by Tim Paulson, Secretary-Treasurer
San Francisco Building & Construction Trades Council
The Building Trades and Labor Council offices on the second floor of the ILWU international headquarters at 1188 Franklin St. are in transition. The San Francisco Labor Council’s new executive director Rudy Gonzalez has moved into my old office. I am working out of an empty office down the hall as I clean out the Building and Construction Trades office down another hallway. The Labor Council’s new campaign director, Kim Tavaglione, is huddled over two laptops in another conference room getting ready for the November election. (We have some common endorsements!). Boxes and computers and supplies are changing hands during this transition, but despite these infrastructure demands we have not stopped working for our unions and members on legislation, endorsements and good labor policy. (Please note and vote the building trades endorsements in another part of the paper.)
There was no vacation at the Building Trades Council this summer.
In August, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and most of San Francisco’s government was on recess, abandoning City Hall and the City, hiking in mountains and traveling with their families in wonderful cities around the world. They work hard most of the year and like all union workers are entitled to well-deserved vacations and time off.
Many of them had also abandoned the working men and women of San Francisco.
For almost two years there have been three simple unified priorities of the entire San Francisco Labor movement: Passing three pieces of legislation!! We have asked the Supervisors and all the mayors to increase the Living Wage, create a Citywide Project Labor Agreement for the Building Trades to insure prevailing wages on all City contracts, and effectively regulate Airbnb rentals that take away affordable housing and good paying hotel worker jobs. Pretty simple.
None of this legislation has even been “allowed” out of committee for over a year.
Shame on the second floor of City Hall.
But, also, as our two councils change leadership and reorganize, shame on us as labor unions for not exerting enough discipline and anger to let these politicians off the hook. Many of those Supervisors were our friends when they were running for supervisor, Mayor, board president or statewide office. But they were paying more attention to their careers than to the rights of construction workers and low-paid workers who want to live in San Francisco.
September is the time to correct this. Today is the time to pass the PLA and MCO and get our priorities right.
New Mayor London Breed has told me and SFBCTC President Larry Mazzola, Jr. that she is supportive of both measures. The Council is going to make sure that we put these delayed priorities over the top.
And we are going to ask all union construction workers and business agents and business managers to ramp up and get people out when this legislation is finally ready to go.
And I want to thank the leaders and your patient members, as I step into this new job as your Secretary Treasurer, for all the work you have done to date – writing letters, making phone calls, and walking the 2nd floor halls of City Hall.
When we organize we will win.
End note: I have a quick reflection about the passing of Senator John McCain. As a trade unionist, I disagreed with almost everything he stood for as a legislator. He tried to work on campaign finance and immigration reform to a certain extent. But mostly he sided against workers.
The first time I visited Hanoi ten years ago I was walking the small alleys and streets and accidently discovered the Hoi Lo prison where McCain was held and tortured for many years. That famous prison created by the French colonialists to incarcerate revolutionary Vietnamese freedom fighters a generation earlier made an indelible impression on me. The North Vietnamese retooled the place that the American media called the “Hanoi Hilton.” (Ironically there is now a real Hilton a block away…)
They had McCain’s flight jacket framed like a painting in the same cell where he was kept after being shot down in a lake trying to bomb a Hanoi power plant. Next to it was a huge photo of Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara with a stick pointing to a military strategy map of how to defeat the Vietnamese.
McCain’s adult life was all about public service. But his part in the Republican Party’s attacks on workers was not close to the venom that the Trump folks are invoking. A small condolence – but a note to Democracy where debate is better than childish tweets.
We were wrong to participate in that war. Many young men who would be future tradesmen, who would now be my age, died in that misadventure and there is a wonderfully emotional black marble monument next to the Lincoln Memorial commemorating them. That black marble wall with names of those who lost their lives is an enduring testament to that sacrifice. Every time I go to Washington, DC, I am impressed with that history and Maya Lin’s beautifully sensitive architectural design.