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Large Grocery Stores End Hazard Pay in Oakland, Berkeley

Immediately after Oakland and Berkeley reached the yellow tier of COVID-19 spread, as state restrictions like capacity limits lifted, and as the Delta variant continued to spread, positive cases of the virus began to trend upward. A chart showing data collected by Alameda County shows that when the county entered the yellow tier on June 8, the total cases from the previous 14 days was 455. Toward the end of July, this 14-day total passed 4,000 cases on three consecutive days, which was about a ninefold increase.

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Trader Joe's is one of the large grocery store chains in Oakland and Berkeley that have recently stopped paying their workers COVID-19 related hazard pay. Photo is of the store in the Lakeshore neighborhood of Oakland on August 3 and was taken by Zack Haber.

Workers in four different chain grocery stores in Oakland, Berkeley and Emeryville told The Oakland Post that they are not receiving hazard pay related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While Oakland and Berkeley city councils each unanimously passed ordinances last February that required large grocery stores to pay workers an additional $5 per hour due to COVID-19 hazards, both ordinances stated that once the cities reached the yellow tier — that indicating minimal COVID-19 spread — this requirement would end.

Workers in Whole Foods, Grocery Outlet and Trader Joe’s based in either Oakland or Berkeley reported that they received their last hazard paychecks in early July, about a month after these cities reached the yellow tier on June 8.

The Oakland Post contacted Oakland City Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas, who wrote The Grocery Store Worker Hazard Pay Emergency Ordinance, to ask about hazard pay ending. Bas’s chief of staff, Miya Saika Chen responded by acknowledging that since the ordinance “was tied to state guidelines determining safe reopening,” and Oakland had reached the yellow tier, the ordinance no longer applies.

Immediately after Oakland and Berkeley reached the yellow tier of COVID-19 spread, as state restrictions like capacity limits lifted, and as the Delta variant continued to spread, positive cases of the virus began to trend upward. A chart showing data collected by Alameda County shows that when the county entered the yellow tier on June 8, the total cases from the previous 14 days was 455. Toward the end of July, this 14-day total passed 4,000 cases on three consecutive days, which was about a ninefold increase.

In response to questions about hazard pay ending as COVID-19 cases increased, Chen emphasized the impact of vaccination, as vaccines have been effective in preventing serious health effects related to the virus.

“Our top priority must be to ensure everyone has accurate information about the vaccines and safe and equitable access to the vaccines in order to prevent another wave of infections,” she said.

Neither Bas nor any members her staff responded when asked if there was anything council could do or is planning to do to reinstate grocery store hazard pay. The Oakland Post posed the same question to Berkeley City Councilmember Terry Taplin, who wrote Berkeley’s hazard pay ordinance. He responded by saying that to reinstate grocery store hazard pay, Berkeley’s City Council would have to pass a new ordinance.

“The city is currently evaluating several options to respond to the Delta variant,” Taplin said. “I will have to consult with the city team and legal to discuss what can be done around new hazard pay.”

In Oakland and Berkeley, new hazard pay ordinances cannot be passed this month through City Council actions, as council meetings in both cities are on hold through August. But both Oakland and Berkeley City Councils could revisit the issue in September when meetings start up again. The grocery store workers who The Oakland Post spoke to felt they deserved hazard pay due to their hard work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“[The hazard pay] was so helpful,” said a Whole Foods worker in Berkeley. “It’s so expensive to live here and I can barely make it. I was able to put a little money away and not penny-pinch when I was getting it.”

Like all workers interviewed for this article, this worker feared retaliation from their employers for speaking to the press about their pay, and asked not to be named.

Furthermore, with temperature checks suspended, the Berkeley Whole Foods worker said they did not feel safe at work. They also claimed that in May there was an outbreak of the virus in the prepared foods section of their store. Although The Oakland Post contacted Whole Foods to ask about hazard pay, temperature checks, and the alleged COVID-19 outbreak, their media team has not responded.

The City of Emeryville, which borders both Oakland and Berkeley, has never required any grocery stores to offer its employees COVID-19 hazard pay. A worker at a Pak ’N Save in Emeryville, who has been on the job for about a year, said they were being paid Emeryville’s minimum wage, which is currently $17.13, and has never received any hazard pay. They said low pay has hit some of their co-workers with families especially hard. Children sometimes wait in the Pak ’N Save break room during shifts as the pay rates make it impossible for some grocery store workers to afford childcare.

