Sep 012011

Learn All You Need to Know
about writing your family history or personal biography
in a six-week workshop beginning September 17, 2011

If you’ve been telling yourself you’ll start writing down your family’s history but still haven’t gotten to it yet, now’s the time! Stop procrastinating! It’s time to get started on this very rewarding journey so you can leave a legacy for your children, family and friends and honor your life’s journey. Even if you doubt your writing abilities, you will discover you really can write! Francine will show you how.

Here’s what you’ll learn in the Forever Remembered 6 week workshop:
• How to use Mind Mapping to trigger memories and help organize your project
• Techniques in writing discipline that will keep you writing
• How to conquer Writers’ Block
• How to get the most from your interview subjects
• Writing techniques that will help you weave a more interesting story that will keep your readers captivated

Here’s what you’ll take away from this exciting workshop:
• A first draft of your manuscript
• A new perspective on your life
• The Inspiration and motivation to complete your writing project
• The confidence that your story is interesting to others and that you can tell it
• Best of all: You’ll get started!

Your workshop leader, Francine Brevetti, is a seasoned journalist and accomplished author of five biographies and company histories. She will show you how to develop your manuscript and make the writing of your own story a cherished and rewarding experience.

Here’s what past participants have said:

“Francine’s class will take you to unexpected places…put on your seatbelt and enjoy the ride!”
–Joanne B., San Francisco

“Francine’s class showed me how to use mind mapping effectively. The writing exercises about stimulating memories with the five senses were very helpful. The conversations with fellow participants were thought-provoking and very insightful.” — Tracy S., San Francisco

Sign Up Now and Get a Discount!
Sign up before September 10 and pay only $395! Or pay $495 after September 10, 2011. Pay by check or PayPal. We offer a convenient installment plan as well. Ask for details. Invite others to join you and receive a special incentive. Contact Francine Brevetti at: or call: 415.397.7830. Visit her website at

Dec 142009

Alameda Times-Star (CA)-December 14, 2009
Author: Joan Aragone, San Mateo County Times

As a child, I recall my mother talking about her high school years, showing me scrapbooks and telling me stories.

After much questioning, my reticent father opened up on the subject of his childhood, when he played on the open slopes of hillsides that are now covered with homes. It sounded like another world.

But when our parents and grandparents were young, most of them weren’t taking notes. As they got older, as in all families, life took over. Nobody had time to wonder about the past.

Eventually, the grandparents and their friends, with stories of life in the “old country,” were gone, then the parents. And now, when questions arise about those distant times, there’s nobody to ask.

Experience may have given us insights into challenges our parents and grandparents faced. What happened? Why were they like they were?

But, fortunately, for the benefit of memory keepers, things have changed. With personal computers and a more educated population, increasing numbers of aging Americans, who recognize the importance of writing down their stories, are creating personal records.

Some, who cover specific periods, may work alone or with family members. But others, especially those who write about entire lives, work with memoirists, professional writers who help organize and present often complex information in narrative form.

That’s the process for John De Luca, 76, of Redwood City ˜ executive vice president of the California Wine Institute, chairman of the board of directors of the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center at UCSF, and adviser to the president of the University of California on agriculture and business initiatives, among other positions ˜ who is working with San Francisco journalist Francine Brevetti, creator of Legend Crafter, on a narrative of his fascinating life.

Brevetti says her business “kind of grew.” While a business writer at the Oakland Tribune, Brevetti profiled a man who had mentioned he wanted his life story written. After leaving the paper, she worked with De Luca, and he referred her to another client.

“This kind of work enriched my soul,” she said.

Brevetti’s method is collaborative. Using a recorder, she asks questions, then using transcriptions, shapes the story into narrative. The storyteller then reads and revises the manuscript. Other sources may be interviewed as the family or subject requires. Projects can be long or short, some meant for publication, others for personal use within a family.

De Luca’s is a complex story. The son of Italian immigrants, he grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan before moving to California. Then came a doctorate in Soviet Studies, service in the White House during the Vietnam era and, in a career switch that reflects his varied life, appointment as deputy mayor of San Francisco under Mayor Joe Alioto during the period of the Zodiac killer and other tumultuous events.

De Luca was a witness to history in many settings ˜ all before serving as president of the Wine Institute for 28 years, during which time he participated in interviews for UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library Oral History Project on the California wine industry.

“The consensus was that I should put all this down,” he said. “I’m being responsive to family and friends.”

