Rudy Gonzalez, headshot

By Rudy Gonzalez | Secretary-Treasurer

With millions of dollars pouring into local races from a plethora of dubious and shadowy figures, this year’s elections are ours, as working-class Bay Area residents, to lose.

But we lose only if we don’t get involved. And the best way to make sure elected officials and ballot initiatives turn out in favor of blue-collar workers is for each of us to get involved. That means hitting the streets in full force and fanning out to spread the word to the good people of the Bay about our pro-worker, pro-democracy candidates.

Sure, their reams of cash always give special-interest groups an advantage. That comes primarily through their advertising buys, which allow such groups the power to reach the public at large and to manufacture among it a perception of overwhelming force when it comes to these groups’ favored positions and candidates.

On more than one occasion locally, statewide, and nationally, election outcomes have been affected — and usually not positively — by this phenomenon.

A better test of how a campaign could resonate with the public, however, is the response on the doorstep and at the kitchen table. This is the bread-and-butter of effective campaigning: face time with potential voters. When this council throws its support behind a candidate or a proposition, we go knock on doors and talk to voters. Sometimes they even invite us inside for a longer chat!

This is more than simplistic propaganda, and more than us hopping on a bandwagon to sell an idea. The public is compelled by just how committed we are to the politicians and issues we endorse. Our earnest efforts energize the campaigns in which we take part; they activate our members as volunteers and build grassroots support to get people to turn the ballot in or get to the polls.

Knocking on doors has deeper ramifications, too. It isn’t just how we win political campaigns. It’s how we meet workers we are seeking to organize and build committees, and importantly, it provides an opportunity to listen to other working-class people and identify and understand their issues.

So, I believe the real test — and the real truth of your campaigning strength — isn’t about how much money you can spend on TV spots and billboards. It’s about how many doors you can knock on and how many voters behind those doors you can have a meaningful conversation with, if only for a few minutes.

Most recently, volunteers organized by this council have been proudly banging on doors and spreading the good word on Prop A, Prop B, Patrick Bell, Greg Hardeman, and Catherine Stefani, to name just a handful. Only a few mobilizations remain before the March 5 elections, so please try to join your local union and help elect a pro-worker majority at every level.

And if you’re a registered voter in San Francisco, consider donating a few twenty-spots to a candidate you like. In the City, for now, your local dollar gets multiplied sixfold thanks to public financing for campaigns. The billionaires will still outspend you, but your buck can help a good local candidate gain the momentum they need to be competitive and maybe — just maybe — compete for a little airtime to pitch their vision for how to fix San Francisco.

Speaking of fixing San Francisco, the unions of the Public Employee Committee (PEC) are back at it and more unified than ever. We’ve been in rounds of meetings with the mayor’s chief of staff, human resources, and other city negotiators in an attempt to establish what across-the-board wage increases will look like.

During the last round of bargaining, we achieved 10% over two years by staying unified with the PEC. So far, the mayor’s team is coming up short, but that’s how it typically goes for the first few meetings.

Having a seat at this table allows organized labor to call out broader policy issues in addition to navigating the budget process and contract bargaining. During this round of bargaining, the broader debate includes the budget deficit, which is projected at nearly $800 million over two years.

Much ink has been spilled in the press about this looming fiscal cliff. Little has been said, however, about the over $5 billion in contracting that the City doles out annually. Some of this contracting is legitimate, but much of it should be more carefully scrutinized, especially with the deficit looming — to say nothing of the amount of corruption this administration has endured.

The PEC remains committed to safeguarding public services for the citizens of San Francisco, elevating standards for the hard-working essential workers in our ranks, and defending the general fund against reckless spending, waste, and abuse. It’s in the interest of the rank-and-file, so it’s our job to fight for them.

Organized Labor


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