“They are paying us the lowest they are literally allowed to pay us,” the Pak ’N Save worker said. “A lot of people are sick of it. A lot of people are quitting.”

Wendy Gutshall, a spokesperson for Safeway, the company that owns and operates Pak ’N Save, confirmed that the Emeryville store has not been paying hazard pay and that Safeway stores in Oakland and Berkeley stopped paying the $5 hazard pay after those cities reached the yellow tier. Gutshall said Safeway and Pak ’N Save paid workers an extra $2 an hour in hazard pay from March through June 13 of 2020 and gave a bonus to their frontline workers last December.

Although they have not currently been receiving hazard pay, workers at Pak ’N Save in Emeryville have faced exposure to COVID-19. Emails this Pak ’N Save worker shared with The Oakland Post from a Regional Human Resources Manager indicate that between July 21 and July 28, workers had been exposed to COVID-19 three separate times in the store.

This same worker shared a photo of a letter the store displayed in its break room indicating that one of their co-workers recently filed a complaint with State of California’s Dept. of Industrial Relations accusing the store of making them work for several days after they reported experiencing COVID-19 symptoms due to the store being short staffed.

When asked about the complaint, Gutshall said she could not speak to it directly, stating “For privacy reasons, we cannot provide specifics regarding a [worker’s] situation.” She said workers experiencing COVID-19 symptoms are instructed to go home, that the company is in close contact with such workers to investigate their contacts with other workers and ensure they receive appropriate medical care, and that such workers can access 80 hours of quarantine pay.

According to Gutshall, workers are required to check their temperature when reporting for work at Pak ’N Save and Safeway. The Pak ’N Save worker The Oakland Post interviewed said such temperature checks are optional at the store where they worked.

Both the Pak ’N Save worker and the Whole Foods worker that The Oakland Post interviewed said that as the pandemic has dragged on, increasing numbers of their co-workers have quit, which has caused their workload to intensify and increase.

“Everyone has to do a little bit of everything,” the Pak ’N Save worker said. “We don’t have enough checkers or enough people who walk around the store to help customers and clean up. But [Pak ‘’N Save] is not even willing to increase wages to meet the need for labor.”

“The work is just getting more and more stressful,” said the Whole Foods worker. “We’re running on a skeleton crew. And now we’re back to regular pay.”

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Activism

Tiny Homes Offer Hope for Holidays and Beyond

We are accepting applications for volunteers and accepting donations that we can use to build Tiny Homes. You might have things in your house or garage you haven’t used or extra construction tools, a bag of stud nails, used doors, windows, roofing materials, lumber, metal, hardwood flooring, sheetrock tape, paints, and anything that we can recycle to build and add to our Tiny Homes. 

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As chief operations officer for The Tiny Homes Project, I join Lackey in expressing gratitude for the support that the Oakland Post, as our media partner, has helped us with in gathering community and faith-based leaders to help solve our increasing homeless problem in the Bay Area. We can no longer ignore homelessness in Oakland, which has now reached a humanitarian crisis.
As chief operations officer for The Tiny Homes Project, I join Lackey in expressing gratitude for the support that the Oakland Post, as our media partner, has helped us with in gathering community and faith-based leaders to help solve our increasing homeless problem in the Bay Area. We can no longer ignore homelessness in Oakland, which has now reached a humanitarian crisis.

By Dr. Maritony A. Yamot and Rev. Ken Lackey

The holidays are the season when we stop and begin to think, “How can I give back this year and what are some different ways to help out?”

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to help out during the holidays that don’t cost a thing. The Tiny Homes Project — with Rev. Ken Lackey of the Center for the Perfect Marriage Church at 6101 International Blvd. — needs to increase its capacity and we wanted to remind our community that everybody matters to God.

As chief operations officer for The Tiny Homes Project, I join Lackey in expressing gratitude for the support that the Oakland Post, as our media partner, has helped us with in gathering community and faith-based leaders to help solve our increasing homeless problem in the Bay Area. We can no longer ignore homelessness in Oakland, which has now reached a humanitarian crisis.

We want to launch an intensive month-long generosity campaign to help the increasing homeless issues in our neighborhoods by adding to the number of tiny homes that we have already built at various private locations in Oakland.

