Happy New Year from the Secretary-Treasurer’s Office. For me, like many, this greeting has taken on a new meaning coming out of a year like 2020. Our democracy has been tested like no other time in history, public health and structural racism are discussed with our children at the dinner table, the underbelly of an unjust economy has been revealed yet again, and we have lost too many friends, coworkers and family to a disease that is ravaging the globe. As these issues follow us into 2021, you might not be convinced this new year will be a happy one. But I look around our city and I see frontline and essential workers putting their health at risk to keep our City services, infrastructure, and frankly the whole economy working. I see union leaders hard at work protecting jobs and advocating for strong safety measures and guarding the healthcare and retirement security of this and the next generation of trade unionists. I see you, on the jobsites, wearing your masks and setting an example for how we can keep our industry open and still protect ourselves and each other. And I see union sisters and brothers lending a hand to those in need, volunteering at food banks, deploying as disaster service workers, and volunteering as political activists and member organizers in their local unions. These are the things that give me hope and signal that a new year has the potential to indeed bring happiness.
There is no shortage of challenges on the horizon for the working class, so the hardworking members of the Building and Construction Trades Council must stay ready. Lawmakers are quick to blame high costs and consequences of their own decades of failed governance on the working person. Lacking a context and respect for organized labor, neoliberal politicians underfund our schools, transportation, infrastructure, and even the agencies charged with protecting our safety. And then, as if surprised, they criticize and scapegoat a starved system and its workforce. Even those who could be allies for a clean economy dare to call us and our jobs “dirty.” We must organize and meet these and other challenges. We must be ready to defend our work; ready to educate and hold accountable our elected officials; ready to build back better as our economy recovers.
I am hopeful about the future of the SFBCTC — hopeful because the leaders that I have come to know at the trades are sensible, smart, and fierce advocates for their members. They prioritize, plan, and appreciate the moment we find ourselves in. Amid all the distractions, they stick to the fundamentals of union apprenticeship, employment, and representation. By tending to the core of what makes our movement strong, we will have the resources to act boldly and take on new initiatives and ultimately come out on the other side of this pandemic a stronger, more unified council.
I want to express my gratitude to the officers and staff of the Council. To take on this role at such a pivotal time, and as we enter the 125th year of the SFBCTC, is an honor I undertake with both humility and great determination, and I appreciate their vote of confidence in me. As I am the first Gonzalez to lead this Council, it is not lost on me that we work in a movement built on the legacy and hard work of those who came before us. I may be a San Francisco native, but I recognize that ours is a house built by immigrants of the last generation and the generation before them.
Just as an apprentice enjoys the benefits of a collective bargaining agreement, fought for by the journeymen and women before them, I, too, benefit from the people who came before me. Our past Secretary-Treasurers and the Presidents who stood with them have left this solid foundation upon which I will stand. Leaders like the late Stan Smith (Glaziers 718), Mike Theriault (Ironworkers 377), and Tim Paulson (BAC 3).
Stand safe, united, and strong.