‘They come in, they offer us the world and give us nothing.’ – Michael Gregory, African American Construction Collective
by Bay View Staff
There is a systematic assault on the basic tenets of what it means to create and build a thriving, vibrant and healthy Black community. Here in San Francisco, we are being robbed of housing, health care, education and employment opportunities by our elected officials. Essentially, our tax dollars are being used to stuff their pockets and make us complicit in our own oppression. And we are calling out Mayor London Breed and President of the Board of Supervisors Shamann Walton for allowing this to continue.
Where officials are failing us, Black workers are rising up! Bay View Editor Nube Brown was on the scene early morning on Friday, April 30, 2021, as a group of local Black truckers with the African American Construction Collective blocked access at a multi-million dollar UCSF construction job at Mariposa and Illinois in San Francisco, right on the border of our own District 10. Nube spoke with Michael Gregory, who heads the collective.
“Enough is enough. With all the requirements the city has and all the hiccups the state has put us through – they ask us to update our trucks and get new trucks, so we update our trucks, buy new trucks – but a parked truck doesn’t make any money.”
“First, they need to understand: We ain’t goin’ nowhere. We live here. Myself, some of these guys, are second, third-generation and have been in the trade for the last 20 years. Stand behind your locals. Fight with us to fight the fight,” said Michael, a second-generation trucker born and raised in Bayview Hunters Point.
At 7 a.m., five 18-wheel dirt hauling trucks owned and operated by Black and Latinx truckers pulled up to the lone opening of the job site, blocking entry and exit before contracted haulers arrived. These workers who stood up to the big money operations are SF natives, many raised right here in Bayview Hunters Point, second and third-generation truckers. Clark Construction, the general manager and prime on the job also built the Salesforce tower and Chase Center, where the Warriors play – both symbols of unchecked gentrification and corporate excess.
Michael Gregory owns HVYW8 Trucking, employing men and women from all over District 10. “It makes no sense for us to have billions of dollars’ worth of construction going on over here, and we can’t go to work. But you’ll send us a letter saying, ‘Hey, apply for a PPP loan!’ We don’t want no loans – we want to go to work!”
What’s taking place with this lockout of our Black and Brown construction workers here in San Francisco is that they are not being hired on these money-making job sites, sites which support families outside our city and not families born and raised here, who make the vibrant areas of the city what they are. Companies like Clark Construction cling to relationships with predominantly white, exclusionary contractors, bringing in people from as far away as Stockton and Salinas to work these jobs, sidelining local Black business owners who have a right to work and build in the area where they live and spend money.
“Enough is enough. With all the requirements the city has and all the hiccups the state has put us through – they ask us to update our trucks and get new trucks, so we update our trucks, buy new trucks – but a parked truck doesn’t make any money,” declared Victor, born and raised in San Francisco and owner of Lee’s Trucking. “The LBE (Local Business Enterprise) program is made to keep the money in San Francisco. When you have outsiders coming in here taking it out – what’s the point?”
The San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper’s on-the-spot reporter Malik Washington has been pushing the issue of putting Black contractors and subcontractors back to work on lucrative city jobs since Malik landed in September 2020. Bay View newspaper publishers Mary and Willie Ratcliff ran the all-Black construction company Liberty Builders back in the ‘90s, employing many in the community and facing racist discrimination in job access and at job sites like SFO Airport and the Embarcadero. But Liberty Builders’ crew held strong and was unparalleled in its work.
Malik says: “Some people accuse me of playing the ‘race card,’ but I am not playing anything when the concrete conditions on the ground clearly show that I am speaking the truth! Why did these local truckers have to stage this work stoppage in the first place? Why isn’t the playing field fair? However, the most troublesome issue that has yet to be addressed is how can our Black leaders stand by like docile, compliant ‘happy slaves’ while our people get locked out of opportunities and jobs that should be available to them? Inquiring minds want to know and so do I!”
At the job site shutdown, Nube asked Joe and Sons trucker Walter about the spiraling effect of locking the Black community out of profitable city contracts. “Consider the fact that it is a community. The definition of community is fellowship: People who live amongst each other, and we’re not operating as one. It makes no sense. This is a longtime thing that’s been going on. How can the city preach community? The city paints these big pictures – ‘We’re here for the community, uplifting the community’ – but the very people who live here are put on the back burner.
“It’s a chain of command, and it’s gotta start somewhere, and it’s gotta start with the city of San Francisco. Someone’s gotta step up and take ownership and responsibility. And we’re here. We’re here, and we want to work, and we want to work together. We’re not asking for a freebie. We work hard, right from where we live. My family’s been here since the ‘50s. I’m a second-generation trucker. Our presence isn’t new. We’ve been here, putting money back into the city. There’s no reason why we can’t be part of the building and earning our keep here,” said Walter.
Our people are trying to create legacies to pass on to their children, and they are being denied this access. This denial ties in to an immense social and administrative structure depriving San Francisco’s Black and Brown communities of resources and opportunities – funneling our people into the prison pipeline.
Take another beautiful local organization, Cameo House, a caring transitional program for women navigating re-entry – it’s also under threat of going under and being defunded. And what about health care? Treasure Island, Hunters Point – these are radioactive Superfund sites killing our people right here in our city, and we still can’t get access to affordable health care.
All these issues are an assault, and we need to not stand for this anymore. Our elected officials are supposed to be listening to, supposed to be protecting the people and they are supposed to be paying attention to the work people are doing to make sure our communities are safe and thriving spaces where we want to be. We love San Francisco, but it doesn’t want us. This is a major human rights issue, and we will no longer stand for it.
Bay View Staff can be reached at 415-671-0789 and firstname.lastname@example.org.