Community working group reconvenes to discuss recommendations for Berkeley Global Campus

Aslesha Kumar/Staff

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At a meeting Thursday, the Berkeley Global Campus at Richmond Bay community working group continued an ongoing conversation between campus representatives and Richmond city officials and residents, highlighting contract worker and procurement recommendations.

Each subcommittee — procurement, housing and displacement, local hire and workforce training, and education — presented refined recommendations to community working group and community members. According to Ruben Lizardo, campus director of local government and community relations, the meeting’s goal was not to reach definitive solutions, but rather to refine recommendations to ensure “real economic benefit” for Richmond.

After the local hire and workforce training subcommittee presented its recommendations, there was an opportunity for public comment. Liz Perlman, executive director of AFSCME 3299, the largest UC workers’ union, asked the community working group to recommend the use of AFSCME-represented employees in all buildings on the Berkeley Global Campus, even if they are not owned by UC Berkeley.

An open letter sent to the Richmond community from UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks in May stated that it is possible that contract workers could be hired for the operations and maintenance of facilities not owned by UC Berkeley. In contrast, AFSCME-represented public employees will be used for all campus-owned buildings.

Various UC Berkeley contract workers shared personal testimonials at the meeting, explaining the hardships of their experiences as contract workers.

Another major concern was in response to the procurement subcommittee’s recommendation to “forbid change orders from being above the next lowest bidder.” For example, if a construction company is unable to complete the project, the work would have to go the next cheapest developer.

Jim Becker, a member of the community working group and president and CEO of Richmond Community Foundation, noted what he believes to be the problematic nature of this recommendation as the fact that “when you bid a contractor, you bid for best value, not always the best cost” and also that because the Berkeley Global Campus possesses a 40-year development timeline, the second lowest bidder might not be accessible or available for the project late into the process.

Armando Viramontes, manager of state, local government and community relations at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and another member of the community working group, also expressed concern about the “practicality” of the recommendation because change orders occur frequently.

“It seems like a rule with cynical intention,” he said at the meeting.

At the meeting’s conclusion, Jim Hine, UC Berkeley and UCSF associate vice chancellor and chief procurement officer, said he was proud of the community working group.

“This is the largest opportunity to show how universities can collaborate in the local community,” Hine said at the meeting. “I am ecstatic that we can pull this committee together.”

The working group will reconvene Nov. 30 to inform the community about revised recommendations.

Contact Daniella Wenger at [email protected].