Monday, February 23, 2015

Berkeley Investigates Accusations of Living Wage Violations, Contractor Agrees to Follow Law

by Sam Levin
Mon, Feb 23, 2015 at 12:40 PM

SEIU's Carl Walter, who filed a wage complaint against First Alarm. - BERT JOHNSON / FILE PHOTO
  • Bert Johnson / file photo
  • SEIU's Carl Walter, who filed a wage complaint against First Alarm.
The City of Berkeley has responded to allegations that its new contractor for security services has violated the living wage law and underpaid workers. Last November, after reviewing applications from more than twenty companies, the city awarded First Alarm Security and Patrol its lucrative contract to provide guards at six city-run sites, including the Berkeley Public Library and City Hall. But since First Alarm began providing services in January, labor advocates say the firm has underpaid workers and violated Berkeley's living wage law — accusations I covered in detail in print last week (see "Berkeley's Anti-Union Shift"). 

Berkeley City Manager Christine Daniel has since sent a lengthy letter to the city council outlining its investigation into the claims of labor violations and saying that First Alarm has corrected its mistakes and ensured to city officials that it will comply with the law moving forward. 

See Also: 
Berkeley to Consider New Living Wage, Minimum Wage Policies
Cal Refuses to Pay Berkeley Minimum Wage 

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Monday Must Reads: PG&E Allowed to Regulate Itself; Steel Rods on Bay Bridge Riddled with Rust and Cracks

by Robert Gammon
Mon, Feb 23, 2015 at 9:51 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. The California Public Utilities Commission, which is supposed to regulate state utilities, allowed PG&E to investigate its own natural gas lines in the years after the deadly 2010 pipeline blast in San Bruno, the Chron reports, citing recently released emails. One CPUC official told PG&E that it could avoid “a lot of ... red tape” by regulating itself. The emails provide further evidence that the CPUC had little interest performing its watchdog role.

2. Steel rods inside the signature tower of the new $6.4 billion Bay Bridge are riddled with rust and tiny cracks because the private contactor that built the span left the rods in rainwater for years, the Chron reports. The rust and cracks were discovered during a recent test by Caltrans on one of the rods. The results raise questions about the longterm viability of the new bridge.

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Friday, February 20, 2015

Schaaf Hires Emeryville City Manager Sabrina Landreth to Be Oakland’s City Administrator

by Steven Tavares
Fri, Feb 20, 2015 at 5:27 PM

Oakland had to only look across its city limits to find its next city administrator. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf announced the hiring of Emeryville City Manager Sabrina Landreth late Friday.

Sabrina Landreth.
  • Sabrina Landreth.
Landreth is a native of Oakland and a UC Berkeley graduate. She also served as Oakland’s budget director and was a deputy city administrator before leaving Oakland to become Emeryville’s city manager in 2013. The Oakland City Council must confirm Landreth’s appointment. 

“This is the single most important decision I will make as mayor,” Schaaf said in a statement. “Restoring stability to the City Administrator’s Office is vital to achieving sustainability in Oakland. Given the importance of this role, we were committed to conducting a robust search of top-notch professionals to identify a candidate that would bring competence, integrity and energy to City Hall — Sabrina is that person.”

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Coliseum Authority Postpones Vote on New Raiders' Lease

by Steven Tavares
Fri, Feb 20, 2015 at 2:17 PM

Larry Reid.
  • Larry Reid.
The morning after the Oakland Raiders unveiled a surprise joint proposal with the San Diego Chargers to build a stadium in Southern California, the Oakland Coliseum Joint Powers Authority (JPA) postponed a decision to approve a one-year lease extension for the team to play another season at Coliseum.

No official reason was offered for the postponement, which was announced after the JPA officially named former Oakland Tribune publisher Scott McKibben as its new executive director. A vote by the JPA on the Raiders lease, however, could occur at a special meeting scheduled for early March, said Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley, a member of the stadium authority.

JPA Commissioner Chris Dobbins said the move should not be seen a response to a report Thursday evening in the Los Angeles Times revealing that the Raiders and Chargers had recently purchased land at a landfill in the city of Carson, near Los Angeles, for a new 68,000-seat stadium to be shared by the rival football teams.

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Friday Must Reads: Raiders Announce Deal for New LA Stadium; Port Shutdown Appears to Be Over a Single Arbitrator

by Robert Gammon
Fri, Feb 20, 2015 at 10:05 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. The Oakland Raiders announced a joint agreement with the San Diego Chargers to build a new $1.7 billion privately financed stadium in the city of Carson, near Los Angeles, the LA Times$ reports. The Raiders and Chargers say they will go forward with the stadium plan if they cannot reach deals on new facilities in Oakland and San Diego. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf responded by saying that while the city wants the Raiders to stay, she will oppose any proposal to spend public funds on building a new stadium for the team, the Bay Area News Group$ reports.

