By Rudy Gonzalez | Secretary-Treasurer
Holding the Line
With SAG-AFTRA, the Writers Guild, our local painters’ union, and many of our other organized brothers, sisters, and siblings taking to the streets in recent weeks, we are presented with an opportunity to reflect on the time-tested tradition of honoring a picket line.
To put it simply, we’re in the throes of a strike summer. And with 340,000 teamsters approaching a contract expiration on Sunday, July 30, this season of organized labor muscle-flexing is only heating up.
So, how do we as building and construction trades members best display solidarity with our fellow unionized workers?
A good place to start is by thinking about the project labor agreements under which we do so much of our work. When we negotiate these pre-hire agreements, we consent to trade our right to slow down or shut down a covered jobsite in return for hiring-hall referral, apprenticeship utilization, and family healthcare coverage, among other worker-focused benefits.
Without a PLA, our local unions are free to use every lawful and available tool at their disposal to secure the work.
So, what happens when you encounter a picket? Well, the expectation is that you honor the line. It’s why, PLA or not, trade unionists often declare, “I never cross a picket line because it might just be my own next time.”
Exercising our right to withhold our labor is how we maintain and amass our might, and it remains our responsibility to exercise that right when we must. Fortunately, federal law still protects this individual right to never cross a picket line.
We all want to go to work every day and earn a living. So, while we always hope that strikes are few and far between, we as trade unionists must continue doing our duty of safeguarding the fundamental obligation to withhold our labor when we’re called to do so. Herein lies our foundational power as workers in solidarity with one another and with the broader labor movement.
Staying Engaged With Large Project Partners
It’s not enough anymore to win work or make sure our unions’ contractors and subcontractors are out on the job. Successful projects — and future work — are based on forging lasting partnerships built on shared values. They’re also based on advocating for new options that can help speed up projects that ultimately result in more work for our trades.
This council stays plugged into the financing, permitting, and phasing of the megaprojects in which we’ve involved ourselves. Take, for example, our successful partnership with the Power Station project. By working with SF Supervisor Shamann Walton, the development team, officers of this council, and the mayor’s administration, we’ve been able to articulate, support, and win an enhanced infrastructure finance district. The development team will be briefing our board of business representatives next month on some exciting new developments that will spur the next phase of construction.
Elsewhere, we are pursuing zoning changes, fee deferrals, state legislation, and even assistance with construction financing to pursue an additional $2.5 billion in work for members across several megaprojects. I’m grateful to each of you for taking time to call, write letters, and show up in-person to advocate alongside this council.
When we lift up our voices — which are excluded and even ignored in some cases, as in the Proposition D debacle last year — we can also be a powerful force to stop policies that would otherwise hurt the City.
In my estimation, the decision is relatively straightforward: If you’re looking to advance a policy or project as a government official or a private developer, you have to think about the kind of partners you want on your side, beginning from day one.
Density on the West Side
Many of you have probably seen the recent fevered local press coverage regarding the proposed 55-story residential skyscraper at 2700 Sloat Boulevard in the Outer Sunset. It is, admittedly, a comical proposition; unfortunately, some groups are already using it to agitate the neighbors.
But I view this as an opportunity to begin a serious conversation about expanding housing stock in density and improving public services such as transportation and public safety across the entire city. No matter how absurd it might seem to plop down a high-rise on Sloat right across from the beach, it does raise some uncomfortable but important questions of how serious our city’s leadership is about increasing housing stock on the City’s west side — and, therefore, increasing San Francisco’s overall housing stock equitably and fairly across the entirety of our seven square miles of land.
So far, supervisors Joel Engardio, Connie Chan, and Myrna Melgar have all pledged their support to make sure that trades workers are at the table when these big west-side developments are negotiated. All three supes will be put to the test, and we’ve already seen Chan step up and lead for us.
Who’s Been a Friend
Supervisor Connie Chan, despite having earned broad labor support in her initial candidacy, did not enjoy the full support this council. After she won election, she had a choice to make, just like our other elected officials: Show real interest in our work and our members or pursue an agenda adverse to working people.
Chan made her choice clear. Since taking office, she has been open-minded, professional, and enthusiastic about learning more about our work and the people we represent. She has gone to bat time after time again for our affiliates, including through her commitment to a skilled-and-trained workforce, when she authored Proposition E in 2022, and in her recent willingness to support the union production of Outside Lands — even though she took heat from the press for being a supposed obstructionist.
Chan has demonstrated an enthusiasm for doing the right thing on behalf of working San Franciscans. She also took the opportunity to support the expansion of downtown concerts and to ensure that the jobs associated with those new events will be done by city employees and union contractors.
Every time I’ve approached Chan with a concern, she has been there for us. She even goes the extra mile and follows up, coming back to ask what else she can do for our members. That’s the kind of leadership and collaborative approach that our friends need to model.
So, it is without hesitation this month that I call out Supervisor Connie Chan for being a friend of the trades.