Kaiser

Building the Trades

Michael Theriault, Executive Secretary-Treasurer

Michael Theriault, Executive Secretary-Treasurer

Mike has been a member of the Ironworkers Union since 1985. He was appointed as Business Representative with his Local in 2001 to fill out the unexpired term of retiring Randy Oyler. He was elected in his own right to a second term in 2003. Mike has been an active participant in the Business Agents meetings for the last several years. He has worked with Stan Warren and Larry Mazzola in support of union issues at San Francisco City Hall. He has spent long evenings speaking in support of union projects at the City Planning Commission, The Board of Supervisors, The San Francisco Unified School District and the San Francisco City College Board to name a few.

Economic debates can seem abstract and even bizarre to those of us who have made livings with hammer or trowel in the world of the real and the solid, but they often determine whether or not such livings are possible.

The many tower cranes weathervaning in off hours in the winter winds give no indication of it, but we in the Building Trades are entering a dangerous moment for our work in San Francisco.

The San Francisco Chronicle has amplified the role of Chinatown in the election of Aaron Peskin to the Board of Supervisors from District 3. A close look at the numbers shows that this role was mixed, with some precincts going for Peskin and others for our and the mayor’s endorsed candidate, Julie Christensen.

Almost any large private construction project seeking City approval meets opposition. Often the stated reasons of opponents are straightforward, like increased traffic, or loss of hotel worker jobs.

Our meeting minutes published monthly in this newspaper have recently reported on negotiation of several project labor agreements, or PLAs.

This month’s Organized Labor reports (Page 5) on our opposition to a 276-unit residential development at 2000 Bryant Street. Other news outlets, the San Francisco Chronicle and Business Times among them, have reported this opposition as a surprise.

The San Francisco Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors have long told us in hearings on project approvals and land use that we cannot bring labor issues into the discussion.

In about 1991 I turned to the ironworker beside me as we reinforced a brick parapet on Valencia Street, and I said, “Look, Valencia is getting trendy.”

His expression questioned my sanity.

I serve now not just as Secretary-Treasurer of the San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council, but as President of Iron Workers Local 377. The local’s jurisdiction extends from Big Sur to the Oregon line through coastal and neighboring counties, and includes Silicon Valley.

“Progressive” rhetoric often blames new development for the displacement of the working class and poor, and especially of “communities of color.”

The reality of displacement is certainly more complex than the opponents of new construction have admitted. Their claims in support of their rhetoric raise many questions.

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