2. Floyd Kephart, the developer of Coliseum City, meanwhile, lashed out Alameda County officials, saying they’re refusing to sit down and negotiate over the proposed development, which would include a new privately financed Raiders’ stadium, the Trib$ reports.

3. Longshore workers shut down the Port of Oakland yesterday as the labor dispute with shipping companies intensified, the Chron reports. The one-day shutdown coincided with a report in the LA Times$ that the fight between longshore workers and shippers appears to be over a single labor arbitrator that the union wants to fire. Under the current contract, arbitrators cannot be removed unless both the shipping companies and the longshore union agree to do so.

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Gallo Sought to Censure Gibson McElhaney for Wrongdoing

by Steven Tavares
Thu, Feb 19, 2015 at 5:50 PM

At least one member of the Oakland City Council is willing to speak publicly on the multiple controversies surrounding council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney detailed recently in a series of investigative reports in the Express

Noel Gallo.
  • Noel Gallo.
At the start of a special meeting on Thursday afternoon, Councilmember Noel Gallo attempted to schedule an agenda item in early March that would require Gibson McElhaney to answer to the ethical and legal issues raised in the Express reports.

In fact, Gallo said in an interview that his first inclination was to schedule the item using the city’s censure policy, which he introduced in December 2013 following hearings earlier that year involving alleged violations by Councilmembers Desley Brooks and Larry Reid of the city’s non-interference laws.

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Video: An Oakland Taco Bell Is Paying Its Janitor in Burritos, Not Money?

by Darwin BondGraham
Thu, Feb 19, 2015 at 5:22 PM

A video provided to the Express appears to show a homeless man cleaning the parking lot of Oakland’s 6900 Bancroft Avenue Taco Bell in exchange for tacos and burritos, not wages. The video raises new questions about working conditions and management at the East Oakland restaurant. (See this week's issue of the Express for the full story.)

The footage was shot by a family member of one of the restaurant’s employees. A current employee of the store, who spoke to me on the condition of anonymity, said that the man seen sweeping the parking lot in the video is homeless, but he cleans in and around the Taco Bell. The employee claimed that in addition to the store’s manager "hiring" and paying the man in food, the store’s corporate owner, Golden Gate Bell Restaurant Holdings, LLC has been aware of the situation.

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Updated: John Russo Is Leaving Alameda to Become New City Manager in Riverside

by Steven Tavares
Thu, Feb 19, 2015 at 4:44 PM

Alameda City Manager John Russo is leaving his post on the Island for the same position in Riverside, according to a local report Thursday afternoon. Russo, who also served on the Oakland City Council and eleven years as Oakland’s city attorney, will start his new job in May, according to the (Riverside) Press Enterprise, and earn an annual salary of $295,000. He has served as Alameda’s city manager since 2011.

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Thursday Must Reads: Oakland VA Stuffed Veterans’ Claims in a Drawer; Mike Honda Proudly Tweets About His Transgender Grandchild

by Robert Gammon
Thu, Feb 19, 2015 at 9:55 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss: 

1. The US Veterans’ Affairs Office in Oakland stuffed thousands of compensation and disability claims by area veterans into a drawer and ignored them for years, the Chron reports, citing a new inspector generals’ report. Then after the unprocessed claims were discovered in 2012, VA officials stuck many of them on a cart — and ignored that, too. Some of the veterans’ claims dated back to the 1990s.

2. Democratic Congressman Mike Honda, who represents portions of the South Bay and East Bay, announced in a tweet yesterday that he’s "the proud grandpa of a transgender grandchild," the Mercury News$ reports. Honda’s announcement, which included a photo of himself with his grandkid, won immediate praise from LGBTQ and progressive groups.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Progressive Brinksmanship Mounts in Richmond

by John Geluardi
Wed, Feb 18, 2015 at 3:00 PM

Richmond city councilmembers again failed to appoint a seventh member to the council last night. The council meeting, at times, resembled an awkward power grab by the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA). The council now has three more meetings to reach agreement on a seventh member or the decision goes to the voters in what promises to become a very expensive election. 

Jovanka Beckles.
  • Jovanka Beckles.
At Tuesday night’s council meeting, City Clerk Diane Holmes upped the stakes when she announced that a special election will cost city taxpayers an estimated $500,000 instead of the original projection of $200,000. If the decision goes to voters, it will be the first time in 25 years that the council was too divided to make an appointment decision.

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