Community groups push for local hiring at new Uber Oakland headquarters


SAN FRANCISCO BUSINESS TIMES
BY KEVIN TRUONG

As Uber Technologies Inc. gears up for its move to its new East Bay headquarters at 1955 Broadway in Uptown Oakland, it’s looking to work with the community to help ease its transition into the neighborhood, namely with regards to local hiring and business opportunities.

Uber purchased the 383,000-square-foot building from Menlo Park-based Lane Partners last year for $123.5 million in a blockbuster real estate deal for the city.

The new office, which has room for up to 3,000 employees, could make the company Oakland’s largest employer that isn’t either a government organization or a medical center.

“An office of 2,000 or 3,000 people uses a lot of stuff,” Adony Beniares, head of global workplaces for Uber told the San Francisco Chronicle. “We want to leverage local vendors.”

At least for the time being, it looks as though the beneficiaries of this local hiring emphasis will be contractors and builders as the massive renovations continue to turn the former Sears Building into the modern Uptown Station.

Truebeck Construction, the contractor for the development, has said that it’s looking for Oakland residents to work as subcontractors, with special preference given to workers from East or West Oakland.

Once the Uptown Station is open, which is scheduled for next year, Uber said it will look to hire people in service fields to staff the building in security, food and maintenance positions.

The lack of focus for local hires for professional positions at Uber has drawn the ire of some community activists, especially since the company has come under fire for driver discrimination and the refusal to disclose employee demographic information.

“The jobs they’re offering to people of color will be janitors, cafeteria and security,” said Orson Aguilar, president of Berkeley’s Greenlining Institute told the Chronicle. “But what about engineering, finance, HR — the kinds of jobs that pay really well?”

An open letter from a number community groups including the Greenlining Institute called on Uber to make a commitment to improving the economic condition of Oakland’s residents by creating specific programs and plans with that aim.

“First, we recommend a set of basic agreements in the areas of jobs, education, infrastructure, entrepreneurship, housing, community engagement and research. There’s a strong consensus on several areas that can bring prosperity to Oakland’s current and future residents and there is no need to completely ‘reinvent the wheel,’” the letter states.

“Second, we call on Uber to work alongside us to develop new organizational models and approaches that not only enhance productivity and generate wealth for Uber, but also create broad-based opportunity for working-class residents.”

As part of Uber’s effort for outreach in Oakland, Jordan Medina has been hired as head of community outreach and engagement. The company has held a number of events to help gather and address concerns from local residents and businesses about the project.

“We are committed to local hiring and local suppliers as much as possible,” Medina told the Chronicle. “Because Oakland is so diverse, that’s reflected well in our outreach so far.”