Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

Executive Director Tim Paulson on Historic Immigration Meeting of California Labor Councils

Monday, July 25th, 2016

Immigration Group Shot 2016 TomThe San Francisco Labor Council and the California Federation of Labor hosted an historic summit of 12 California Labor Councils to discuss how the union movement is uniquely positioned to help immigrant workers and their families.

In the context of I.C.E. raids, stalled national immigration reform, the Supreme Court “non-ruling” that has kept President Obama’s DAPA order on hold, as well the difficult process to obtain Green Cards and a path to Citizenship, we thought we should gather to discuss how Labor Councils can support immigrant members of our affiliate unions with the difficulties they face.

Neidi Dominguez and Gloria Alvarado, great national organizers from the AFL-CIO, also co-hosted this meeting and flew to San Francisco to give us a national perspective.

Three panels from the Los Angeles Federation of Labor, the San Francisco Labor Council and the Orange County Federation of Labor presented information about the Immigration Centers and diverse services they have established in their three counties.

Immigration Center logo door 2016Leaders were treated by the staff of the San Francisco Labor Council’s Center, “We Rise San Francisco,” to a tour of the new San Francisco offices.

Susan Sachen and Hector Saldivar from the California Federation of Labor helped with the organizing as well as facilitating and compiling notes from the formal and informal input everyone provided. We set an agenda for four hours, but the discussion spilled out longer and we agreed to plan another meeting in California after the November elections.

The theme of this meeting circled around an idea that AFL-CIO Executive Vice-President Tefere Gebre advanced two years ago: We all have union halls that have large spaces that we don’t use more than a few times a month. Let’s set up citizenship programs for immigrant workers so that workers know that labor unions are the place where they have the best chance to obtain citizenship, get legal help, register to vote, and obtain protections from deportations. The same unions halls where they obtain and keep a good union job.

And that’s what we talked about.

Legal help, screening, a safe place to talk about status, certification for union staff to officially process members cases, citizenship as a goal for voter registration, laws we have passed locally and statewide to stop companies from using I.C.E to break up organizing efforts, etc.

Besides the AFL-CIO and California Federation of Labor staff, the CLC’s from San Francisco, Alameda, San Mateo, Contra Costa, Fresno, Monterey, North Valley, San Joaquin, Merced, Stanislaus, Tri-Counties, Los Angeles, and Orange Counties brought principal officers and staff.  Sacramento and Bakersfield had scheduling conflicts but will come to our next meeting.

Our Local 87 janitors union in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, where our SF Rise Immigration Center is housed, provided an amazing buffet lunch of tacos, two types of enchiladas, salsa, chips, guacamole, rice, beans… (Lost track of the other goodies when my plate got full!)

Immigration CLC 2016 RightAs unions and Labor Councils, we have many issues at the top of our advocacy: health care reform, affordable housing, the right to organize a voice at work though collective bargaining, Project Labor Agreements for construction, etc.

Immigration reform and protections rise all these waters for our members and our families.

Summary: Even with anti-worker court rulings and a Congress that refuses to fix our failed immigration system, the California labor movement will continue to protect immigrant workers who pay taxes, work hard and make America work.

This meeting was a great first step in California to engage this work everywhere in the state – rural and urban, coast to valley, north and south.

Workers standing together win together!

Executive Director Tim Paulson’s Remarks on the 2016 MLK Breakfast

Monday, January 25th, 2016

MLK2016-CecilWilliamsAs I pulled into the Holiday Inn on Van Ness at 6:30 AM last Monday there were about 150 police officers outside. What the hell?! I was arriving early to coordinate our annual Martin Luther King Day Breakfast. Everybody knew there was going to be some kind of protest, but WOW!

At 8 AM many of our guests were already inside when I started getting text messages that police had begun to screen everyone coming in. I went nuts!

The Labor Council and the Nor Cal MLK Committee did not ask for this police presence. All guests, and frankly, all peaceful protesters, were welcome. I had given the hotel management that message on Sunday.

The annual breakfast had a great program that included music from the wonderful Latin Youth Jazz Ensemble and tributes to the history of the Civil Rights Movement and reports on the challenges and injustices we still feel. The breakfast was attended by hundreds of union members, community activists, pastors, faith leaders and elected leaders, including 8 of the 11 San Francisco Supervisors and all of our legislative representatives in Sacramento. We were proud to honor Reverend Cecil Williams and Janice Mirikitani, co-founders of the wonderful Glide Memorial Church and Foundation in the Tenderloin, which has been serving food and providing programs for underprivileged men and women and families in San Francisco for over a generation.