But with a busy schedule, he needed a collaborator.

“I’m 76, but I feel 26,” he said in a telephone interview.

“I’ll probably never ‘retire.’ I’m as busy now as I have ever been,” he said. “Francine provides the discipline that is difficult in my life as it continues.”

“Nobody understands how hard it is to write your own story,” Brevetti said. “It’s challenging, partly because of the memories. Some don’t want to return to bad memories. Some may not have memories. When they work with a professional, they just talk, or they can be guided through the memory. Not everybody wants to be published, they just want to record things for their families.”

For De Luca, the project is proving rewarding.

“There is a beautiful flood of recall that would have never been,” he said. “It’s an enrichment for me and my family.”

For information on Legend Crafter, go to or

To submit comments or story ideas, call 650-348-4332 or e-mail

Nov 082009

The Oakland Tribune (CA) – Sunday, November 8, 2009
Author: Francine Brevetti, Oakland Tribune Correspondent

Jeremiah Anderson — like many people these days — was out of work.

He found help, direction and ultimately a job by consulting a coach, a profession that is currently getting a boost from the downturn in employment.

Anderson, of Castro Valley, had been out of work as an IT project manager since November 2007. After testing the waters in the real estate industry, he decided to return to IT project management in June 2008. But with the recession, he felt he needed help to stay ahead of the competition, he said.

Anderson enrolled in a workshop led by coaches Chani Pangali and Dan Rink, who consulted him on his résumé, guided him in preparing for interviews, and honed his job-hunting skills. Anderson credits the workshop and consultations in large part with finding him the job he ultimately landed in his field in November 2008.

Having nothing to do with athletics, coaching is a fairly new profession that gained ground in the 1990s.

According to Vikki Brock, a certified coach who has been researching the industry’s history and development, there are more than 275 coaching schools across the country today. In 1990, there were only three worldwide. The largest is the International Coach Federation, which has certified almost 4,000 professionals to date.

The issue of certification is a sensitive one. One can actually assert, “I’m a coach” and begin accepting clients without having certification. There is no statutory licensing process that qualifies one as a coach. Local coaching organizations say the ICF is beginning to set standards.

Further, there are many coaching specialties. Many work as adjuncts of corporate human resource departments training employees in leadership or performance excellence. Others are self-employed and may specialize in career change or in personal goals. Those so-called life coaches encourage change in all manner of human habits, including weight loss, quitting smoking and finding a mate.

Pangali, of Pleasanton, is not certified by the major coaching institutions. He already had a long successful history in academe, the IT industry and as an entrepreneur. He is also an executive of a professional association of trainers.

“My company provides training tools (to the public) previously available only inside organizations to employees to teach them how to improve their skills and their confidence,” Pangali said.

Pangali is constantly working to amplify his Web site,, which contains 670 training modules for job seekers. Most of them are free. Anderson remarked how valuable it is to access free training online at a time when the unemployed job seeker can rarely afford professional consultation.

Coaching can be expensive, ranging anywhere from $60 to $250 an hour, depending on the practitioner’s caliber and certifications.

Kirk Burgess, of Alameda, found he was stuck in his job a few years ago and consulted a career coach who “kicked my rear end to motivate me to look at other opportunities.”

A couple of years ago, he hired a life coach for his Oakland-based customer service company, CAS, where he was senior director of global service delivery. CAS was being absorbed by Rainmaker of Campbell. CAS had to let go of 50 employees, few of whom, Burgess felt, had the skills to distinguish themselves in their upcoming job searches.

Burgess asked life coach Thelma Austin to give his staff some training and direction for seeking new employment. Within two weeks, working both in groups and individually, Austin induced some considerable transformations, he said. Austin reports that 80 percent of the employees she worked with subsequently found jobs.

Often people feel held back from something they wanted to do, Austin observed. “How can I help you be where you are right now?” is her approach to clients. “If you could be anything you wanted, what would it be?”

Two international certifying organizations are based in the Bay Area — CTI in San Rafael and New Ventures West in San Francisco.

Leaders of both organizations agree on the importance of consumer education in finding a coach, since the field is still rapidly developing. They also endorse the efforts of the International Coach Federation to standardize practices.

Coaching is not therapy, observed Steve March, vice president of leadership training of an arm of New Ventures West. While therapy deals with the past and emphasizes healing, coaching stays in the present and strives to help the client become more effective, he said.

Mill Valley coach Brenda Scarborough has seen a change in public acceptance of this kind of help.

