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.

For many transplants– and so maybe most residents – the City should look pretty much as they found it, because that is how they came to love it.

They fear that the City’s character, which in some neighborhoods arises primarily from single-family homes, and in others from the limits that wood-frame construction and traditional lot sizes place on multi-family homes, is about to disappear.

A few years back, when the developer Hines proposed replacing a small early-Twentieth-Century building on the Embarcadero with a midrise office building, and then again a few months later, when changes to the Planning code concerning historic preservation were debated, an architectural historian and ardent preservationist asked me, “If someone proposed changing the Golden Gate Bridge, would you support that?”

We went a long while without seeing the Associated Builders and Contractors, or ABC, show itself in San Francisco politics. Its last appearance in the scaly flesh had been in debates over our first project labor agreement – PLA – with the San Francisco Unified School District.

Organized Labor will report next month about some of the ill effects that the turnover in control of the United States Senate in the November 4 election may have on Building Trades work in San Francisco.

Most cranes swinging above San Francisco now represent outcomes of past fights.

At the two ends of this November’s ballot are two propositions that represent very different visions of San Francisco and its future transportation, and that are of special importance to Building Trades members.

Union members will hear confusing messages about whom they should vote for in this November’s election for California State Assembly in District 17, the east side of San Francisco.

The Building Trades know well that the tech industry, so maligned by many San Franciscans, has been good for our work. The protests against Twitter and the tax break that brought it to mid-Market have been held outside a building that put many of us back to work in its reinforcement and renovation. The Nema apartment building across Tenth Street from Twitter employed hundreds of us because Twitter was there to provide it tenants. Overall, many thousands of Building Trades workers have fed their families from the grand harvest the tech industry has provided.

Proposition B, which requires that voters approve any changes in currently zoned height limits on Port land, passed with more than 58% of the vote in the June 2014 low-turnout election. Our fight against it succeeded in reducing its winning percentage from the 75% at which it had polled earlier this year. Given more time to reach voters and an election turnout more robust than this month’s record low, we might have stopped it. Politicians willing to make the case for representative democracy instead of direct democracy, the same case made by James Madison and the framers of our Constitution, would also have helped.

The Building Trades in San Francisco are more racially and ethnically diverse than ever. Even so, our ranks are still far from reflecting the composition of the City. We fool ourselves if we think we can protect our work and wages from those who want us to build less or those who want us to build for less if we do not look more like the place that employs us.  
 

We fall farthest from reflecting the City in having so few women among us. As thoroughly as we have reconstituted ourselves in recent years, our percentage of women remains in low single digits. 

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