In San Francisco, we turn on the heat when it dips below 50 degrees, and you’d think we were at the North Pole. It also means I get to wear my heavy Bricklayers Local 3 rust colored Carhartt jacket to stay toasty. Besides the BAC 3 logo with trowels, it has a “Helmets to Hard Hats” patch and the American flag: Union, patriotic and inclusive. I’ve usually worn a suit to work, but with COVID and all the craziness of 2020, many of us have let our wardrobe and hair down as we do our work on Zoom and Google calls and our reliable cell phones to fight for our members. Except for our families, we rarely meet in person.
But we are proud that construction work is deemed “necessary work” even during this latest lockdown. We have avoided the unfortunate economic hurt that hotel and restaurant workers are enduring. The Building Trades Council advocated for keeping our work going because we enforce safety and monitor our jobs, and have a Voice at Work by engaging hardworking health professionals and elected public officials to try to keep our City and country safe.
(Wear your damn masks!)
This will be my last “column” before I retire next year, so my wishing you a Happy New Year in 2021 has a larger burden and weight than recent years. But there is Hope.
America has been divided into too many stupid pieces by the politicians and pundits: the rightwing anti-worker business types who have stolen the moderate Republican Party and allow for unadulterated Wall Street greed; the useless bipartisan compromisers in both parties who exhibit no leadership and never win anything by thinking that “if we just get along everything will be ok…” zzzzzzz; the ideological well-meaning lefties who think that the revolution is just a couple weeks away and fill the airwaves with rhetoric for “peoples’ rights.” Those are usually my “feelings,” but there have to be more adults in the room. Trashing Nancy Pelosi is like training people to stop eating. Even in San Francisco with a spirited, intelligent opposition, Senator Scott Weiner easily won re-election — without the labor movement’s support.
With the new Biden-Harris administration, we hopefully have a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that stops ruling with the bosses against workers’ rights. The new head of the United States Postal Service won’t be a man who wants to destroy this needed institution. We in the labor movement are quibbling over who Biden will pick to run the Department of Labor (hope that stops and doesn’t make us look stupid), but the values of advocacy and protections will change radically no matter who is picked.
And we hope that our national purpose – that made us the wonder of the modern world – though not always our legacy – make all residents and students and immigrants safe and welcome, stops separating children from their parents, takes a compassionate turn toward honoring civil rights, overturning racist policies, stops calling entire groups of people rapists and criminals, pays emergency attention to public health by overturning the incompetence that has allowed tens of thousands of Americans die from the pandemic.
I must stop soon, so I don’t start to bore you with my passion. My publisher gives me a maximum word count…
(The New York Times long time motto is “All the News that’s Fit to Print.” Ours is “All the News that Fits.”)
As I said last month, I am sick of an American government that has been run by a bully who governs by Twitter and abusive press conferences. When I was young, I pushed back at those who recruited me to run for public office. Now I am retiring from the movement I picked as my career: As a rank and file union construction worker, I decided to be an organizer in our labor movement. It was a good decision.