“Not so long ago there was a stigma associated with needing a coach,” Scarborough said. “But with the exploding of the industry that’s become totally different.”

How to Find a Coach

The Coaches Training Institute,

The International Coach Directory,,

International Coach Federation,

New Ventures West,

Jul 122009
The Oakland Tribune (CA) – Saturday, July 12, 2008
Francine Brevetti, Oakland Tribune

Every Wednesday 40 to 50 adults released from San Quentin within the previous week sit in a lecture hall on Edgewater Drive in East Oakland to sign up for services that are available for their rehabilitation.

More than 95 percent of these parolees are men and more than 95 percent are African-American.

The State of California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation holds weekly Parole and Community Team meetings that parolees must attend within a week of their release.

While anyone can see the importance of connecting ex-offenders with services such as therapy, anger management, housing, drug rehabilitation, job skills preparation and the like, parole officers see the same San Quentin inmates streaming through the PACT meeting doors again and again, a revolving door of failure.

Still the importance of the Parole and Community Team system is obvious to the corrections department.

While parolees must sign up for at least two of the services available to them, how many will actually take advantage of these services and job training offers is an open question.

Speakers at a recent assembly tried to impress their audience the seriousness of their situation.

William Newsom, community re-entry liaison officer for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, emphasized, “We have this in common — we are all dealing with danger on the streets of Oakland. Twenty people I have helped are gone, dead.”

Kevin Grant, Violence Prevention Network Coordinator for the city of Oakland’s Department of Human Services, appeals to his audience’s interest in remaining free.

“How many of you have been in a PACT meeting before?” asked Grant, an ex-offender.

Only one participant at that particular meeting in February had never attended a PACT meeting before, meaning all the others were recidivists.

“Where were you a month ago? Who is tired of doing time?” Grant continued.

This time everyone raises his or her hand.

“How many of you are not going back?” Grant challenged them.

All but two raise their hands.

“I’ve been home since 1989,” Grant said, underlining his common history with the audience and he stresses their obligation as fathers to turn their lives around.

Re-entry counselor and consultant Ron Owens reminded them that they are descendants of slaves, “the strong ones”, who survived the passage from Africa, slavery, reconstruction and civil injustice.

“We didn’t go through all that to volunteer to be slaves again,” Owens said.

There follows a parade of social service providers, either connected with government agencies, faith-based or job training organizations.

Gov. Schwarzenegger has placed more emphasis on rehabilitation within the Department of Corrections since he’s been in office, said Parole Unit Supervisor Fred Bridgewater.

“Since the Department of Corrections has been moving headlong into this rehabilitative phase, we have seen more contracts (with nonprofit service providers) for programs. This gives opportunities for private folks to develop programs. I have seen a substantial increase in this area,” Bridgewater said.

In an adjoining room sit two to three dozen service providers, each waiting to pitch their organization’s services. Vernell M. Crittendon Jr., executive director of Putting Education to Work, exhorts participants to pursue higher education; Percy Campbell is the Peacemaking Community Captain of Youth Uprising, a violence prevention initiative; Raynetta L. Lewis, program coordinator for the Seventh Step Foundation, offers residence for adult male parolees; Bobby Edwards of the East Oakland Recovery Center provides substance-abuse treatment services; Bishara Costandi of Outside Lane finds trucking jobs for the formerly incarcerated; and Furdae Williams is a corporate representative of America Works, a program funded by violence prevention bond Measure Y, that provides job preparation and jobs for parolees.

These are just a handful. They all have five minutes to encourage their audience to sign on their clipboards’ stack of applications.

Bridgewater recalled that in the late 1990s, the city of Oakland and the parole division decided to collaborate in bringing more services to this susceptible population.

According to Bridgewater, this was an innovation in the state. “We had never seen such a thing before,” he said.

Today, every state parole district runs a Parole and Community Team meeting.

With the rate of recidivism evident from the audience, one could question how much benefit the PACT meetings bring to this population.

But Bridgewater wonders what the prison population would be like without the PACT meetings. He, however, has no statistics describing the relationship between those who attend PACT meetings and those who go back to prison.

But he is sure that “we would see more people going back to prison. If the statistics are that 50 percent are going back then I think we are making some kind of impact. I would hate to see it if these program were not in place. Also, this is one-stop shopping for these folks. They are put in contact with the very people they need to be in contact with.”

