HUNDREDS OF JOBS FOR LOCAL WORKERS:
LMI teams up with Urban League, Heartland Coalition, Progressive Environmental Services and Job Corps to address nation's worst environmental disaster
Update June 14: LMI's team of 50 trained local workers have been delayed departing for the Gulf because BP has failed to provide payment for their transportation. Hanson has called for President Obama to set up an escrow fund with BP money to be used to expedite cleanup of the spill.
By Miriam Raftery
June 5, 2010 (San Diego) – “This is an unprecedented oil spill,” Lakeside resident Mark Hanson, chief executive officer of Leadership Management International in San Diego, told a crowd of eager job applicants assembled at Urban League in San Diego yesterday. “Oil is now landing on one of the most pristine coasts in Florida and satellite images show a reddish glob of goop in the ocean that’s the size of several states.”
Hanson, who also heads up Heartland Coalition, publisher of East County Magazine, led the successful effort for LMI to obtain a contract from Progressive Environmental Services (PES) of Virginia to provide hazardous materials training locally and ultimately send hundred of San Diego-area workers to Gulf coast states to assist in cleaning up oil from beaches, coastal wetlands, waterways and wildlife.
The first group of 50 local workers, chosen yesterday following interviews and an orientation session, will depart June 13th. Ultimately, the project is expected to provide jobs for several hundred local residents. Team members will also be providing East County Magazine with eyewitness accounts and photos documenting cleanup efforts in the Gulf.
Since the explosion of a deep-sea drilling platform a month ago, British Petroleum has tried unsuccessfully to stop the spill, which is now several times the size of the Exxon-Valdez disaster and threatens over 6,500 square miles of ocean, beaches and wetlands, also threatening the Gulf Coast’s fishing and tourism industries. BP initially tried hiring Gulf Coast fishermen to assist in cleanup, but called in PES after the fishermen became ill. PES, a client of LMI, worked with Hanson to secure a federal grant for the job training and cleanup effort.
Workers trained through the LMI program will receive full Haz-Mat training, protective training, and respirators.
“We want everyone to be safe,” Hanson assured job applicants, who will receive $12 an hour plus food, lodging and per diem expenses initially, with pay rising to $17 an hour after the first three weeks. The first team will remain in the Gulf area for an estimated six weeks and be dispatched wherever the winds and tides take the oil.
“Maybe somebody upstairs knows where it will be, but we don’t,” added Hanson, who is well known for leading disaster relief efforts locally. After losing his family’s home in the Cedar Fire, Heartland organized programs to help fire survivors through Heartland Coalition. Hanson, an educator twice named teacher of the year, has also organized jobs training programs through several entities locally and is currently a candidate for the 77th Assembly district.
“You’re helping your country in an emergency, and when you come back, this experience could help you get a job or get a college scholarship,” Leon Thompson told applicants. Thompson, former business manager of East County Magazine, also has a background in construction and teaching. He is now working with Heartland as Training Director to supervise workers and will go with the team to Louisiana and other impacted areas. The job is not without risks, he added, noting that cleanup workers may encounter snakes and alligators as well as oil and dispersant chemicals with unknown long-term impacts.
“Also, this is hurricane season,” said Calvin Clayton, project director with Urban League. But he emphasized that the training will help participants obtain job skills that can be used in the future. Hanson added that LMI and Heartland’s Project GreenSmart are working to bring green manufacturing facilities to San Diego and East County—projects that could provide more jobs for local workers.
To apply for the jobs training, applicants must be 18 or over, in good physical condition, able to travel, and not currently on parole or probation.
“I was working with a military contractor as a cultural advisor for five years, but we just got laid off,” said Walid Alzubidi, 24, who made the first-round cut. “This sounds good.” He said he’s not worried about difficult conditions in the Gulf, having worked in 100 degree-plus heat in Georgia and Texas in the past.
Dante Dove, 21, says he had a troubled past growing up, including a stint in jail for drug possession when he was 18. Finding work has been tough as a result. “Once I heard about this opportunity to help my country, I wanted to apply,” said Dove, who has been through some employment training through the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council and is already OSHA certified. He is awaiting word on whether he's been selected. “I would love to be part of helping with the cleanup. I’m from Virginia and I drove through Louisiana; it was still a mess from Katrina.”
Antony Williams, 51, was among the first to learn he’s been selected for the job. A self-employed handyman for the past 30 years, he also worked as a mechanic for Rohr Industries and at NAASCO, where he gained experience that is now ironically relevant. “I worked on the Exxon-Valdez at NAASCO after the spill,” he said. “This is really exciting. Thank goodness for the Urban League here.”
Trevor Cox, 24, will also be heading to the Gulf with the team. “I’m an electrician, plumber, and carpenter—any dirty job. In my spare time, I take pictures of surfers at the beach,” said Cox, a graduate of the Job Corps program who has also helped install solar energy and weatherization on a home donated by Chase Bank to Heartland Coalition, another project spearheaded by Hanson.
“I made the cut!” said Dione Van Hook, smiling. With experience in construction cleanup and warehouse work, he has also attended a technical college and participated in a Job Corps project in Texas. Now he wants to earn enough to buy a computer and to gain “more knowledge about our environment and more training.”
Danielle Tucker, 21, has worked retail jobs and worked with children. She came here hoping for a higher paying job, but wasn’t chosen in the first round. “I don’t think I had enough experience, but I’m hoping for next time,” she said. Applicants were advised that only the most qualified would be picked for the initial advance team, but that more opportunities will be available in coming weeks.
Successful applicants will go through a one-week training session provided by LMI before departing June 13 for the Gulf Coast. Urban League is providing outreach to recruit workers. Heartland, which partners with Job Corps to provide job training programs for youths under project GreenSmart, will provide on-the-ground supervision of the workers in the Gulf, said Hanson.
Project Green Smart, a project of United Green, a Heartland dba, is next planning an October 9th conference at San Diego State University titled “Project Greensmart: Forging a Sustainable Future” with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger invited as keynote speaker. The group is working to bring thousands of jobs in green manufacturing, assembly and services to our region.
For San Diego Urban League, see http://sandiego.urbanleague.us/.
For San Diego Job Corps, visit http://sandiego.jobcorps.gov/home.aspx.
For information on applying for future jobs assisting in this gulf coast cleanup project, contact Calvin Clayton with the Urban League at (619)266-6271 or Brian Ganaway at (619)266-6247.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the contract is with Progressive Environmental Services in Illinois. In fact, the contract is with another company by the same name in Virginia.