By Rudy Gonzalez | Secretary-Treasurer
With all three kids back in school and the traffic back to normal, I’m reminded that a lot of people at the schools kept working during the summer (even after SFUSD botched their paychecks and still owes them money). They tended to deferred maintenance, deep cleanings, and the like.
What didn’t happen is less obvious — until you step back into the school buildings.
Our windows weren’t replaced or upgraded. Our roofs didn’t get blanketed with solar. Our outdated electrical systems were not improved. Our pipes aged another summer. Even the floors polished back a little less this year.
Let’s face it: Our school system’s infrastructure is aging. With the next election right around the corner, you can bet that SFUSD officials are deep in thought about how much to ask voters to issue in bonds, how to prioritize school sites and projects, and how to convince San Franciscans the district can be trusted to get it done.
While Covid was very much the focus of the past several years, we also feel the impact that wildfire smoke and other emergencies have played on the school system. It’s going to take a bold vision and an all-hands approach to model and win a bond measure that meets the urgency of 2024 for SFUSD.
At the trades, we see a massive bond as a massive opportunity. Think of all the HVAC, glazing, lead pipe replacement, and other work such an influx of financing could generate for local journey-level workers and apprentices. Think of the new technology we could build into the learning environment.
Additionally, enormous potential exists to make our schools cleaner and greener. From water reclamation, geothermal heating, and solar energy to any number of LEED building strategies, bond money would provide a real opportunity to advance climate goals and create a healthier physical infrastructure in which our city’s kids can learn.
I’m talking, of course, about a bond that’s accompanied by a hearty community workforce agreement. This council is working within a coalition of labor and community organizations and developing our strategy to win a smart bond that achieves better student outcomes and better working conditions for SFUSD staff and that plans for the future workforce and housing. It’s a truly comprehensive approach.
Sharing our research and subject matter expertise, uniting and building solidarity for our demands, and, ultimately, winning this bond are the objectives of this coalition. SFUSD has a chance to focus on its built environment — a built environment that just so happens to be the place where many of our members and their children spend a third of their lives. It’s clear that not much improvement of that environment is happening when the ceiling tiles are falling down, the asbestos is anything but encapsulated, and the electrical is so old that the air filter trips the breaker.
We expect this conversation to move forward in September and to be placed on the ballot for the upcoming election on March 5, 2024.
On to Labor Day… This year, you’ll certainly have a chance to hear statements and proclamations about the history of the holiday, the importance of a strong union movement (depending upon where you live), and where the best mattress discount sale is being held. If you’re like me, you’ll be on a picket line somewhere supporting workers and then enjoying some quiet time with the family.
Before Labor 411 or the AFL-CIO tells you on social media what brand of hot dogs or buns to buy at your local market, let me share with you a few local picks of my own.
Got time to read a book in a day? If so, try “From Mission to Microchip: A History of the California Labor Movement” by Fred Glass. It’s available from the University of California Press.
If you don’t have time for a book in a day (or if you do have time for a whole book and then some), peruse the short-yet-very-sweet “Axioms for Organizers” by the late, great Fred Ross Jr. and Fred Ross Sr. It’s available at FredRossSr.com/AxiomsForOrganizers.
While you’re at it, why not grab a labor book for the kids? I recommend “The Day the Crayons Quit” by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers. Support your local bookstore and pick up a copy there.
Maybe you’re in the mood to kick back, relax, and watch a labor film. If so, check out “The Molly Maguires,” a 1970 classic featuring Sean Connery. You can see it for free on Pluto TV.
If you’re craving a brew with your movie or book, you know where to go: It’s Anchor Steam for taste and Pabst Blue Ribbon for hydration.
Here’s an idea: Get out of the house and check out some labor art. Make a pilgrimage to “An Injury to One,” the steel sculpture memorializing Bloody Thursday at Spear and Mission Streets just southwest of the Embarcadero. It commemorates the workers who were murdered by police on the waterfront in 1934. It’s a block away from the old Hotel Vitale, which you’ll remember we picketed back in October 2021 when Centric, the general contractor at the time, was spouting off homophobia.
Once you’re done there, grab a bite to eat at a labor restaurant: You’ll find Scoma’s right up the Embarcadero in the heart of Fisherman’s Wharf. Try the sole, and wash it down with an old-fashioned from the bar. Don’t forget to tip your Unite Here Local 2 servers and the Teamsters Local 665 valet.
To top off your Labor Day excursion in the City, nothing beats a stop at the union-built, union-operated Golden Gate Bridge. Hop on a Transport Workers Local 100-driven Big Bus Tour and see the sights from the upper deck.
Happy Labor Day!