Joseph, a parolee who didn’t want to use his family name, was recently released from San Quentin after a six-month stint. In his lifetime he has been incarcerated several times for grand theft auto, possession (of drugs) and possession for sales, and this certainly was not his first PACT meeting. He had in the past tried some programs to prepare him for life outside, but he wasn’t impressed.

After one earlier release he went to a weeklong orientation to prepare him for employment at the Oakland Private Industry Council.

“It was tough sitting through lectures four hours a day,” he said.

He didn’t follow through.

At this particular PACT meeting he signed up for group therapy, counseling and Outside Lane’s truck-driving training.

Two weeks later, Joseph had a trucking job and was delighted. He dismissed any need to engage in the other services he had signed up for.

“I was supposed to do those other services — group therapy and counseling — but once I got the job, that’s all I wanted. I’m just trying to concentrate on getting to work on time,” he said.

Jul 152008

The Oakland Tribune (CA) – July 12, 2008
Author: Francine Brevetti, Oakland Tribune

With the statewide drought upsetting homeowners who cling to their gardens and lawns, the concept of “gray water” irrigation systems is enjoying a kind of revival in interest.

“Whereas we used to get one or two requests a year about gray water before the drought, now we get about one inquiry a day,” said Dick Bennett, water conservation administrator for East Bay Municipal Utility District. EBMUD supplies brochures and guidelines on how to install gray water systems.

The concept, pioneered in part by Oakland’s Greywater Guerrillas a decade ago, has been hampered by the state’s restrictive building codes — but it looks as though the barriers that have prevented easy installation of these systems may be coming down in the near future.

The systems — which use water from sinks, tubs and washing machines to irrigate home landscaping — are touted as a way to keep lawns green and flowers blooming without abusing a scarce resource or inflating water bills.

Greywater Guerrillas launched its first jerry-rigged experiments with gray water in 1999, when the original guerrillas were trying to reduce the water bill for their house of six roommates. The systems and devices have become much more sophisticated since then, said Laura Allen, an educator with Greywater Guerrillas.

Gray water systems channel the used household water (though not from toilets) to irrigation ducts 9 inches below the surface of a home’s lawn or garden. Advocates say it’s a practical use of water that otherwise would go into the sewer system, and therefore an expedient means of conservation. And conservation is important as water becomes an increasingly valued resource, proponents say.

“Our water bill is going to be like our oil bill in the future,” said John Russell, a landscape designer who heads WaterSprout, an Oakland company that specializes in residential and commercial irrigation, including gray water systems.

However, the building codes in California — and every state except Arizona, for that matter — spell out very restrictive (translation: expensive) specifications for gray water systems. So most people who install them have been skirting the law and installing the systems without permits.

“Today, there are hundreds of non-permitted gray water systems in the Bay Area, but only a handful of legal ones,” Allen said. Still, there is no evidence inspectors are shutting these projects down, she said.

Russell, however, is trying to convince his clients to install such systems legally because he said he’s trying to gain acceptance for the concept and legitimize the process. So far he has installed four permitted systems. He does not install non-permitted systems, he said.

Larry and Tam Gray of Berkeley are among Russell’s clients. They recently had a system installed in their new home’s front and back yards. The Grays are proud their house is the second permitted gray water system in Berkeley, they said.

Depending on the size and slope of the property, Russell said, a permitted system can cost $4,000 to $6,000 more than the cost of a typical irrigation system, including permitting and plumbing. Depending on the property, the lowest a basic irrigation system costs $8,000 to $9,000, he said.

Non-permitted systems, on the other hand, cost only hundreds of dollars, advocates said.

According to Russell, a family of four consumes about 36,000 gallons of gray water a year on average. “Since gray water accounts for 75 percent of total household usage,” he added, “you can expect your water bill to drop at once.”

No businesses are known to use gray water. Some of them, however, use reclaimed water from waste treatment plants and recycle it into their cooling towers when and if they need to cool overheated tools or equipment, EBMUD’s Bennett said. Official objections to the gray water method of irrigation for houses have stemmed from fears of its being unhygienic — fears that Allen and Russell called baseless.

“As long as the edible parts of the plant are above ground, there should be no problem,” Russell said.

So that would mean the systems should not be used to water root plants — carrots and potatoes, for instance — or at least no there should be no contact between the edible part and the gray water tubing.

Recently there’s been a considerable push from activists, environmentalists and real estate developers to change legislation to allow more relaxed standards for gray water systems. The state Senate and Assembly have both passed legislation to this effect and their versions need only to be harmonized in order to be ratified.

