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Center for Community Change

January/February 1999 issue of Poverty & Race

Center for Community Change
1055 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1600
Los Angeles, CA 90017
213/250-4045
Ochsm@commchange.org
Contact: Mary Ochs

There has been a big win in Southern California at the grassroots level. The two-year-old Alameda Corridor Jobs Coalition (ACJC),which grew to more than 36 organizations – community development corporations, religious organizations, block clubs and public housing residents – won recognition from the Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority (ACTA)for an unprecedented work and training set-aside package. ACTA, which once argued that federal Department of Transportation regulations prohibited their committing to local hiring, agreed to ACJC demands for 30% of work hours and funding for 1,000 local residents to receive pre-apprentice construction training (650 slots) and non-construction management training (350 slots).

The $2 billion Alameda Corridor rail and highway improvement project stretches 20 miles from downtown LA to the Port of Long Beach, passing through eight cities, and near six public housing developments in the City of Los Angeles, three in the San Pedro area, three in South Los Angeles. ACJC received technical assistance from Mary Ochs of the Center for Community Change, who, with Jacqueline Leavitt, a UCLA professor in urban planning, published the PRRAC report, “Failing, But Not Fooling Public Housing Residents.” Reviewing overall job intervention strategies, the report came out favoring areawide local hiring preferences, i.e., ordinances or negotiated agreements; and municipal agreements that require and/or promote the hiring of residents in neighborhoods or communities where public dollars are to be spent on contracts, grants or loans. Other strategies were found lacking, either because people fail to earn a living wage, as in microenterprises or programs such as enterprise zones, which are unable to attract or create significant numbers of jobs. The government’s largest job training program, JTPA (Job Training Partnership Act), was also found deficient, frequently leading people into low-wage or no wage jobs.

ACJC developed an inclusive process at each step in its struggle with ACTA. In addition to the Center for Community Change, the Legal Aid Foundation of Long Beach provided technical assistance, and the increasingly strong Coalition secured support from key state and national representatives. Central to the process, ACJC established the Training and Education Corporation (TEC),which will receive just over $1 million over the project’s three-year-life. ACJC forged a partnership with the Carpenters Educational Training Institute and WINTER (Women in Non-Traditional Employment Roles) to provide construction training (a mix of classroom and hands-on training for which enrollees will receive a stipend) and special services such as mentoring for women. ACJC TEC is about to hire a staff to oversee and coordinate outreach, assessment of enrollees and case management, activities to be conducted by many of the ACJC members. The Coalition is also poised to hire a full-time organizer, and future plans include fundraising so that ACJC can put in place an independent monitoring-for-compliance system.

The win is all the sweeter, coming after outgoing Governor Pete Wilson abolished a key state affirmative action program. The PRRAC-sponsored report provided a research base that Ochs was able to draw on, integrating crucial ideas about job training, job opportunities and education into ACJC’s mission and position statement. While the report focused on public housing residents, its recommendations pointed to the need for building broader coalitions that expand place-based issues beyond one housing development. ACJC is an outstanding example that supports such an approach. Most significantly, ACJC reflects the advocacy intent informing the PRRAC research: ACJC really listened to voices in the communities, from people who said they were tired of being unemployed, tired of living in poverty, tired of winding up in dead-end jobs and tired of being failed by publicly-financed programs. ACJC then went further, refusing to be fooled by tired excuses, and winning the work/training package.

Notes:

Failing, But Not Fooling, Public Housing Residents: The Impact of Job Interventions” (93 pp., February 1997) is available from Prof. Jacqueline Leavitt, Urban Planning, UCLA, CA 90095-1656; 310/825-4380, jleavitt@pop.ben2.ucla.edu.

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