Seven Days

Need to buy a cubicle? Just call Webvan.

Richmond vs. Bush: The future looks bright for a lawsuit by the city of Richmond which attempts to reverse an executive decision by President George Bush banning so-called “project labor agreements” on all federally funded projects. A kind of insurance policy against labor strife on particularly lengthy and expensive projects, PLAs prescribe the hours, pay, and working conditions for all workers; contractors who then bid on the projects, union or not, must agree to those parameters.

Richmond has two big projects coming down the pipeline for which it would like to negotiate PLAs; one is the transit village near the Richmond BART station and the other is the renovation of the old Ford assembly plant on the waterfront. Officials were pleased to learn that a judge in Maryland has issued a decision in a similar suit brought by the AFL-CIO; that ruling will allow Maryland to renovate its Woodrow Wilson Bridge under the protection of a PLA. Contra Costa Building and Construction Trades Council executive director Greg Feere is convinced that it’s just a matter of time before the judge in the Richmond case follows suit. “It sets a real good precedent,” Feere says. “It’s a first step toward totally turning over the executive order. It was definitely a major, major victory.”

Right where we want him: In other presidential news, the last time we saw George Bush v.2, he was seven inches tall, made of cardboard, and peeking out of our pocket. Introducing the Pocket President, a punchout paper image of W — arms slightly splayed, looking like he is about to burst into a fit of giggles — that you can carry with you everywhere. “Want an enormous tax cut for the wealthy? Need a pesky environmental regulation indefinitely reviewed?’ Are your Big Oil buddies clamoring for a fake energy crisis?” ask the Pocket President press materials. “When you have the president in your pocket, there’s almost nothing you can’t do! Just punch him out and instantly feel the power. Big time!” For more information, as well as shots of the Pocket President “in action” check out (Caution: We do not recommend putting the Pocket President in your rear pants pocket, as his head is kind of pointy and will jab right into your spine. Big time!)
Food Fight: Genetically engineered foods get plenty of bad press here in the East Bay, but here’s some news that may resonate even with the folks back home. Oakland-based progressive think-tank Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy has released a report on GE crops demonstrating that the modified foodstuffs are not only environmentally risky but raise costs for farmers and consumers alike. And here’s the kicker: These new foods may not even deliver on the many promises made by the biotech companies pushing their inventions. You’ve probably seen the glossy full-color ads hailing a genetically altered rice that promises to bring health and happiness by providing hungry Third World residents with extra Vitamin A. Not so fast, says Food First spokesman Nick Parker: “One would have to eat fifteen bowls of rice to get the nutritional benefits that are advertised. And if someone is deficient in Vitamin A, they’re probably deficient in many other nutrients. Golden Rice is not a panacea, and technologies like this are not available to poor farmers anyway. What you’re talking about are very expensive technologies that won’t help the poor.”Food First hopes this study will do something to stem what it sees as a tide of misinformation from large biotech companies. “We’re dealing with a huge propaganda campaign that tells us that genetically modified foods will feed the world,” says Parker. “But we’ve always maintained the problem of hunger stems from access to food, and poverty. The fact is, there’s enough food produced in the world right now to feed everybody. What these food companies are doing in pushing genetically engineered foods is really pushing for greater control over the whole agricultural industry worldwide.”

Anyone want to buy a cubicle? Bankrupt e-tailer Webvan, which operated a gigantic high-tech warehouse in East Oakland, is now in the process of liquidating its assets. Thanks to a Web site designed to showcase the company’s remaining office gear for potential buyers (, you can take a peek at the snazzy modular workstations, exercise equipment, and computer systems left over from a time when the NASDAQ was hot. Our favorite is a Playskool-esque office cubicle done in Webvan’s trademark green and blue, which features a tiny conference table and a sliding door (with a window!) for each inhabitant.Meanwhile, you may find the rest of Webvan’s assets showing up on the shelves at your local grocery store — Grocery Outlet, the Berkeley-based closeout and surplus food retailer, acquired all of Webvan’s remaining consumables and health and beauty products. Yes, folks, that means they’re reselling the famous blue, green, and yellow Webvan totes. However, you’ll have to buy your own refrigerated truck somewhere else.

Free for all: We here at 7 Days remember what happened when the new Gap in downtown Oakland offered free mugs on opening day — the store was mobbed with demanding residents — and we thought downtown merchants had learned their lesson (in downtown Oakland, unlike Gap’s average suburban digs, freebies are a rarity). But it turns out that hope springs eternal: City Center merchants plan to host “Good Neighbor Day” today, September 5, starting at noon. Festivities include free roses, cookies, and little fruit-shaped squeezable stress toys. We know you want some! Hurry on down — the handouts are only available “while supplies last.”

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