“The Department of Housing and Community Development will give another look at standards and see if they have to be relaxed,” said Carrie Cornwell, chief consultant for the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee.

This takes time, of course.

“The guerrilla gray water movement in the Bay Area will not be legalized in a year,” Cornwell cautioned. In two years then?

“Perhaps,” she said.

For more information, contact Dick Bennett, water conservation administrator for East Bay Municipal Utility District, at 510-287-0597.

Jul 122008

The Oakland Tribune (CA) – Saturday, July 12, 2008
Author: Francine Brevetti, Oakland Tribune

Tracey Friley insists she’s not running a T-shirt business. Rather, she says, she’s promoting a movement.

Friley, who runs a retail shop called Oo La La in downtown Oakland, has started a new venture called One Brown Girl.

One Brown Girl’s first product is a T-shirt, which is available at and in her boutique at 17th and Franklin streets.

Friley’s T-shirts are tailored to support what she sees as a growing sense of solidarity among women of color throughout the world.

And that means not just African Americans, but Asians, Polynesians, Latinas, American Indians and others. She stresses that she doesn’t “want to give people the impression that this is just a black thing.”

The purpose of her brand and the Web site is to celebrate cultural diversity and the “strong self-image among brown girls around the world,” she said.

While One Brown Girl is not meant to exclude anybody, neither is it just about skin color, she said.

“It’s about culture identity and pride,” Friley said. “For me to be OK about myself is OK. White people may brand us as racist. Anytime you do something that relates to a culture or race, you’re going to get a lot of reactions.”

Friley, 46, originally from Los Angeles, is multiracial.

The vibrant T-shirts are sold in retail outlets at prices ranging from $28 to $48.50, yet Oo La La is the exclusive outlet in the Bay Area. Several Southern California retailers offer her products, as do some university book shops. Friley plans additional products under the brand name. Her marketing campaign is already carefully plotted out.

The Web Site’s stick figure cartoon, One Brown Girl, will begin a series of adventures in the next month on the Web site. OBG will travel the world and each episode will feature a new product sporting the brand name. For the first installment, consumers can look forward to an OBG journal.

In May, Friley won first prize for her “elevator pitch” — a contest to interest investors in her business — at the Black Enterprise Magazine Entrepreneurship Conference in Charlotte, N.C. One of the prizes was the opportunity to go to New York and present her pitch again during a competition sponsored by MSNBC.

She asked two judges for $250,000 to make her Web site interactive. While Simon Sinek, chief executive officer of Sinek Corp., and Ken Yancey, CEO of the Score Corp., were enthusiastic and supportive, Friley did not receive the financial infusion she had hoped.

Still, Friley keeps marketing. She advertises in Essence and Latina magazines. She takes her show on the road to spread the brand message by selling T’s at targeted events such as jazz festivals, expos and events at black colleges and universities throughout the summer.

But she is confident her product and brand concept are viable. She has a wholesale request that she has to stretch to fill and has just hired two new staff members to help her.

Information: Learn more about One Brown Girl at Oo La La is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at 386 17th St., Oakland. Call (310) 621-3783 or visit for information.

Jul 122008

The Oakland Tribune (CA) – Saturday, July 12, 2008
Author: Francine Brevetti, Oakland Tribune

A core group of prisoners inside San Quentin helps prepare fellow inmates for life on the outside so they don’t return to prison.

Dozens of programs funded by nonprofits exist in San Quentin. Professionals and volunteers journey regularly to the penitentiary and work in tandem with these motivated inmates to do their good work. Many of the inmates active in these programs as mentors have been sentenced to life without parole or are in for very lengthy terms.

“The inmates who mentor prisoners on how to come to terms with their negative behavior and how to negotiate a transformation have actually traveled that path,” said Denise Banister, executive assistant for No More Tears, an all-volunteer, in-prison program that hooks inmates up with inmate mentors. “When inmates hear a man who is serving a life sentence has still taken responsibility for his behavior and has transformed his life, that transforms their lives.”

One day recently within the walls of San Quentin a group of lifers representing No More Tears and a similar program, Project Choice, talked with a visitor about the challenges of preparing inmates for a normal life outside.

“As lifers, we offer our knowledge to the individuals being released — individuals returning time after time and individuals who have entered the system for the first time,” said Lonnie Morris, a member of No More Tears. “We dissect the information and life lessons we have gained from our own lives and offer them in ongoing workshops to change their behavior before they are released. It’s like a ‘reach one, teach one’ concept, but the lessons are learned from all of our experiences collectively.”

