As I write this column, National Apprenticeship Week is wrapping. Over the course of the week, I was honored to welcome the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California (SBCTC) contingent to San Francisco to show off some of our biggest and best projects. The SBCTC folks’ SF stop was just one item on a busy itinerary that took them on a weeklong tour across California, but I know we did a memorable job of showing them what we’re made of here in the Bay.
I also had a genuine blast getting to know some of the bright young apprentices working in the apprenticeship classes and on the jobsites of the City, from those in the workshops of U.A. Local 38’s Joseph P. Mazzola Training Center to those hammering it out on the many active projects currently happening at Mission Rock.
The more time I spent observing and interacting with our apprentices during our tour with the SBCTC, the more obvious it became how truly important it is that we keep fighting for a skilled-and-trained workforce. I realize it’s something you’ve read a lot about in the pages of Organized Labor this past year, but National Apprenticeship Week really drove home the positive outcomes that we’re affecting with our insistence on skilled-and-trained workforce mandates. Their power cannot be overstated, and we must keep fighting for them in state and local legislation going forward.
We connect legislative priorities with opportunities that improve the quality of life for up-and-coming generations of San Franciscans.
Skilled-and-trained requirements reap obvious and immediate rewards for apprentices by enabling them to join journey-level trades workers on active jobsites that this council has secured through PLA negotiations. While there, those apprentices get the hands-on, in-person experience they need to become master trades workers while also earning a decent wage and solid benefits.
This is something we should all be proud of. We’re in the unique position of being able to offer real work and real wages to the next generation of masters who will take up the mantles of our crafts and carry them forward after we’ve all retired and, ultimately, expired.
But there’s a bigger picture: Skilled-and-trained requirements connect wonky legislative policy with a diverse group of working-class young people to whom this council and all of its affiliated local unions are able to offer a real, honest-to-God career. Our power to do that is nothing to scoff at — nor is it a privilege we should be willing to sacrifice this day in age, with money tighter than ever.
The fact that we provide local young people with not just education but also well-paid on-the-job experience in a career setting is the prime factor that distinguishes the building trades from the glut of non-union job training programs available out there.
We provide people with structure. We provide people with a real, demonstrable career track. We show them what it’ll look like to work in our field while giving them hands-on training, and we compensate them accordingly.
We connect legislative priorities with opportunities that improve the quality of life for up-and-coming generations of San Franciscans. It is my feeling that, in so doing, we lift up the entire labor movement. It’s a win-win: We give folks access to clear tracks to success, and we continue to prove the indispensable quality of our work.
We can continue to offer this promise only through our passionate promotion of registered apprenticeships, ensuring that young apprentices from our neighborhoods will always be learning in our training centers and always be joining us on our jobsites. That’s a fight worth fighting.
A Shout-out to Local 261, Our Newest Subscribers
It is with great excitement and gratitude that we welcome Laborers Local 261 to the Organized Labor subscriber family. As the official publication of the SF Building Trades Council, this longstanding newspaper can now bring Local 261 closer to this council and its activities — and bring this council closer to our longtime affiliate, Local 261, and the work lives of its members.
The laborers’ subscribership comes thanks in large part to the efforts of esteemed Local 261 Business Manager Ramon Hernandez, who also sits on this council as vice-president for basic crafts, and we extend our gratitude to him.
To the members of Local 261: We also thank you, and we look forward to landing in your mailbox each month and telling your stories, as well as sharing the stories of our many other affiliates with you. Onward and upward!