OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL//ARMY BASE | Oakland may be close to finding a new home for a controversial city contractor as it moves quickly to clear the Oakland Army Base for a massive redevelopment slated to begin in the fall. However, the Teamsters say the owner of AB Trucking, which a Superior Court judge last week order to pay nearly $1 million in lost wages to workers, is unfit for the city to contract with.
Bill Aboudi, a partner of Oakland Maritime Support Services (OMSS) at the Oakland Army Base, is set to sign a 30-month lease to move its operations to the Port of Oakland. Aboudi, however, also owns AB Trucking and the connection is making some worried whether he can afford the lease deal in light of the judge’s ruling and whether it is just for the city to even work with him.
“What sort of precedent is it going to set if we have a lawbreaker allowed to lease with the city when the next company comes along and doesn’t do local hire, doesn’t do 'ban the box'?” said Doug Bloch of the Teamsters. “If I was them I would say, ‘Hey, well that company got away with it, how about me? Why don’t I get a pass?’”
“I don’t think it’s fair or right to give him a contract,” said Marty Freitas, secretary treasurer of Teamsters Local 70. "I think it’s wrong to award him anything."
Councilmember Libby Schaaf questioned Aboudi’s financial viability during Tuesday’s Community and Economic Development Committee meeting along in light of revelations he denied workers wages and breaks, among other labor violations. "I think we should pause and ask what this says about us as a city,” said Schaaf.
Long a critic of the Teamsters, Aboudi said the union has harassed him in the past and the current squabble arose when the Teamsters failed to make headway with independent truckers employed by him. “When there’s a failed attempted to organize, they blame me for speaking the truth,” said Aboudi. He also claimed the Teamsters’ tried to bribe him, but “I resisted,” he said.
Aboudi also dismissed AB Trucking's legal bills will inhibit his ability to honor the potential lease with the city at the Port of Oakland. He says OMSS is a partnership and separate business. “If you’re going to take a hit at me, you’re going to take a hit at 18 small businesses,” he cautioned.
"I definitely know what a great member of the community you have been and how much you care about the community,” Schaaf told Aboudi. However, she called the judge’s ruling new information and “we haven’t had a moment to figure out what this means.”
Councilmember Larry Reid, defended Aboudi and referenced his own battle with allegations regarding the Army Base project made by Oakland City Auditor Courtney Ruby. “I know Bill Aboudi. I have the utmost respect for Bill Aboudi as a businessman. I understand how people can sue. It’s like I can understand how people say things whether or not they are true or not,” Reid said. “The city auditor raised some issues about me. I know for a fact it’s not true, but she gets away with it because nobody holds her accountable.”
Despite the air of reluctance, the City Council could approve Aboudi’s lease during a scheduled closed session June 21. Aboudi, though, has yet to sign the contract, but he and the city’s property manager for the Oakland Army Base redevelopment John Monetta say the deal should be finalized by the end of this week. In addition the Port of Oakland Board of Directors must also approve the lease during their meeting this week.
Clearing the former Army base quickly is of utmost importance to the city. Aboudi’s operations are one of the last to be temporarily relocated. If it is unable to clear the land before Sept. 1, it risk forfeiting $176 million in federal funding. Assistant City Administrator Fred Blackwell interjected the reasons behind the quickening pace of various negotiations at the Army base. ”I just want to emphasize we are under some very intense time restraints,” he said Tuesday with an exhausted smile.