How do we harness the power of billions of dollars of federal climate investments?
Ensure that new jobs are local with family wages, retirement, and health care benefits?
Create career pathways for everyone in our community?
Expand affordable housing?
Ensure we have clean water to drink and clean air to breathe?
The answer to these questions will depend on how successfully we advocate for community benefits from these new federal investments. We can push for more. We have to. Our communities are at stake.
What are community benefit agreements?
To accomplish these ends and build local wealth, we are bringing Appalachians together to advocate for attaching community benefits and labor standards to new economic projects and funding opportunities.
Community Benefits Agreements (also known as CBAs) are legal agreements to get everyone – labor organizations, racial justice groups, environmental entities, faith communities and other local stakeholders – to work together and sign off to ensure the benefits of government dollars are optimized in our communities.
For example–benefits can include commitments to hire directly from a community, contributions to economic trust funds, local workforce training guarantees and more. You can find a list of examples at our materials bank below.
Note that a “Community Benefit Plan” is the process to come up with an official community benefit agreement. Currently the federal Department of Energy is requiring that applicants for certain funding streams include a “Community Benefit Plan” in their applications for certain funding streams. Our summit resources and materials bank include information on how to develop plans that turn into agreements.
You can read a lot more about how Community Benefit Agreements and Policies (CBAs and CBPs) work at our blog post here.
How can I learn more?
In May 2023, ReImagine Appalachia brought together hundreds of people from across Appalachia -virtually- to discuss that question. This event was one of our most successful and inspiring events yet! We had over 300 people register for this landmark event, which was planned by an advisory committee with feedback from several dozen groups across the region.
Below please find a continuously updated repository of community benefits materials so you can see case studies, skills, and tools on how to apply them to your community.
Community Benefits 101 (by Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services)– Learn the basics of CBAs and how they benefit the community in tangible, needed, measurable ways. This is an in depth introduction and includes resources if you would like to learn more.
Introductory blog on CBAs (by ReImagine Appalachia) – Read more about the basics of CBAs and why they are important here.
ReImagine Appalachia Summit Debrief (by ReImagine Appalachia) – This is a fantastic overview of the CBA Summit in May 2023 – there are videos from each session, powerpoints, presentations, and other documents – even if you didn’t attend, by going through these resources and links, you will feel like you were there!
Maximizing value: Ensuring Community Benefits (by Amanda K. Woodrum, Kathleen Mulligan-Hansel, Stephen Herzenberg, Anna McLean) – A white paper via ReImagine Appalachia that overviews how community benefits agreement can create pathways to local prosperity and a thriving economy.
CBA’s in Rural Context: Coal Mine Reclamation (by App Voices and Reclaiming Appalachia Coalition) – Community Benefits Agreements are legally binding contracts between community representatives and a developer, and can empower vulnerable communities to hold the developer accountable and ensure that the development benefits the local community. Coal impacted land remediation can be part of a CBA. While often difficult to incent a developer to finance remediation work, if the project is in the local community’s best interest, the terms of the agreement may include conditions that the locality or developer commit to funding the cleanup.
Community Benefits Agreements: A Potential Negotiating Tool for Rural Communities (by Mountain Association for Community Economic Development) – CBAs can provide meaningful and enriching benefits for communities who are facing large-scale development in their communities: investing in a permanent community fund, prioritizing local workforce hiring, enriching community assets, or mitigating environmental impacts. This paper provides illuminating examples of rural CBAs in action.
Community Benefits Agreements (by Julian Gross. Chapter in Building Healthy Communities: A Guide to Community Economic Development for Advocates, Lawyers, and Policymakers; a publication of the Forum on Affordable Housing & Community Development of the American Bar Association 2009) – Read this chapter for an overview of the CBA approach. In addition, this chapter describes several legal and political issues that may arise when writing and implementing a CBA, as well as varying roles for public and private actors.
Community Framework Benefits for Success (by Partnership for Working Families)
PowerSwitch Action (by PowerSwitch Action) – PowerSwitch is a network of 21 grassroots affiliates that weave strategic alliances and alignments amongst labor, neighborhood, housing, racial justice, faith, ethnic-based, and environmental organizations. Their work is grounded in breaking the interlocking chains of oppression and replacing them with systems built for human dignity and authentic democracy. They have a detailed overview of CBAs, including a long list of examples.
