by Brooke Anderson and April Thomas

Oakland, Calif. – On Nov. 21, 150 Oakland youth, clean air activists, workers and labor leaders announced a boycott on Phil Tagami’s Rotunda Building in response to Tagami’s lawsuit against the City of Oakland. Tagami is suing to overturn the popular ban on the handling and storing of coal, so that he can continue with his controversial plan to ship coal through the Oakland Army Base.

Youth demand “DeCOALonize Oakland” as they launch a boycott of Phil Tagami’s Rotunda Building on Nov. 21. – Photo: Sunshine Velasco

Oakland communities are responding to Tagami’s attempt to force dangerous, dirty coal dust on the people of Oakland by asking local businesses and organizations to boycott the Rotunda Building, an event space where local progressive institutions regularly host events.

“This is the third time I’ve come to the Rotunda Building to tell Phil Tagami that Oakland doesn’t want dirty coal,” said Sonia Mendoza, Oakland student. “But he isn’t listening to kids like me.

“My best friend has asthma and has to use an inhaler. She can’t always go outside and play like I can. If Phil Tagami brings coal to Oakland, more people will get asthma and other health problems. That’s why we’re boycotting – to get Tagami to listen to us.”

“Every dollar spent at the Rotunda Building is a dollar that Phil Tagami can use to try and force toxic coal dust on working class Black and Brown communities in Oakland,” said Alicia Flores, a member of Teamsters 2010 and a member of the Climate Workers organizing committee. “Today put Tagami on notice that any events booked from this date forward until the day Tagami stands up for Oakland and drops the lawsuit should expect picket lines.”

Their banner spelling out their message, youth and workers in Oakland demand breathable air without coal dust. – Photo: Sunshine Velasco

Hotel workers represented by UNITE HERE also joined the boycott, raising the issue that Tagami’s Rotunda Building uses non-union labor for their events. “Banquets held at the Rotunda Building are catered by non-union companies,” said Wei-Ling Huber, president of UNITE HERE Local 2850. “Working in the hospitality industry without a union can mean lower pay for workers, often times unaffordable healthcare, and always a lack of guaranteed contract rights.

“Banquet servers and hospitality workers are joining the call to boycott the Rotunda Building because we need good jobs in our community as well a healthy environment with clean air for our families to breathe. Instead of patronizing the Rotunda Building for your next event, we urge you to find a local space where workers and our future matter by visiting fairhotel.org.”

The Oakland City Council banned coal in June of 2016. Developer Phil Tagami is now suing the City over this decision. Tagami promised the terminal would create jobs, but by suing the city over coal, he’s now holding up these jobs from coming to Oakland.

Youth are leading this movement because they refuse to accept a future of even dirtier air for Oakland. The boycott on the Rotunda Building will end when Tagami drops his lawsuit and makes the right choice: a thriving, healthy Oakland.

Brooke Anderson, with Climate Workers, can be reached at brooke@climateworkers.org, and April Thomas, with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, at april.thomas@sierraclub.org.

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