In a Spring 2009 article (http://urbanhabitat.org/book/export/html/4514) Aditi Viadya, MPH wrote:
More than two million containers of cargo move through the Port of Oakland each year, making it the country’s fifth-busiest container seaport and a crucial link in the global supply chain. It connects the factories of China and the rest of the Pacific Rim with the United States consumer market, handling cargo for some of the wealthiest multinational corporations, such as Wal-Mart and Home Depot. The Port generates more than $7 billion a year in economic activity and tens of thousands of jobs in the San Francisco Bay Area. Yet, low-income residents of neighborhoods near the Port and the truck drivers who work at the Port miss out on their fair share of economic prosperity—and get more than their share of the health and environmental problems caused by diesel pollution from the trucks.
The critical economic activity of the Port of Oakland necessitates that it be run efficiently and without discrimination, harassment, retaliation, or for that matter, with violence against employees. An October 22, 2012 report by Bay Cities News Service and CBS San Francisco–based upon documents they obtained via the California Public Records Act–indicated that:
Port officials Friday said the port’s Acting Executive Director Deborah Ale Flint has ordered Maritime Director James Kwon to return from overseas business travel and be placed on administrative leave. The decision comes on the heels of the discovery that Kwon allegedly spent $4,500 in port money at a Texas strip club in 2008, according to the port.
Port officials did not immediately notice the improper expenditures because the name of the strip club on the receipt was not evident, according to statements from the port.
As an investigation into the alleged expenditures gets underway, the port has also asked its executive director, Omar Benjamin, to take a paid administrative leave.
In spite of the fact that the Contract between Local 1021 (as successor to Local 790) of the SEIU and the Port of Oakland provides that “All employees will strive to provide services in a work atmosphere of respect and dignity with a sense of pride. Fair work rules and procedures shall be applied equally to all employees,” a lawsuit has been filed by Joaquin Dominiquez, a Cuban American immigrant, Army veteran, and long – time Oakland employee, that alleges that he has been systematically harassed, discriminated against, physically assaulted twice, that Port officials have systematically failed to investigate his allegations. In Alameda County Superior Court Case No. RG13684521, Dominiquez contends that his rights were violated under the Ralph Civil Rights Act, the Bane Civil Rights Act, three different subsections of the California Whistleblower Protection Act, five subsections of the Fair Employment & Housing Act, and other constitutional and legal protections.
For the past month–maybe coincidentally and maybe not–Dominiquez has been subjected to repeated vandalism attacks on his vehicle after he made it known that he would file suit against the Port of Oakland and former co-workers who he says made his life a living hell.
The allegations of the suit include that the Port violated Section 6400 of the California Labor Code by refusing Dominiquez’s requests to be trained in the use of a safety harness in accord with federally mandated Safety Track procedures. Subsequently, the suit alleges that on August 27, 2009, a supervisor called him a “stupid Hispanic” and physically attacked him and then attacked him again on September 12, 2009. Employees charged with investigating Dominiquez complaints to management of being physically attacked have yet to report the results of their inquiry according to the action filed in Superior Court.
Dominiquez suit also contends that management prohibited him from taking a promotional exam, allowed another less qualified employee to take it and then gave the other employee a de facto promotion even though he’d failed the examination.
Coming full circle to the above mentioned allegations about corruption at the Port, the suit alleges that on “…January 13, 2011, Defendant [Omar] Benjamin ratified Defendant [Kenneth] Taylor and [William] Morrison’s conduct in violation of Plaintiff’s ‘Weingarten Rights’ and his Constitutional and legal right to Safety by issuing a letter formally placing Plaintiff on administrative leave for ‘refusing to follow direction and calling police, falsely accusing supervisor and manager of threatening’ Plaintiff.” Omar Benjamin is the same person who later had to resign due to his role in the strip club scandal [http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_21985364/port-oakland-exec-omar-benjamin-resigns-amid-spending]:
Port of Oakland exec Omar Benjamin resigns amid spending scandal
OAKLAND — Port of Oakland executive director Omar Benjamin said Monday that he would “retire” effective immediately, even as the investigation into his involvement in a strip club expense reimbursement continued.
The port chief was found to be part of a group whose $4,537 tab at a Texas strip club was paid for by the Port of Oakland, according to newly released expense records.
The Port of Oakland released the full version of the expense records Friday as scrutiny over the spending continued. The records showed for the first time that Benjamin helped run up the strip club tab that was passed off as a normal business meeting.