We invite you to join us as we partner with some of Oakland’s fabulous nonprofit organizations to meet critical needs in our communities.

Whether through donation or action, there are plenty of opportunities to give.

We are accepting applications for volunteers and accepting donations that we can use to build Tiny Homes. You might have things in your house or garage you haven’t used or extra construction tools, a bag of stud nails, used doors, windows, roofing materials, lumber, metal, hardwood flooring, sheetrock tape, paints, and anything that we can recycle to build and add to our Tiny Homes.

We are also looking for vehicle donations of trailers or any truck for hauling material and picking up volunteers and homeless people that are helping to build Tiny Homes. We build our homes with primarily donated and surplus materials, allowing us to cut costs and provide a pleasant home for under $40,000.

Each and every person who wants to help out and eradicate the homeless problem in the City of Oakland can donate funds for us to build a Tiny Home. If donors want to give money to the ministry, we will build a tiny home and name it after them. Know that your donations will be able to take a whole family off the street during this cold season.

In addition, we are open to getting a sponsor or sponsors for an entire Tiny Homes Community Park and we have a separate location that will be designated for homeless veterans, the elderly, single mothers or single fathers, and any individual or family who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence, such as those living in emergency shelters, transitional housing, places not meant for habitation, or sleeping on our streets.

Please spread the word and contact us about any way you can help our Tiny Homes Community Project with Rev. Ken Lackey.

There are three ways to contact us

  1. By Phone/toll-free number: 1-833-233-8900 ext. 1
  2. By Email: TinyHomesC@gmail.com
  3. By Appointment/Donation Drop off location at the All About Grits Restaurant at 6101 International Blvd., Oakland, CA

Or you can attend our next two major events:

  1. Tiny Homes Fundraising Event on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022. Place to be announced.
  2. Tiny Homes Community Building Workshop with the help of our community and local partners in the Bay Area. Date and place to be announced.

Contact us for more details of these two events or any ways you can help in this season.

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Activism

Faith Baptist Church Becomes Oakland’s First Official Resiliency Hub

Faith Baptist Church was the recipient of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Green Legacy Award. Faith was chosen out of a pool of dozens of applicants for the award. The key differentiator was the Solar Battery Storage project. With that, Faith Baptist has the ability to totally exit the PG&E grid and generate 100% energy from its solar panels. That makes Faith Baptist a potential energy distributor.

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As members of the community that comprise Faith Baptist Church look on, California Interfaith Power and Light Executive Director Susan Stephenson, left (in white jacket), hands scissors to the eldest member of Faith Baptist for the ribbon cutting on Nov. 14 while Pastor Curtis Robinson stands just behind him. Also pictured are District 1 Councilmember Dan Kalb (white hair, white shirt) and to his right (multi-colored top) is Shayna Hirschfield-Gold, Oakland’s Climate Program manager. Photo courtesy of Faith Baptist Church and California Interfaith Power and Light.
As members of the community that comprise Faith Baptist Church look on, California Interfaith Power and Light Executive Director Susan Stephenson, left (in white jacket), hands scissors to the eldest member of Faith Baptist for the ribbon cutting on Nov. 14 while Pastor Curtis Robinson stands just behind him. Also pictured are District 1 Councilmember Dan Kalb (white hair, white shirt) and to his right (multi-colored top) is Shayna Hirschfield-Gold, Oakland’s Climate Program manager. Photo courtesy of Faith Baptist Church and California Interfaith Power and Light.

By Curtis O. Robinson, Sr., M.A., Harvard University fellow, ’19, Senior Pastor, Faith Baptist Church

So, when I say that Faith Baptist is Oakland’s first Resiliency Hub, the first question that many people ask is, “what is a resiliency hub?”

In an article from the Christian Science Monitor entitled “Resilience hubs: A new approach to crisis response,” the author writes, “Things that shock a community have to do with climate, but more urgently they have to do with systemic inequities.”

He was referring to police shootings, civic unrest, the growth of homeless encampments and more. The resiliency hub approach to these inequities uses a respected local organization, such as a church or community center, and bolsters it to help neighborhoods prepare for crises — hurricanes, heat waves, pandemics or unrest — and to respond and recover from them.

When Faith was approached with the idea of solar panels for its rooftop as a source of heat, the decision was relatively a no-brainer.

