uc_color_logo.jpgUnemployed local union members have blocked construction workers from entering the front gate of a University of California at San Francisco Mission Bay project site today, marking the third consecutive day of protests of the university’s hiring practices.

The protests were organized by Aboriginal Blackmen United, a Bayview-Hunters Point community organization “dedicated to fighting unfair labor practices,” leader James Richards said.

The UCSF Mission Bay hospital site is the most expensive project that the group has picketed, boasting a price tag of about $1.7 billion.

“We shut down the main gate,” Richards said. “But they do have a small skeleton crew assigned today.”

Richards said that the workers that school officials have assigned to the project are largely private contractors.

“The UC hiring practices are excluding the surrounding black community,” Richards said. “Our brothers in Bayview-Hunters Point are unable to work.”

According to a local hiring ordinance, introduced by Supervisor John Avalos last year, city-funded projects are required to compose their crews using 20 percent of workers from surrounding neighborhoods.

Since the project is funded by private entities, their adherence to the ordinance is up to the school’s discretion.

“It is not city-funded,” Richards said. “But, as long as it’s in the city, we demand that they adhere to the ordinance.”

UCSF spokeswoman Amy Pyle said that the university has recently bolstered its number of San Francisco workers, amounting to a voluntary compliance with the ordinance.

“We’ve always had a goal of employing as many local workers as we can,” she said. “Of course, we can’t discriminate in our hiring process, but to the extent that we can meet that goal, we do. Right now, we are exceeding it.

“We want to be good neighbors,” she said.

As of last month, 22 percent of crews on the project were San Francisco natives, Pyle said.

The union was holding a meeting at 11 a.m. with UCSF officials to discuss the possibility of employing ABU workers on the current project.

“If they don’t come to some type of agreement we are going to go and shut the whole job down,” Richards said.

Kristen Peters, Bay City News

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