Capitol One

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.

Donald Trump came to speak to the Building Trades. You may now have seen the story, here in Organized Labor and elsewhere: Trump spoke 4 April to the annual legislative conference of North America’s Building Trades Unions, the umbrella organization for all Building Trades except (one hopes just for now) the Carpenters. You can find the speech on YouTube.

As this month’s Organized Labor reports, the administration of President Donald Trump through its Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao has refused to sign off on a federal grant for the electrification of the aging Caltrain commuter rail system from Tamien Station in San Jose to Fourth and King in San Francisco.

In a recent New York Times editorial, Naomi Klein criticized leaders of our national organization, North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU), for their 23 January meeting with President Donald Trump and their satisfaction in his support for the Keystone XL and Dakota pipelines.

Developers and general contractors have complained many months now of high subcontracting prices. The explanation for high subcontracting prices is multifarious and debatable, but one factor I have cited frequently to developers and contractors has met no argument.

Well, that didn't take long.

In this column in last month's (November 2016) Organized Labor I wrote that "elevation of obvious bigots into his administration" might make "engaging with [President-elect Donald] Trump impossible to stomach" for unions.

Our national organization, North America's Building Trades Unions (NABTU), will in January find itself paddling the choppy waters of a Trump administration. Locally, we will find our little canoe in the same chop not long after.

In 1992 I brought my family to Québec City, on the way to visit cousins in New Brunswick and northern Maine. Our first morning there, we followed standard tourist routine and rode a carriage through the Old City, which dates to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. As our carriage driver, Annie, guided her horse along narrow streets among steep-roofed stone and brick buildings, I noticed that something besides architecture was very different from San Francisco.

In this most unusual of presidential elections, with a Republican candidate whose ascension to this point would have seemed inconceivable to many Americans not so very many months ago, we are permitted to contemplate other outcomes we might once have thought inconceivable. We can muse darkly.

In May, Governor Brown proposed to alter radically the process of approving construction of urban multifamily housing. His proposal for “by-right” or “as-of-right” approvals would exempt such housing from almost all public review if it meets general plan and zoning requirements and includes a proportion of “affordable” housing – deed-restricted only to residents earning 80% or in some cases 50% or less of area median income – that will in San Francisco generally be lower than currently required and than both experience and formal studies have demonstrated possible.

To many a residential developer, both for-profit and nonprofit, multi-family, multi-story modular construction has become as tempting as candy at a supermarket checkout to a toddler waiting in line. Evangelists for modular preach its lower cost, its supposed “greener” fabrication, the speed of its installation. Modular units come not just framed and sheathed, but with plumbing and wiring installed, and usually with their interiors finished all the way through paint, flooring, and cabinets.

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