No More Tears offers a five-week course preparing inmates for release, including such practical tasks as preparing a job resume and presenting oneself for a job interview.

“When these guys get out, some of them have never had a job before,” Morris said. “Some of them have had jobs for short amounts of time because they’ve been in and out of prison on parole violations. Getting a job is an issue, but the biggest thing is holding on to that job once you have got it.”

No More Tears — which says its mission is to curb violence by using the specialized knowledge and experience of former perpetrators — prepares inmates for conflict resolution with role-playing and skits. Community volunteers may critique their performance and from that judge their employability.

Darnell Hill, a facilitator of Project Choice, says the aim of that organization is to “get a person to reflect and identify what their thinking errors are that led to criminal behavior.”

Project Choice is run by the city of Oakland, which is home to about 3,000 parolees, according to the Project Choice Web site. The project is available to Oakland residents, both San Quentin inmates and the California Youth Authority, and offers counseling and case management to help offenders transition back into society.

Banister, who has volunteered at the prison for four years, said there is a waiting list for both programs. “Prisoners seek transfers to San Quentin because programs like this are offered here,” she said.

No More Tears member Jerry Elster, who said he’s a former gang member from Los Angeles, said the group focuses on transforming violent responses, because most of the inmates will go back to their communities.

“A lot of these men are fathers and grandfathers,” Elser said. “If we just abandon our communities, then what good are we really doing? We have to deactivate the mine fields we set out there.”

Information: No More Tears is seeking volunteers and donations. For information, visit or call 510-478-2958. For information on Project Choice, contact Oakland’s Department of Human Services at 510-238-6393.

Mar 292008

Oakland Tribune – March 2008

On a Friday in February, Theo Earle Frazier worked on a stack of containers atop the deck of the APL China, a 66,300-dead-weight-ton vessel docked at Terminal 62 at the Port of Oakland.

Frazier is a longshore worker. It’s a job many people seem to covet, but it is a hard one to land and it takes years to make a living at it full-time.

Frazier figures he was among 20,000 people lined up on a near-riotous day in 1996 when the PMA — the Pacific Maritime Association, which employs longshoremen — was accepting applications for new workers. The response was so overwhelming that the PMA had to call a halt to the application procedure, Frazier recalled.

He was already in his 50s on that day in 1996. Frazier, now 64, wanted the longshore work to supplement his income. An ordained Pentecostal minister with seven children and four grandchildren, the extra job was important to him.

The wages are good: Beginning longshoremen earn about $22 an hour, according to the PMA wage scale, while experienced workers — those with 4,000 hours of service or more — can take home $30 an hour. Overtime can boost hourly pay to $50.

Still, longshore work is spotty. Approved workers may wait days at the union hall before they are called to the port for a job.

And the work is very dangerous. In 2007, twoworkers died in accidents at the Port of Oakland — a risk Frazier knows too well: His stepfather, also a longshoreman, was killed in 1973 when he was hit by a container and knocked off a ship.

Regardless, Frazier was willing to wait for his chance to work at the port.

It was seven years before he heard from the PMA again.

“I thought they had forgotten about me,” he said.

PMA contacted him in 2003, and Frazier is now a member of Local 10 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

Frazier works two to three days a week when vessels dock at ports in Oakland, San Francisco, Benicia or Richmond.

Frazier, like other union members, works an eight-hour day when he’s called for duty. He averages about $250 a day.

But there are plenty of opportunities for overtime. If more than one vessel is in port at one time, Frazier said, there may be the chance to work a double shift, or a night shift, which pays an extra $100 on top of the regular hourly wage.

Dock work is Frazier’s only paid employment, but he’s an active volunteer in the Businessmen’s Fellowship, the Faith-based Coalition and the Black Americans Political Association. Plus, he works in the Voice of Pentecost Christian Church in San Francisco, where he is an ordained minister.

On that day in February, Frazier, who lives in San Francisco, reported at 6 a.m. at the dome-shaped ILWU union hall near San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf. He waited with about 200 other union members for his number to be called for an assignment.

Frazier was among the last few workers waiting in the union hall when he was called at 7 a.m. and assigned to the task of lashing containers. Then he drove to Oakland to be ready for an 8 a.m. shift at APL’s Terminal 62.