Community Benefits, Step-by-Step
Action Tank CBA Toolkit (by Action Tank Cincinnati) – This is an incredible resource created by Action Tank Cincinnati that introduces users to CBAs, their benefits, and when to use them. It then outlines a step-by-step guide to creating and utilizing a CBA in user’s own communities.
Emerald Cities Justice40 Playbook (by Emerald Cities) – This playbook offers frontline groups and community organizations guidance for developing a People’s Justice40+ Community Benefit Plan (CBP). The goal of Justice40+ is to ensure that federal infrastructure and climate investments significantly benefit the communities that need them most. This playbook will answer a range of questions about various federal spending bills.
ReImagine Your Community Toolkit (by ReImagine Appalachia, the League of Women Voters Pennsylvania, ReImagine Beaver County) – For phase one, visioning, this toolkit provides hands-on guidance on how faith communities can vision, and, in time, implement sustainable development projects in their neighborhood, town, county, or region. This toolkit is a project of ReImagine Appalachia’s Faith in Action team and the League of Women Voters in Pennsylvania.
BlueGreen Alliance Checklist for Federal Funding Applications (by BlueGreen Alliance) – The Inflation Reduction Act, Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), and CHIPS and Science Act hold incredible transformational potential in the Appalachian region. This checklist outlines and supports the consistent use of the application criteria for Workforce, Worker Rights and Protections, Engaging and Targeting Investments to Communities and Workers, Reducing Emissions and Ensuring Environmental Justice, and Reinvesting in U.S. Manufacturing.
Fair Shake’s Community Democracy River is a “choose your own adventure” website to find levers to move vision to action.
Example Worksheet – This document has basic definition of community benefits along with a summary of many community benefit agreements from across the country to help you get a sense of what’s been done and what’s possible.
Here are some other examples CBA’s that you may find useful. ReImagine was not involved in these and merely sharing for informational and educational purposes.
Nashville, TN 2018 – A coalition called Stand Up Nashville successfully advocated for this CBA in connection with a soccer stadium development project. The CBA includes, among other things, commitments on jobs that pay a living wage, hiring priorities, affordable housing, and a childcare center.
Silicon Valley, CA 2016 – This CBA, associated with an office expansion, is between Facebook and a coalition of community groups. In this agreement, Facebook made an almost $20 million commitment to affordable housing in the area, which led to an additional $60 million in other donor commitments.
Pittsburgh, PA 2014 – This redevelopment project was one of the most transformative development projects in the Southwestern Pennsylvania region, and the project utilized a CBA. However, the building trades were not party to the negotiation of this CBA; partly for that reason, the local/community hiring section was too general and did not ensure hiring local community members into union construction jobs.
Los Angeles, CA 2001 – Largely viewed as a model for other CBAs, this CBA was negotiated by a coalition of over 20 organizations who negotiated about $150 million in commitments from the developer, including for housing, parks, and hiring priorities.
Fremont, CA 2015 – This is a CBA for a mixed use development project consisting of 2,214 residential units and commercial development. The CBA includes public benefits including the construction of a new TK-5/6 public elementary school and adjacent Urban Park, dedicated land for an Affordable Housing Component, and the creation of a trust for job training purposes.
Los Angeles, CA 2011 – Agreed upon by Palmer/Flower Street Properties and 11 organizations within a Coalition Organization, this CBA was negotiated for a development project and includes the construction of a Designated Health and Wellness Space by Palmer and support for the overarching project from the Coalition Organizations.
San Francisco, CA 2008 – This CBA was negotiated between a California developer, Lennar Communities, and a California limited liability company, Lennar BVHP, and an unincorporated association maintaining nonprofit status, San Francisco Labor Labor Council. The CBA outlines many detailed agreements such as designated Affordable Housing Units and the creation, funding of the Community First Housing Fund to assist qualifying residents purchase of market-rate units, and a living wage requirement.
