Most of us contribute to sustaining our communities. But while the Bay Area is home to corporations that make billions of dollars in profit, only a small group of people benefit from this wealth. It is time for the region to put people and the planet before profit, for businesses and the wealthy to pay their fair share, and for poor and working-class people of color and immigrants to take leadership in shaping our economy. Rather than continuing a regional economy that accelerates hyperaccumulation of wealth among a tiny group of corporate actors at the expense of regular people and the earth we all live on, our economy’s growth should carve out an alternate flow of wealth that repairs our environment and centers overburdened and excluded communities.
This section centers on solidarity economies and community benefits agreements. For more on economic justice and rights of working people, see the Work With Dignity section. For more on budgeting and progressive revenue, see the Funding Our Futures section.
Orange denotes Bay Rising member organizations. Green denotes partner organizations. Click on the circles to visit each organization’s website.
Create community benefits agreements for development
Downtown San José
Tech corporations have been seriously disruptive to progress towards an economy that works for regular people and our planet. To respond to Google’s downtown San José development proposal, community groups led by Silicon Valley Rising held town halls, formed a coalition, developed an intersectional platform merging interests of labor and housing groups, and collectively negotiated to secure benefits that otherwise would not have been won. These groups won a major Community Benefits Agreement with worker benefits including union jobs, living wages, right to organize into a union, steady paycheck and healthcare through the pandemic, and a privately funded $250 million dollar affordable housing fund. The plan also includes more than $150 million going toward a community stabilization fund for preserving existing affordable housing in the area, increasing services for homeless residents, and expanding protections for low-income renters. Additional grants through the fund would go towards college and post-secondary scholarships, programs, and services related to adult and youth occupational skills training and small business support.
East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE) convened the Revive Oakland coalition, which in 2012 and 2017 won landmark good jobs policies for the $1 billion redevelopment of the former Oakland Army Base at the Port of Oakland. These community benefits agreements include living wages for every worker (including subcontractors), local hire and preference for disadvantaged workers, limits on temporary workers, and one of the strongest “Fair Chance Hiring ” policies in the country. These policies challenge racist hiring norms that discriminate against formerly incarcerated people of color, and open the door for more people in our communities to find consistent, sustaining work. As a result of the first phase of the project, Oakland residents earned over $12 million in wages.
The organizations and labor unions who organized around the Hunters Point Shipyard redevelopment project won a legally enforceable Community Benefits Agreement that included strong benefits in the areas of housing and jobs, including an affordable housing preference policy that would help displaced Black residents of San Francisco secure long-term housing in the city. However, the chosen site was contested around concerns about public health and environmental safety due to previous dumping of radioactive waste there. In fact, the development was stalled due to toxic dirt on the site and subsequent scandals regarding its cleanup.
Some local community banks are too small to manage city funds, so for many cities Wall Street seems to be the only alternative. However, banking as a public utility is a proven model worldwide. Public banks keep money local and cut costs by eliminating middlemen, shareholders, and highly-paid executives. A public bank could safeguard and grow the city’s assets through loans to critical city projects and local businesses. During the 2008-09 recession, the century-old public Bank of North Dakota safeguarded public money and helped finance a statewide economic boom, while Wall Street banks needed billions in bailouts of public money. The impact of the current economic recession could be addressed with the creation of a public bank by investing in affordable housing, public infrastructure, and small businesses. People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic Justice (PODER) has been part of the push to get the city and county of San Francisco to start a public bank, and in June 2021 they were able to pass an ordinance to establish the working group to develop the plan for the public bank.
Expand financial access for people-of-color-owned small businesses
The REAL People’s Fund is a community capital fund offering equitable access to finance for small businesses in the East Bay communities of Alameda and Contra Costa counties from which resources have historically been extracted and withheld. Founded and democratically governed by six community organizing groups, including Oakland Rising and the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), this fund directly addresses the systemic failures that prevent entrepreneurs in Black communities, Indigenous communities, and communities of color from accessing the financing their businesses need to thrive. Their goal is to build economic power and expand opportunity for everyday people.