Trade Unionism

Written by FCJ Editor. Posted in Opinion, Politics

Tagged: , ,

Published on May 28, 2008 with 4 Comments

San Francisco Labor Council Executive Director Tim Paulson
Photo by Luke Thomas

By Tim Paulson, special to Fog City Journal

Editor’s Note: Mr. Paulson is responding to Supervisor Chris Daly’s May 22 op-ed titled, “Big Labor Sells Out.”

May 28, 2008

As a trade unionist I wake up every morning confronted with many fronts on the fight for justice that the Labor Movement will continue to wage. The San Francisco Labor Council represents 100,000 members from 150 different unions in both the public and private sectors. Over 10,000 live in the Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhoods. As executive director of the SFLC my goal is to bring the interests of workers to the agendas of corporations, employers, and legislators to find solutions, create contracts and collective bargaining agreements, and to enact (or defeat) legislation at the local, as well as the state and national levels. The SFLC fights every day to get things done.

In the last several years the SFLC has been successful in raising the benchmarks for progressive policy in many areas. We worked closely with Supervisor Tom Ammiano to create a national standard for universal health care. Labor took to the streets and stopped George Bush’s attempt to eliminate Social Security. We were the first Labor Council in America to publicly oppose the racist Iraq-Afghanistan wars. The SFLC was also involved in the campaigns for paid sick leave, sweat-free purchasing, and living wage to name a few. The Labor Movement fought to create the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement (OLSE) to monitor construction sites where out-of-town contractors and developers were cheating workers out of prevailing wages and benefits, the same OLSE that now also monitors other laws such as living wage, minimum wage, and healthcare.

We will continue to be the incubator for other progressive legislation and policy that can serve as models and benchmarks that our brothers and sister elsewhere can emulate.

In this context, the historic Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) that the SFLC-along with two of its many community partners, ACORN and SFOP-arrived at with the Lennar Corporation for the development in Bayview-Hunters Point, continues in this vein of progressive policy that benefits working men and women and the community.

Our deal-and YES it is a deal, a publicly transparent and legally binding deal-creates 35 percent affordable and workforce housing for the first time in San Francisco history. It has affordable rental and for-sale housing units and it guarantees that the Alice Griffith housing development gets rebuilt at the beginning of the project, with no displacement. It is an agreement that reflects not only the needs of the very poor in the community, but also offers a path to first-time homeowners along with the hope of raising their families in a newer better neighborhood.

For those unfamiliar with CBA’s, one must know that this is known as a “core agreement” which is valid, binding, and legally enforceable. This approach has a proven track record in delivering community benefits on large development projects in other cities. We studied similar agreements throughout the country in places like Los Angeles, Milwaukee, and New Jersey. CBA’s are binding and attached to the land, so even if Lennar leaves the project, the CBA’s requirements are still intact. Our CBA includes commitments regarding housing, workforce development, first-source hiring, card check for organizing, as well as other community issues such as family size homes. The agreement commits the Labor Council, ACORN, and SFOP to supporting the agreement around these issues. And we will.

However, the CBA does not preclude the SFLC or our partners from weighing in on other principled positions, such as environmental concerns.

What Prop F says is that the Hunters Point-Bayview neighborhood must stay poor. By only offering affordable housing opportunities for the very poor (at a 50 percent ideal that is financially impossible to pencil out) it locks out opportunities for the working and middle-class residents to afford to stay in their neighborhood.

There are over 10,000 union members living in District 10 and the SFLC wants these workers and others in the community to have the opportunity for success as well. The SFLC wants construction workers and Muni drivers and teachers and city workers and healthcare workers who are beginning to make it – succeeding in their careers, starting families, saving enough to buy a home or move from public housing – to have the chance to buy homes in their neighborhood. We do not want these residents to be forced out of San Francisco due to making too much money to qualify for affordable housing subsidies and also not being able to afford to buy a home in their own neighborhood. This historic CBA leads the way to bridging the gap between the very rich and the very poor by offering affordable housing opportunities as well as workforce training, creating new opportunities for working class families.

In addition to the housing commitments, our legally binding deal with the Lennar Corporation begins, finally, a real path to workforce development. The Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development (redesigned by new legislation from our friend Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi) is committed to new focused policy. The $8.5 million guarantee from Lennar, which will be matched by the City, will jumpstart badly needed training and education in Hunters Point-Bayview to get real jobs. This program will not just expand construction trades jobs to higher levels, but will focus on living wage jobs in the industries planned over the next generation, including getting residents GED’s and paths to college degree jobs in biotech.

As my colleague Mike Casey of Local 2 said recently, “The easy decision is to not make a deal, and then continue to trash the boss.”

The tough decisions we make as leaders are to know when your power can change the dynamic, advance the standards of justice and set new benchmarks. In this CBA, we have moved that benchmark not only for the Hunters Point-Bayview neighborhood, labor, housing activists and our community partners, but for all of San Francisco. Now, every time a new development is proposed we can say we’ve already set the 35 percent standard for affordable housing with private money.

I’m always amazed when legislators tell labor representatives what’s good for labor. I know what corporations and employers mean when they try to screw us. We have clear strategies for those fights.