Seattle, WA 2008 – This CBA is between Puget Sound Sage, the Vietnamese American Chamber of Commerce, the Jackson Place Community Council, Hod Carriers, and General Laborers Union Local 242 referred to as Community Organizations, and Developers in regards to a new retail development project. The Community Organizations had planned to oppose the project, but in an effort to resolve their disagreement the two parties came together and negotiated a CBA.
San Diego, CA 2005 – The purpose of this CBA is to provide a concerted and coordinated effort on the part of the Developer and a A Community Coalition for Responsible Development (ACCORD) to maximize community benefits of the Ballpark Village Project. The CBA outlined numerous community benefits such as quality jobs with healthcare benefits for workers, affordable housing created for working families and residents in surrounding communities, and environmentally-sensitive construction and design.
Los Angeles, CA 2005 – This Community Benefits Agreement set forth (1) a range of community benefits and impact mitigations that will be provided by the Los Angeles World Airports as part of the LAX Master Plan Program, and (2) an ongoing role for the LAX Coalition in implementation and oversight of these benefits and mitigations. The agreement includes residential noise mitigation, Suspension of Avigation Easement, job training and first source hiring, and living wage, worker retention, and contractor responsibility, among other agreements.
Los Angeles, CA 2004 – The Hollywood and Vine Mixed-Use Development Project CBA included a detailed living wage program and first source hiring policy, significant financial backing for job training throughout the duration of the project, healthcare outreach, and a legal agreement about CBA implementation.
Los Angeles, CA 2003 – The Marlton Square’s Development Project CBA detailed agreements such as at least 1.8 acres at the Site for a facility to be used for community services, a first source hiring program, responsible contracting in accordance with city ordinances, a living wage policy, and an implementation strategy.
Los Angeles, CA 2001 – The Community Benefits Plan for the SunQuest Industrial Park Project, agreed upon by the Valley Jobs Coalition and SunQuest Development, LLC, agreed upon traffic management, access and reviewal of the project design plans, significant financial support of a neighborhood improvement fund (i.e. new sidewalks, new street lights, improved storm drains, and new bus shelters), a public art fund for seven public schools, facilities for a youth center, and a living wage, among other agreements.
Los Angeles, CA 2001 – This CBA served to maximize community involvement in the planning, development and use of area resources to ensure that low-income individuals residing in the Valley Community benefit from the Development. Agreements included an on-site child care center, job training and first source hiring programs, and a living wage policy, among other agreements.
Cincinnati, OH 2017 – Using the local purchasing power enabled by the State of Ohio’s Community Choice Aggregation policy, the City of Cincinnati issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a 25-MegaWatt solar project in order to help meet the electricity demands of the City Cincinnati, its small businesses and its residents, while moving closer to the City’s goal of becoming 100% renewable by 2035 and avoiding energy cost increases for the city.
Oakland, CA 2012 – The Oakland Army Base is an ongoing redevelopment project to convert the decommissioned Army Base into a warehouse and logistics center for the Port of Oakland.
PowerSwitch List of Examples – You can find another list of examples at this site.
Do Community Benefits Agreements Benefit Communities?
This Article places focus back on CBAs as private contracts enforceable by inclusive and representative community coalitions. Edward De Barbieri. Cardozo Law Review, Vol. 37, June 2016; Brooklyn Law School, Legal Studies Paper No. 462 (2016).
Community Benefits Agreements
This toolkit describes implementation of the landmark CBA for the Staples development in Los Angeles; an appendix listing past CBAs; an appendix describing some current community benefits campaigns; and several sections on legal issues, community benefits, victories, and new approaches. Making Development Projects Accountable, Julian Gross, with Greg LeRoy and Madeline Janis-Aparicio (2005).
Common Challenges in Negotiating Community Benefits Agreements & How to Avoid Them January 2016
This guide is designed for individuals and organizations interested in moving community benefits campaigns forward in their communities. The guide includes detailed checklists, case studies on ineffective and harmful CBA practices, charts breaking down and comparing the elements of strong and weak CBAs, principles for effective CBAs, indicators of potentially weak CBAs, and other resources designed to help you with your community benefits campaigns. Partnership for Working Families and Community Benefits Law Center (2016).
Equitable Development Rubric
Peaslee Neighborhood Center.