Ban the box gains victory at Oakland Army Base redevelopment project

Oakland Army Base redevelopment project will bring improvements to the Port of Oakland.

The latest victory in the movement to “ban the box” comes courtesy of local activists in Oakland, Calif. It will affect the application forms for the nearly 5,000 employees who will be hired to work on the soon-to-be-redeveloped 366-acre site of the former Oakland Army Base.

On Tuesday, the Oakland City Council approved the massive Oakland Army Base redevelopment project, estimated to cost $1 billion and generate 2,810 construction and 2,032 permanent jobs. Work is scheduled to begin in 2013 on the development, which will include a logistics center and new warehouse facilities for the Port of Oakland, as well as improved rail access and a deep-water port terminal.

In recent months, members of a variety of community groups have pressured developers Prologis and California Capital Investment Group to prevent future employers from requesting job seekers to disclose their criminal history on employment applications. And the developers agreed to make sure that would happen.

According to the Oakland Tribune, the developers also agreed to institute local hiring preferences for Oakland and West Oakland residents. The Oakland Army Base sits between Hwy 580 and the Port of Oakland on the edge of West Oakland, an area with a high rate of poverty and unemployment.

As facilities are completed, they are expected to attract employers from throughout the Bay Area who want to be located in close proximity to the port. Those employers will find a ready supply of workers, including ex-offenders who will be given a better chance of a job thanks to applications without the box.

Six states, including California, and more than 30 cities and counties across the nation have banned the box for public jobs. While Hawaii and Massachusetts apply the ban to both public and private employers, in other states the private sector has been slow to institute the practice.

Advocates of the ban say that having a criminal record does not mean that ex-offenders cannot satisfactorily perform the requirements of a particular job.  Maybe the Oakland Army Base redevelopment project will inspire other employers elsewhere to join the movement and ban the box.

If there are any projects with similar ban-the-box demands in other parts of the country, we’d love to hear about them.


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