OAKLAND (KPIX 5) – Companies that want to do business with the City of Oakland will have to look back into their past, following a decision by the City Council this week.
The council revived an ordinance approved by members of the council 15 years ago, requiring companies that have historical ties to slavery to disclose them.
Supporters believe this would make companies more transparent about their past. Critics say this is nothing new, but rather an attempt to transfer money from one group to another.
An initial search by the Oakland City Attorney’s Office identified companies such as Wells Fargo, Bank of America and J.P. Morgan Chase, along with six other businesses that provide services to the city of Oakland, may have to research and then disclose any historical ties to slavery they may find under the resolution.
“They have to sign an affidavit, under penalty of perjury, they searched records and if they found evidence they profited from slavery they would have to sign, under penalty of perjury,” said Oakland Chief Assistant City Attorney Maria Bee.
The resolution also requires the city administrator to create guidelines for a fund, which companies with ties to slavery, could contribute to voluntarily, helping Oakland’s poorest neighborhoods.
“Without a step-by-step plan, how will it be implemented, who’s going to be targeting, who will be the recipient, I don’t think it’s going to work,” said political commentator Richie Greenberg.
“It recognizes the legacies of slavery are ongoing,” said Bee.
According to a memo from Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker’s to the council, companies that provide insurance or financial services to the city and others would be subject to the ordinance.
Bee said it will “foster transparency.”
“It promotes healing and it also takes one step and remedies the effects of this legacy of enslavement,” said Bee.
“There would be more identified resentment if they find companies that have ties to slavery 170 years ago,” said Greenberg.
The resolution also requires the City Administrator to prepare an affidavit form immediately for contractors and have it sent to them by the end of the year.
According to the City Attorney’s memo, there’s no public record of companies complying or forms to fill out after the ordinance was originally passed in 2005.
That affidavit also has to be completed by companies before entering new contracts with the city of Oakland.
In her letter to the city council, Parker said her office reached out to the city administrator and says the administrator’s office is on board to implement this revived ordinance.