Photo credit: Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe

By Jacob Bourne | contributing writer

Labor Notches Some Important Wins, But Overall, Primary Election Outcomes Indicate Need for Increased Political Engagement

With ballots from the primary election now in and counted, it’s a good time for a debrief. How did the San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council’s endorsed candidates and preferred positions perform, and, overall, how did labor do?

The short answer is: It’s complicated. For the council, the results of March 5 paint a picture of electoral triumph as well as defeat. On the whole, voters seemed to be reacting to political and social situations in the City that have grown thornier and more complex than they’ve been in decades.

The good news is that despite it all, labor came out on top. Mostly.

The Wins

“Where the ballot measures are connected to our jobs, we won,” said SF Building Trades Council Secretary-Treasurer Rudy Gonzalez. “My report to our delegates will be that we did pretty well.”

Gonzalez cited the passage of Proposition A, the $300 million affordable housing bond, as win No. 1. He also celebrated Nancy Pelosi’s reelection to the U.S. House of Representatives, Matt Haney’s reelection as assemblymember, and Catherine Stefani’s advancement to the November general election, where she’ll be asking SF voters to make her the City’s other assemblymember. Gonzalez anticipated that the kinds of bills these lawmakers will introduce in their respective halls of power will ultimately connect building trades members to more jobs and increased work-hours.

It’s a testament to the building trades’ influence and the community’s priorities that several favored candidates didn’t just win, but won by a significant margin. Notably, Pelosi notched a commanding triumph in the race for U.S. representative in California’s 11th Congressional District, earning an overwhelming 73.7% of the vote and reasserting her enduring appeal within the district.

In the California Statehouse races, both Haney and Stefani, running for Assembly Districts 17 and 19, respectively, won their contests with solid numbers. Haney’s victory was particularly resounding, with 82.1% of the vote, while Stefani will advance to November’s State Assembly general election with 57.7% of the vote, aiming to succeed termed-out Assemblymember Phil Ting.

On the measures front, Prop A, the affordable housing bond, received robust support, passing with 70.1% in favor. This result indicates strong community consensus on the need for more affordable housing solutions in the face of the City’s escalating housing crisis, all despite concerns about Mayor London Breed’s prioritization of other measures as well as the challenging requirement of a two-thirds majority.

The involvement of prominent figures such as Pelosi and SF District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin in the Prop A campaign’s final push illustrates the concerted effort needed to surpass the City’s high threshold for bond measures, Gonzalez said.

The Losses (and a Few More Wins)

It wasn’t all confetti for the building trades, though. Some of the primary ballot results were less than ideal.

“For the rest [of the election outcomes], it was a mixed bag,” Gonzalez said. “I would have liked to see us win Prop B. The Democratic County Central Committee doesn’t connect to our jobs as much, so while I’m a sore loser that Greg Hardeman from IUEC Local 8 and Pat Bell from UA Local 38 didn’t win, I also know that we aren’t going to lose work-hours because of that. But we would have liked them in those seats to influence policy.”

Endorsed by the building trades, Prop B proposed minimum police staffing levels and was opposed by some local leaders. The measure was voted down rather decisively, with 72.5% opposed.

Prop B’s failure may reflect broader debates over public safety, policing, and community priorities in the allocation of city resources. The fact that voters rejected it despite its strong union support could be a function of a current electorate that’s skeptical about unfunded mandates and their potential financial implications for the City.

It’s worth mentioning that the well-funded campaign against Prop B capitalized on unfounded fears of increased taxes, demonstrating how easily public discourse can be swayed by substantial monetary backing and strategically dramatic messaging. Prop B’s loss also reveals a divide in the electorate’s stance on police funding and reform, with progressives and moderates split on the issue.

On Prop E, which relaxes rules for police car chases in the City and increases SFPD surveillance, the SF Building Trades Council didn’t choose a position. The council also stayed mum on Measure F, which requires city public assistance recipients to undergo drug screening. The San Francisco Labor Council (SFLC), however, opposed both measures.

Unfortunately, propositions E and F both passed.

“The election didn’t turn out as we had hoped due to low voter turnout,” said SFLC Executive Director Kim Tavaglione. “It just shows that we really need to get our members more involved. If all of our members voted, we’d be in a different place.”

Tavaglione mentioned positive outcomes in a handful of judicial races in which dubiously funded, relatively inexperienced challengers emerged to run against sitting judges with proven records.

“We’re really happy that the judges retained their seats,” she said. “It was a huge win. We felt strongly about that and are also optimistic about the affordable housing bond.”

Taken as a whole, these election outcomes signify not just the current preferences of San Francisco’s electorate but also the intricate interplay between policy advocacy, political strategy, and public perception. The success of Prop A demonstrates a collective commitment to addressing housing affordability, while the rejection of Prop B reflects the contentious nature of public safety and fiscal policy debates.

On to November.

Organized Labor

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