Heavy lifting

A longshore worker, or stevedore, loads and unloads cargo from ships and transports that cargo around the dock area. He or she (yes, there are female longshore workers) must also be able to operate the forklifts and tractors that transport cargo on the terminal. In ports that welcome cruise traffic, longshoremen also haul luggage on board and off.

A dock is not a serene place. Swarming with noisy, rolling, large machinery, terminals are perilous places to lose your focus.

Gus Fashanu is APL’s safety manager on Terminal 62. He keeps order on the dock by walking around.

“I don’t feel comfortable with you not wearing your safety vest,” he tells one colleague, referring to the bright yellow vest that makes a worker easily visible on the docks.

“A lot of people get complacent about safety,” Fashanu says later, “so I go about walking around making sure people are putting safety first before production.”

On that day, Fashanu was especially alert because two ships were at Terminal 62, and each required 22 tractor drivers and a crew of 60 people to offload their cargo. Fashanu enforced speed regulations and traffic patterns on the terminal teeming with trucks, tractors and pedestrians.

Containers — those 20-foot- or 40-foot-long boxes in which cargo is sent by sea — stack as high as nine layers on container ships (counting from below the hold). They can tower six-containers high above deck — about the height of a 10-story building — but no more than that, or else the captain can’t see beyond the bridge.

On this day, Frazier is assigned to the APL China, a vessel with the capacity to hold 5,000, 20-foot-long containers — still not the largest around today.

The loading and unloading process is fraught with peril, as cranes some 300 feet in the air are manipulated by an operator sitting in a cab at 124 feet. The operator instructs the crane to lift containers, weighing up to a ton, high into the air, where they are suspended above workers’ heads before they are lowered to the dock or on deck.

Perilous perch

Each box has to be secured to the ones above and below it and to the vessel. This requires tools called a cone, a lashing rod and turnbuckle. The cone, which bears absolutely no resemblance to a geometrical cone, varies in shape and can range from 1 pound to 10 pounds. Cones are attached to each corner of the container to help secure the containers to each other.

Once onboard the ship, the longshore worker must release the container to be unloaded. To do this, the workers must first remove the lashing rods to unlock the cones from the containers. These hefty rods can vary in length and can weigh from 20 pounds to 50 pounds.

After the lashing rods are removed, the crane clamps onto the container from above and hoists it away.

Throughout it all, the worker is maneuvering on a catwalk between stacks of boxes, or standing on the perimeter near the side of a ship, with a drop of several stories to the water below, depending on how much the ship is loaded.

“There’s the sea on one side and the dock below,” Frazier said.

Neither is a good place to fall.

To load a container on a ship, the worker follows a reverse process: The longshore worker wields a heavy steel rod that he locks in place diagonally across the end of the box. With a device called a turnbuckle, weighing about 40 pounds, he screws the rod tightly to attach the box to the vessel.

Wielding a turnbuckle requires significant muscle, all while the worker is balancing on a narrow catwalk that runs between the stacked boxes.

Dangerous work

Such strenuous activity may appeal to those who enjoy exerting themselves in the open air and being exposed to the elements.

But Frazier notes, “If you’re at the end of the ship facing the rain, or a gust of wind is in your face, and you’re holding a rod, you have to be prepared to let it go.”

That is, release it to the wind and the water rather than risk being swept away.

Indeed, the work can be dangerous.

Between 1997 and 2007, according to union records, 26 West Coast workers died at their jobs, including eight in Northern California.

The Port of Oakland lost two in 2007. Reginald Ross, 39, of San Francisco, was lashing a container Sept. 24 and was killed as it was lowered into place, and Edward Hall, 47, also of San Francisco, was struck and killed Dec. 3 by a tractor-trailer.

Still, Frazier said, deaths don’t tell the entire story.

“Near misses don’t count,” he said. “And we have daily constant near misses that require us to be alert and cautious all the time.”

Last year, he said, a colleague lost a hand when a container was dropped as he reached out to align it to the chassis of a tractor. His wife, also a longshore worker, was injured in a separate accident the same year, Frazier said.

Survival, Frazier said, is not so much a question of strength as one of balance, self-control and alertness.

Frazier said some of his colleagues celebrate at the end of their shifts just to have made it through the day.

Mar 292008

Oakland Tribune – March 2008

Longshore worker jobs are extremely tough to land at the Port of Oakland, and it’s only going to get tougher with new rules from the Department of Homeland Security, experts predict.

