Rudy Gonzalez, headshot

By Rudy Gonzalez | Secretary-Treasurer

We All Benefit When We Fund Mass Transit

Gauging the support or lack of support among the public at large for various regional transit and housing measures can be an instructive exercise. As building trades workers, we usually stand to benefit from these types of measures passing; they often mean well-paying and frequently long-term infrastructure work for us to take to the bank.

But these initiatives are large and ambitious, and they can be big asks of the taxpayer. So, it stands to reason that voters won’t pull the lever for such measures unless they hear a strong coalition arguing in favor of them and see a comprehensive policy vision laid out in the ballot language.

To put it simply: None of the proposals we want to pass will do so without the endorsement and voting power of blue-collar workers. Policymakers would be wise to listen to the perspectives of all stakeholders as they move forward, and strategize accordingly. And so would we when we’re out in the community advocating for measures that we want to pass.

Labor appears split on how to fund mass transit. I hear from some leaders that without more capital improvement and room for highway expansion, they don’t see a reason to support increased funding for public transportation. After all, they claim, 95% of taxpayers drive cars.

I’ve yet to see any data to validate that claim, but a simple Google search will turn up statistics on cars per household and percentage of drivers by registration. According to consumer lending firm TitleMax, there are 1.1 cars per household in San Francisco, with roughly 70% of households driving.

So, while the City’s car utilization might not be quite as high as 95%, it would be foolish to deny the significance of the real numbers. Seventy percent of households is a lot. SF residents have made it clear that they like their cars more than they like mass transit — or, at least, that they’d like to keep their cars even if they do use Muni and BART to get around and out of town.

Others tell me the fiscal cliff that we’re approaching as a city will devastate not only transit agencies but the overall economy. BART and other systems were primarily designed to move workers to their jobs and back.

Here’s my take: Everyone is impacted if transit fails. There’s no question that we need to fund public transit if we expect our own downtown to recover.

Ridership is ticking up, but it’s still not back to pre-pandemic levels. According to recent data from BART, total ridership last month hit just 41% of pre-Covid expectations. People took 4.4 million BART trips in May — that’s still a lot of trips! But it’s not enough to make BART financially sustainable, which it needs to be in a region as big, bustling, and costly as the Bay Area.

Even if you don’t use mass transit, you have something to gain from subsidizing it to keep it solvent and going strong. Whether it’s fewer cars clogging the roads on your trip to the jobsite or the very fact that a lack of these workers at their downtown offices is contributing to our lack of tenant improvement work, you have something to gain and more to lose if the question of how to fund our mass transit isn’t resolved.

We might have different takes on how to fund projects and prioritize projects for funding, but we’d better get it together and get BART back in the black or we’ll be lamenting the train going off the tracks — literally — as we crawl through traffic toward the tollbooths while staring at nothing but the taillights.

Childcare Grants Go Out, Sistas With Tools Looks for Recruits

Childcare grants are rolling out now. If you didn’t receive support during the most recent round of applications, please feel free to try again. We’re opening up enrollment in the fall. Keep an eye on this newspaper for future updates.

If you have any questions regarding childcare grants, please contact this council’s office manager, Sandra Duarte, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

As we reported in Organized Labor last month, our inaugural Sistas With Tools cohort has graduated. That means a new cohort will be starting up again soon.

We’re setting our sisters up for success with strength training, social services, and mentorship from other women in the trades. The program follows the MC3 curriculum set forth by our national unions in close concert with NABTU.

Do you have a daughter, niece, sister, or friend who you think might thrive in the trades? Let her know about this unique, council-directed pre-apprenticeship program and urge her to visit sistaswithtools.org, where she can apply online.

SF’s Mayoral Candidates Talk With the Trades

The delegates of this council hosted a San Francisco mayoral candidates’ forum at IBEW Local 6 headquarters on Thursday, June 6. In the lead-up to the meeting, candidates were given questions to prepare them to face the delegates. The following candidates were interviewed and will be considered for endorsement motions on Thursday, June 20, at a special COPE convention: London Breed, Mark Farrell, Daniel Lurie, Aaron Peskin, and Ahsha Safaí.

No matter the endorsement positions that end up winning out, I’d like to express this council’s gratitude to all five candidates for caring enough to bring their top-tier A game to our forum, where each of them enthusiastically sought the endorsement of building trades members. That’s respectable.

Building trades issues are now familiar to each campaign, and candidates are on record with their positions. Click here to see photos from the event.

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