by Tim Paulson, Secretary-Treasurer
San Francisco Building & Construction Trades Council
On Labor Day, more than 50 rank and file workers and union representatives (including me) got arrested in front of Marriott’s Westin St. Francis hotel. We sat down on the cable car tracks on Powell Street to support Unite Here Local 2 workers. These hotel workers have been on strike and walking pickets lines outside seven hotels ever since. Their unity and diligent solidarity to stay out this long is amazing. They are fighting for living wages, maintenance of health care benefits and guarantees that Marriott won’t outsource their jobs. And don’t forget that Local 2 negotiated a building trades clause in the current contract that stipulated all tenant improvement work over $2000 would be done by unionized construction trades workers.
I am also really proud of the building and construction trades men and women who have honored these picket lines over the last few weeks. I am getting angry calls about remodeling and construction work that isn’t getting done. Member’s actions count. Solidarity works; San Francisco is a union town and we are showing it!
The theme of this strike - which has been going on in eight cities - is: “One Job Should Be Enough!” That should be a given for those of us in the Building Trades who fight for good wages and benefits at our own bargaining tables.
In addition, thank you to the building trades unions for contributing to Local 2’s strike fund.
We also showed great unity for getting out the vote this November 6th. Every building trades endorsed Supervisor candidate won his or her race: Catherine Stefani, Gordon Mar, Matt Haney, Rafael Mandelman and Shamann Walton. We won because our members walked precincts, made phone calls and sent out slate cards and letters informing members about commitments from these candidates to support our issues. When workers stand together we win.
And we contributed to defeating Proposition 6 by an unprecedented 4-1 margin here in San Francisco. Many infrastructure jobs would have ground to a stop if this attack on the building trades was successful. Voting has consequences.
On the national level, California contributed to flipping a bunch of anti-union Congressional seats. Many of you in San Francisco and the Bay area made calls into the San Joaquin Valley and Orange County to get out the vote for labor endorsed Democrats. As of this newspaper’s print deadline, I can state that we have won a few and some are still too close to call. But our voices were heard. Some of you even drove to Turlock and Modesto to walk with our union brothers and sisters in the Valley. Congress is now in the hands of a different pro worker majority who will fight for Social Security, Medicare and prevailing wages. Thank you! (And we hope that our very own Nancy Pelosi becomes our Speaker again.)
On the legislative side, the Building Trades and the Labor Council have been working to achieve a Citywide Project Labor Agreement as well as increasing the Living Wage for all workers who rely on City funding to employ their services. This includes airport workers, non-profit workers and In-Home Health Care workers who take care of the disabled and elderly so they can have the dignity to stay in their homes.
These two priorities have been in the limelight for a long time, and we achieved considerable progress in the last few weeks.
Your building trades officers spent many hours in the Mayor’s office and hashed out a PLA deal that achieves our threshold of one million dollars. One thing I need to say: we don’t have as many political friends as we think. But under the leadership of Mayor Breed and Supervisors Ahsha Safai, Aaron Peskin and Sandra Fewer we have a deal for an ordinance that accomplishes our goals.
But this is San Francisco, and until the city attorney finishes the scribbling, the Supervisor votes are finally counted, and the ink placed on the legislation - nothing is officially done. I will keep you informed.
The Minimum Compensation Ordinance (MCO/”living wage”) for private sector workers (mostly at SFO) was passed a few weeks ago and last week the Mayor signed legislation to increase the wages for home care and non-profit workers. The minimum wage in San Francisco is now $15 per hour but the Living Wage is lower. This amended legislation puts them on a path to achieve $17 with cost off living increases. Still not enough to live on, but the labor movement keeps pushing the goalposts. This campaign was accomplished with a coalition of unions: the building trades council, labor council, 4 SEIU unions, Teamsters 856, Unite-Here 2 and community allies.
Some might say that I am talking about more than just building trades interests since I didn’t write this month about ongoing negotiations for Project Labor Agreements (PLA’s) at Pier 70, Park Merced, Mission Rock, India Basin, the School District and other places where we fight for union construction jobs with developers. We do that every day.
Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that though the labor movement is large in scope and with many industries, only 10% of all American workers are covered by a union contract. Reports from the Department of Labor show that our movement is starting to grow again; workers are recognizing the need for a voice at work. And though we are much stronger in San Francisco and California, we need to keep solidarity with all unions because when one of us needs support we need to let others know that we supported them.
The International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) has a well known phrase that we use in San Francisco and the Bay area: “An Injury to One is and Injury to ALL.”