The Pacific Maritime Association — the agency that negotiates labor contracts with terminal operators and steamship companies — has a wait list with 4,300 names for longshore work. Longshoremen may receive calls for work at the ports of San Francisco, Oakland, Richmond or Benicia.

Jobs open up about every few years. PMA meets quarterly with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents longshoremen, to discuss employment needs.

“We discuss whether there are more opportunities for labor based on cargo growth,” said William Bartelson, the PMA area manager for Northern California. “We agreed that we would exhaust that (wait) list before we took in new applications.”

In 2002, the PMA and the union negotiated a six-year agreement that expires this year. Bartelson said the two sides can agree to extend the list or create a new one when the current agreement expires. However, since more than 4,000 people have been on the list for years, neither option seems likely.

“No one can get ahead of the line,” Bartelson said.

When jobs do open up, an applicant has to take tests for strength, balance and agility. At every level of advancement, the worker must pass drug and alcohol examinations and safety training.

Local 10 represents 1,402 longshoremen at the four seaports, 239 lead clerks (who check the records of containers as they come on and off the vessels), and 85 walking bosses (foremen).

Jo-Ann Yoshioka George, supervisor of Employment Resources Development at the Port of Oakland, screens applicants for jobs at the port and for its many tenants. The Port of Oakland does not employ longshoremen, yet job seekers still call her about such positions.

“Everybody wants to be a longshoreman because they hear about the good pay and these jobs don’t require a high school diploma,” she said.

Under the 2007-2008 wage scale, available at, beginners earn $22.11 an hour while those with 4,000 or more hours of service earn $30.68 an hour. Overtime pay can significantly enhance these amounts.

These jobs have rarely required background checks, George said, making them attractive to ex-offenders and those with criminal records.

However, that will change this year under Department of Homeland Security rules to protect access to ports. The Maritime Security Act requires background checks for any worker who has access to secured areas of regulated ports. Workers must also enroll for biometric identification cards, the so-called Transportation Workers Identification Credential, or TWIC.

These procedures will exclude people with certain felonies who previously found jobs as longshore workers. The TWIC program is targeting terrorists, and specifically those who have been convicted of espionage, sedition, treason, or any crime involving transportation security or conspiracy to commit any of those crimes. Also anyone involved in extortion, immigration violations, rape and arson will be disqualified for port work for seven years after conviction or for five years after release.

“TWIC will definitely affect us,” Bartelson said. “There will be an appeals process and some longshoremen will be denied cards. Labor is probably duly concerned.”

Mar 202008
The Oakland Tribune (CA) – Thursday, March 20, 2008
Author: Francine Brevetti, STAFF WRITER

In an effort to reduce diesel particulates from truck emissions, the Oakland Board of Port Commissioners voted Tuesday to levy fees on containers passing through the port.

The board did not, however, set the fee amount, or say when it would be imposed. Port staff will study those issues and report back to the board in June.

The new policy is meant to generate $520 million over the next several years to reduce air pollution around the port and to fall in line with California’s stated goal to reduce health risks around ports by 85 percent.

The container fees the Oakland port hopes to raise will provide the funding to retrofit older trucks and replace others. It also will fund a mechanism to reduce the emissions from vessels idling while they are harborside. Truck drivers who want to apply for funds to retrofit or have their equipment replaced must apply to the port of Oakland by March 25.

But the commissioners circumvented a hot-button issue by relegating to future study its proposal that truck drivers who are independent contractors be employed by truck holding companies.

Omar Benjamin, executive director of the port, acknowledged the health risks to the local community of particulate matter at the seaport. He said the port’s goal was to decrease that risk, per state goals, by the year 2020.

At least part of the impetus of the Port of Oakland’s commission decision was the opportunity to receive a disbursement from state bond measure Proposition 1B, which requires matching funding. The port is eligible for $20 million from the measure, but it must first come up with $30 million in matching funds by March 31.

The port will hold a community meeting at 7 p.m. next Tuesday at the West Oakland Senior Center, 1724 Adeline St., to explain requirements of the retrofit and vehicle replacement programs. The port will hold a public forum in the spring to consider the ramifications of truckers entering the employ of trucking companies. The date is yet to be announced.

Last year, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach also introduced container fees, much to the displeasure of the shippers and retailers who must pay them. The $35 fee for every 20-foot container helps fund the ports’ $2 billion Clean Trucks Program.

But Erik Autor, vice president of the National Retail Federation’s international trade council, said legal challenges are likely to stop the ports from collecting the fees.