So I have to say that I haven’t been called the “top big labor boss” before. That epithet is the same used by the National Right to Work Committee-a rightwing group formed to fight union organizing. Reminds me a little of the “moral restrictions” legislation that was defeated at the Board some months back. Are we trying to bring back the Moral Majority? Yikes! Now, I’d have been honored if someone like Trent Lott or the late Strom Thurmond had thought me important enough to call a “top big labor boss.” It saddens me that it comes from Supervisor Chris Daly, a supervisor who we spent lots of time and money to elect. This is the same name calling and posturing that normally comes from corporations and the Right, not from our progressive “allies.”

This CBA is just the beginning of a new collaboration where labor, faith, tenant, community groups, the Citizens Advisory Committee, the Project Area Committee of Hunters Point-Bayview, will be organizing for the next decades to provide housing, good jobs, and an exciting way of revitalizing the Bayview. It’s real and it’s time to turn the tide in San Francisco.

Because of the efforts of the SFLC, ACORN, Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, the faith community and the San Franciscans in the Hunters Point-Bayview neighborhood, Measure G is a now a vehicle for substantive economic and domestic improvement. Measure G is a commitment to a part of our city long ignored and crying for help. Supervisor Daly and the nay-sayers can rail on the San Francisco Labor Council and hail sticks and stones. But the only sticks and stones I care about are the ones that will build the affordable and low income housing and create a future with dignity for working men and women and their families in Hunters Point.

Yes on G. No on F.

The San Francisco Labor Council represents more than 100,000 union members and their families who belong to over 150 affiliate unions. Almost 11,000 live in District 10.


Comments for Trade Unionism are now closed.

  1. “That epithet is the same used by the National Right to Work Committee-a rightwing group formed to fight union organizing. ‘

    Right to Work is a group that “fight[s] union organizing?” I think not.

    Right to Work is only against forcing workers, against their will, to join or pay dues to a labor union in order to get or keep a job.

    In fact, one of their slogans is “Americans MUST HAVE the right, but MUST NOT be compelled to join a labor union.”

    But this attack on RTW begs the question:

    “If you’re union is so great, then why do you have to be able to force people to join? Shouldn’t people be beating down the doors to get in?”

  2. S-tooges

  3. Quote: It saddens me that it comes from Supervisor Chris Daly, a supervisor who we spent lots of time and money to elect. This is the same name calling and posturing that normally comes from corporations and the Right, not from our progressive “allies.”

    The problem, Mr Paulson, isn’t that San Francisco politicians can be bought. The problem is they don’t STAY bought as you are finding out.

  4. By the numbers, Tim, labor is continuing its suicide run only this time it is bringing unaffiliated working San Franciscans with it.

    First, labor is highlighting Prop B, which is a capitulation both on the notion of expanding health care as well as labor standing as a bullwark against corporate greed.

    San Francisco is one of the few providers to offer transgender health care benefits. Any trans folks in that second tier or their partners would be denied benefits that under today’s scheme they’d be entitled to. Someone in my extended circles was forced to do to herself what her insurance could not and is no longer tormented with legacy hormones. No one should EVER have to go through that, yet Prop B closes the door on health coverage instead of opening it further.

    If organized labor is not going to fight against this insidious neoliberal “race to the bottom,” then labor deserves the political consequences of its policies. Such cannot be said for the rest of working San Franciscans who only work more for less in part because organized labor sets the bar so low.

    Second, let’s think through the notion of building 1 unit of affordable to 2 units of market rate. Given that organized labor only represents fewer than 20% of San Franciscans, one might imagine that the importation of two million dollar condo dwellers for every one unit housing one housing compromised San Franciscan might bode poorly for labor’s electoral future prospects.

    Third, perhaps compared to some unionized workers, those earning 30, 60 or 90 AMI are poor, but we all know that those income levels are moderate to low income rather than poor. And we know that studies show, not to mention our own experience and of our friends, that those income levels are most challenged in finding housing.

    Fourth, why do we need to rush into a development agreement for D10 right now? Is there a compelling argument that we need to act now with Lennar to develop these parcels? Have we seen evidence that new housing supply pushes price down? The initial deal does not provide sufficient housing for housing challenged San Franciscans–a total of 64% affordable to a wide range of income levels–as the Housing Element of the General Plan calls for.

    Labor’s secret new deal is incremental to the point of being excremental, not only because it falls short of city targets, not only because it props up a rapacious speculative Wall Street developer that is at risk of bankruptcy due to its greedy business decisions.

    This deal is excremental because as labor shits on future employees with a two-tier benefit system in Prop B, just as labor craps on all MUNI riders because labor has scuttled any effort to raise revenue from downtown to fund MUNI, because labor defecates on the tens of thousands of San Franciscans who signed the petition and who poll in favor of a significant commitment to affordable housing, just like corporate City Attorney Dennis Herrera shat on 33,000 San Franciscans by denying our petition to revisit redevelopment.

    Labor is as greedy and short sighted as Lennar, siding with the Republicans to cut city employee health benefits. That is why the labor council is taking pains to align with the most conservative corporate interests in the Democrat Party against working San Franciscans. As Lennar risks bankruptcy due to its greed, labor might just well be courting the same demons when it elects to side with the corporations over working San Franciscans.

    We can do so much better than this.

    Solidarity is a two way street.

    F’ Prop G.

    Marc Salomon
    SEIU household