's Only Student-Run Publication
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

Abigail McMurry, Acting President of Associated Students of Laney College, spoke against last-minute class cancellations at the May 14 Board of Trustees meeting.
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Archives

    Transcript of Interview with Rafael Gonzalez, Laborers Local 404

    President/BA

    Q: Is it correct that if the A’s had said they wanted to build a stadium at the Coliseum, you’d be in support of that?

    A: Of course.

    Q: So, would it be fair to say that wherever they wanted to build a stadium, you’d be in support of it?

    A: yeah. I think the main thing is that as a fan of the A’s, we want to keep them in Oakland. From a business standpoint, we want to keep the construction costs down. Ultimately, that has to be something the A’s decide, the builders. So we’re going to support wherever they want to build.

    Q: Are you aware of the concern that a lot of people at Laney have about having a stadium right across the street and the difficulty that would entail for maintaining a community college there? Would you comment on it?

    A: I wouldn’t know. To be honest, I wouldn’t know what to say. I wouldn’t know what to comment on it.

    Q: Are you aware of those concerns?

    A: I’m aware that there are concerns, but again, I wouldn’t know what they are.

    Q: One of the concerns is the difficulty of getting to classes when 10s of 1000s of people are going to a ball game and just the noise

    A: That’s something that needs to be worked out with the Athletics and major league baseball. That’s not something that the fans would want to get involved in.

    Q: Yourself as a union rep, considering that this is mainly a working class area and it’s mainly working class youth that go to Laney college, one would think that you would have a concern for that.

    A: That’s exactly why we want the stadium built. Because this is a working class community and this is going to create a lot of jobs. A lot of jobs that will pay a living wage. Not just minimum wage… we’re talking about a living class wage. We’re talking about hundreds and hundreds of jobs that are going to be available… not just with the laborers, but with the carpenters, the ironworkers… There’s a lot jobs that are going to be created with this….

    Q: A lot of people see the construction of the stadium as the acceleration of massive gentrification of this whole area.

    A: Once again, I disagree, because we’re creating jobs for them to be able to afford, to be able to live in this area.

    Q: What I’ve seen is w.c. people, including construction, I’ve seen dozens of people being driven out because of the high costs of housing. This includes construction workers. Is it not a concern that as this whole area and Oakland itself becomes gentrified, that the labor movement will lose political clout?

    A: I see it completely the opposite. If you create the jobs for people to sustain the cost of living, whether the cost of living goes up or not, especially in this area…. if you create the jobs where they can stay with the cost of living, with the cost of rent, then we don’t lose that.

    Q: That’s not what’s happened in SF

    A: We still have a great many of our members living and working in SF.

    Q: The great bulk of building trades workers have been driven out of SF. It’s not just the building trades; it’s union members in general.

    A: But that’s why we have ordinances in SF and in Oakland where at least 50% of your work force has to come from residents.

    Q: If we knew for a fact that this stadium was going to be built nonunion, would you be out here supporting its construction anyway?

    A: Of course not.

    Q: I know people in this area who normally are not Republicans or Trump supporters who say screw the unions because the unions are supporting stuff like this and they don’t give a damn about the people who live around here. Would you comment?

    A: I’d say they have a right to their opinions. We have to do what’s right for our members… and all workers, union and nonunion. We have to do what’s best for our families, the non-union benefits from it. The prevailing wages. The Davis Bacon. We all fought for that…. They have a right to be against us and we fight a lot of different unions for different reasons. They don’t represent construction workers. I can’t speak for them. I represent my members. We represent the building trades. We represent construction workers. And that’s who we want to benefit. We want to give not just high school graduates but college graduates the opportunity to get into construction. It’s not glamorous, but it’s a good living.

    Abraham Parra

    Live in Hayward

    I’m a labor relations representative (for LIUNA)

    Q: A lot of people are concerned about the negative consequences that this would have on the college.

    A: I haven’t heard the concerns that students would have on the construction.

    Q: the problems with 15,000 going to a ball game, and then the problems trying to pay attention in class with all the noise that’s generated.

    A: I think education is key, but the construction of the project would bring growth to the city and I can’t really comment on the noise.

    Q: Can you comment on the issue of 15,000 people going to a game at the same time as people are trying to get to school?

    A: No I can’t comment on that.

    Q: That doesn’t seem like a concern?

    A: Oh, no, that’s definitely a concern. I feel like I just don’t have a say. Does that make sense?

    Q: It doesn’t. You’re a person with a mind just like I am, so what would you have to say about that?

    A: I’m sure there’s always going to be obstacles and it’s up to the administrative people on each end to coordinate it and to find a way to solve these problems.

    Q: Fisher has a long standing opposition to public education. He’s a close associate of DeVos. So the proposal is to bring in this long standing opponent of public education to build a project right across the street from what is in essence a public education facility. some people conceive of that of putting the fox right next to the henhouse and opening the door. Do you see that that might be a concern?

    A: It could be a concern. But the reason why I’m for this project is mostly for the construction aspect of that, what it’s going to bring to this community. There’s a lot of jobs out there… I’m for public education as well but there’s a trade off there.

    Q: I have to ask you something. Is there any construction, as long as it’s built union, that you would oppose?

    A: That’s very tough to say. There’s always going to be pros and cons to everything…. If there’s going to be people in the city benefiting from the project, then I’m going to be for the project…..

    Q: I keep hearing you say “jobs jobs jobs” but when I ask you is there any construction that you would oppose you say that’s hard to say, which I take it to mean ‘no, there’s not’.