As a House of Worship, there is a collective emphasis on the workings of God in the universe. The first job that God gave humanity was to tend the Garden. When it comes to environmental justice, our goal then is to take care of this place called planet Earth.

The world is now in an environmental tailspin. However, with technology that teaches us how to create sustainable outcomes, sprinkled with common sense, we can achieve an environmental balance that can create safe spaces environmentally for our children and for our future.

Faith Baptist Church was the recipient of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Green Legacy Award. Faith was chosen out of a pool of dozens of applicants for the award. The key differentiator was the Solar Battery Storage project.

With that, Faith Baptist has the ability to totally exit the PG&E grid and generate 100% energy from its solar panels. That makes Faith Baptist a potential energy distributor.

With the help of California Interfaith Power and Light and energy experts from the U.S. Green Building Council, we held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Nov. 14.

Joining us, among others, were Susan Stephenson, executive director of California Interfaith Power and Light, Oakland City Councilman Dan Kalb of District 1, Shayna Hirschfield- Gold, Oakland’s Climate Program manager and members of Faith Baptist and the Pentecostal community that shares our space and Green Building volunteers.

We bask in the glory of energy independence, because we now tap into clean energy from above and not dirty energy from below.

Publisher’s note: Rev Curtis Robinson also is a columnist for the God on Wall Street column for the Post News Group.

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Activism

March Against Fear: When ‘Black Power’ Became Mainstream

What began as a solitary peaceful protest for voter registration became one of the South’s most important demonstrations of the civil rights movement. Leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Carmichael formed unlikely alliances that resulted in the Black Power movement. This ushered in a new era in the fight for equality.

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James Meredith walking on the campus of the University of Mississippi, accompanied by U.S. marshals. (Photo: Marion S. Trikosko, the United States Library of Congress.)
James Meredith walking on the campus of the University of Mississippi, accompanied by U.S. marshals. (Photo: Marion S. Trikosko, the United States Library of Congress.)

By Tamara Shiloh

It was June 5, 1966.

James Howard Meredith (born 1933), on a mission to encourage Black voter registration and defy entrenched racism in the South, set out on a solitary walk from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi.

On the second day of his journey, Aubrey Norvell, a white gunman, waited on a roadside a few miles south of Hernando, Mississippi. He ambushed Meredith, shooting him in the neck, head, and back.

Within 24 hours, the nation’s three principal civil rights organizations vowed to continue the march: the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Congress of Racial Equality, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

Success of the event could not be predicted. Leaders were aware that last-minute planning of a march could be dangerous, and the route chosen was not without uncertainty. The three-week march led to death threats, arrests, and the use of tear gas. Internal tensions surrounding leadership swelled and use of the slogan “Black Power” became a revolutionary phrase urging self-determination and Black pride.

The Deacons for Defense and Justice, a group of Black veterans from World War II who believed in armed self-defense, provided protection for participants. Founded in Jonesboro, La., in 1964, The Deacons for Defense had already protected civil rights activists from the Ku Klux Klan. About 20 chapters were created throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

The march ended on June 22, 1966. Meredith, sufficiently recovered, had been able to rejoin the event. Participants supporting Meredith along the way joined in, making the total number of marchers arriving in Jackson about 15,000. The March Against Fear was one of the largest marches in history for that geographical area. It was during the post-march rally that Stokely Carmichael first used the phrase “we want Black Power” during a public speech.

Carmichael sought to define the quest for Black Power in constructive terms, explaining to supporters in Detroit that “Black votes created Black Power…That doesn’t mean that we are anti-white. We are just developing Black pride.”

Meredith had become well known when he successfully challenged the Kennedy administration to protect his civil rights. His application for admission to the University of Mississippi, dubbed Ole Miss, had been twice denied. With backing from the NAACP, he filed suit for racial discrimination.

After heavy negotiations with U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, Meredith was permitted to enroll at Ole Miss but only under escort of federal troops. He graduated in 1963 with a bachelor’s degree in political science.

What began as a solitary peaceful protest for voter registration became one of the South’s most important demonstrations of the civil rights movement. Leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Carmichael formed unlikely alliances that resulted in the Black Power movement. This ushered in a new era in the fight for equality.

Understand the complex issues of fear, injustice, and the challenges of change in Anne Bausum’s “The March Against Fear: The Last Great Walk of the Civil Rights Movement and the Emergence of Black Power.”

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