    A: I mean like I don’t oppose construction projects, especially if it’s going to benefit the community.

    Q: Refers to what told BA — build prison to put all union members in… So, for example, construction that does disastrous damage to the environment, the building trades have always supported that.

    A: There’s regulations that enforce these environmental laws… I’m sorry. I’m really feeling uncomfortable about this interview. This is the first time I’ve spoken here.

    Q: Because I’m putting you on the spot here…. I really resent this. that the building trades are coming out in support of this developer, John Fisher, who is totally hostile to the unions. He is a total gentrifier…. You know that this is part of a massive plan to make Oakland unaffordable to working class people, particularly people of color, and this is an essential element of it, and the building trades are mobilizing to basically make life more difficult for working class people here in Oakland.

    A: That’s not the intention. Because the building trades as well as the union (meaning LIUNA) to make it easier for working class, especially people like us, to live here.

    Q: That’s not true at all. You’re doing the exact opposite.

    A: We’re not doing the opposite. We’re being progressive. It’s what we have to do in order to be progressive here in Oakland as a city.

    Q: In project after project after project… the same thing with Knowland Park up there, where the issues are privatization of public land and building stuff for the wealthy in and around Oakland, I’m sorry to say it… It’s just the same thing as the building trades supported the building of that pipeline in the midwest there. and support fracking, which is absolutely disastrous for the environment… That is what the building trades union leadership does.

    A: I mean the building trades and the unions, they’re pushing for the working class. The environmental concerns — I know they’re taken very seriously by the general contractors. There are regulator agencies that go out. People make complaints and these complaints are taken very seriously. If there’s environmental concerns, these concerns are addressed.

    Q: Well, that’s actually not true. If there are environmental concerns, as long as these jobs are being built union, the building trades do out and do everything they can to skirt these environmental concerns.

    A: I’m saying that’s a part of it, but the building trades, they’re for the working class. You have environmental agencies that are for the environment but they’re not for the working class. You have labor unions that are for the laborers. So you can’t really fully span and touch every issue. I mean that’s the reason why people have to come together, elaborate, work on these issues together. I don’t feel the building trades are at fault…. Collaborate.

    Q: Explain to me how supporting projects that make Oakland unaffordable for working class people and supporting projects that are environmentally devastating, how that is for the working class.

    A: laughs. I’m sorry. I can’t do the interview. This is too much. But I do appreciate your taking time to do the interview with me, because I didn’t know where you are coming from, but I do appreciate your doing the interview though.

    Q: EXPLAINS background — R. Sec. wildcat strike. Expelled for fighting for the members.

    I see the building trades at each other’s throats, trying to steal jobs from each other. The carpenters from LIUNA and LIUNA from the carpenters. And it’s not for the working class, it’s for the trust fund money. And as far as the rest of the working class, union and non union alike, making 10 or 12 dollars an hour, the hell with them. I know because I was in the union. And as far as the environment: I saw how the building trades had a nice friendly pleasant chat with Donald Trump for his build anything anywhere anytime and destroy the environment.

    A: It’s called bipartisan.

    Q: Bipartisan with a goddam racist union buster money launderer for the drug dealers? You’re going to work with him?

    A: It’s not supporting. It’s when you have a leader, you don’t shut everything down just because you don’t like who the leader is. If you don’t like who he is or what he does, you just do it for the best interests of the members and the working families. you don’t want to turn down work because of the political interests of the candidate.

    Q: So if you were in Germany in 1940, you’d work with Hitler?

    A: That’s a totally different issue.

    Q: How is it totally different? You say you work with anyone.

    A: Because we’re bipartisan. but Hitler… we’re not Germany.

    Q: But you see Donald Trump is one step away from the Ku Klux Klan.

    A: I have no comment on that.

    Q: I’ll tell you something else. This strategy of the labor movement has been a disastrous failure. CITES the growth of non union.

    A: I disagree. We’ve had an increase in membership this year.

    Q: Of course you did. but I guarantee you something else: That the non-union laborers had an even bigger increase. And the next time there’s a downturn…

    A: You’re giving your opinion.

    Q: No. No. It’s a fact. The non-union in construction has grown steadily, even during the boom. And that is a statistical fact. And when the next downturn comes, and it will come — which is not my opinion, it’s a fact. It will come at some point. And the nonunion will grow even more.

    A: It’s globalization.

    LATER

    Q: Hey, I’ve got one more question for you: When Trump gets ready to build The Wall, or build a prison to put all undocumented immigrants in, will you guys support that cause it’s jobs?

    A: Chuckles.

    Q: No comments on that?

    A: Let me tell you something: My personal opinion is I hate Trump. I don’t like Trump at all. He’s not the right person for this country….

    Q: That doesn’t mean anything. I’m asking you about your position about jobs anywhere anytime. There’s going to be jobs building a wall. There’s going to be jobs building prisons to put undocumented immigrants in. So, are you guys going to support that?

    A: On behalf of LIUNA, I can’t speak about that.

    Q: you need to think about it because what’s the difference?

    A: I’m not going to answer the question…. A lot of our membership, they wouldn’t back that up.

    Q: I’m talking about the position of build anything, anywhere, anytime. Which is basically the position of all the building trades. So, when they get started building the Wall, or when they want to build more prisons to put undocumented workers in, will that same principle apply?

    A: I can’t answer…. You should ask the leadership, but we’re not leadership. I wouldn’t make that decision. You have to ask the person who makes that decision.

    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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