MLK2016-CrowdShotDuring the program one protester managed to get inside, jumped the stage, and shouted the demands of the Justice for Mario Woods Coalition, which was formed to decry the killing of a young man in the Bayview. The brother played it cool and was all dressed in a suit and tie to sneak in and be able to shout the coalition’s demands: “Full investigation into the shooting, charge the officers, fire the police chief.” The attendees were respectful of his message and his right to speak it.

Rev. Williams signaled to us that he wanted the protester on stage when he received his Willie B. Kennedy award. My co-emcee, Aaron Grizzell, and I, along with Sean Farley from the International Longshore Workers Local 10, took it a step further and went outside to bring all 20 or so protesters into the room to be on stage with Cecil and Jan.
AGrizzell-FTrumell-TPaulsonIt was a historic organizing event. Bridging any divide between the attendees and the protesters, Rev. Williams spoke of the importance of supporting this new movement and the power of love and working together to end injustice, wherever it is.

The San Francisco Labor Council has taken a position in support of the Black Lives Matter Movement and in support of many of the positions of the Justice for Mario Woods Coalition. We did not support firing the police chief.

This was a special San Francisco confluence of organizing at the breakfast. Thank you Rev. Williams for your Grace, and to all the participants who made this a memorable MLK event of tension and compassion that ultimately included everyone!

 

Labor Leaders from U.S. & Germany Break Bread

Friday, September 11th, 2015

2015GermanLaborDinnerAFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler traveled to Northern California last month to convene an exchange between Reiner Hoffmann, Chairman of the German Trade Union Confederation, and California labor leaders. I was joined by Shelley Kessler, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the San Mateo County Central Labor Council; Ben Field, Executive Director of the South Bay Labor Council (San Jose); and Angie Wei, Chief of Staff of the California Federation of Labor.

We met at the infamous Buck’s restaurant in Woodside by the California coast, the funky roadside restaurant where, rumor has it, all Silicon Valley deals are brokered. We were joined by Andrea Nahles, the German Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, and the San Francisco German Consulate staff.

The Germans were in town for short visits in Washington, D.C. and the Bay Area to explore and study the Silicon Valley technology models of business. They titled their visit “The Internet of Things.” They had toured Google and Airbnb headquarters in San Francisco and Mountain View before meeting us for dinner.

The German labor movement is an accepted part of the fabric of commerce and acknowledged as the “voice at work” in Germany. Labor, management and government still have a commitment to cooperate and find ways to solve economic issues. Unlike America, where Republicans and a large portion of the business community spend incredible resources to destroy and eliminate our unions, the German economy still deems workers and their unions as true partners.

It was inspirational to see Labor Minister Nahles and Labor Chair Hoffman traveling as equals in this government delegation. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez and AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka would never be paired as equal partners by the Obama administration to participate in an international delegation like this.

That being said, our conversation over dinner from the American delegation was pretty one-sided. The Germans were informed that the Silicon Valley business model does not value American workers. Independent contractors, third party outsourcing, and non-employee-type models that don’t include health care costs and retirement plans is not a way of doing business that values a sustainable life in California.

The technology and innovation to make workers’ lives more efficient is exciting and worth being part of, but if the cost of this innovation drives more people into poverty – janitors, food service workers, security officers, construction workers, truck and bus drivers – then we have a problem.

The wealth created in Silicon Valley is not shared and the Labor Movement is working to fix that.

Thank you Liz Shuler, Chairman Reiner Hoffmann, and Labor Minister Nahies for listening to the workers’ perspective.

Gov. Brown Axes ‘Alien’ from Labor Lexicon

Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

From the San Francisco Chronicle and Written by Kale Williams

August 10, 2015 Updated: August 10, 2015 6:27 pm

BrownBillSigningUnless it’s a reference to interplanetary travelers, the term “alien” will no longer be part of the state Capitol lexicon, or at least the California Labor Code, as Gov. Jerry Brown effectively banned the word with the stroke of his pen Monday.

The newly enacted law, originally sponsored by state Sen. Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia (Los Angeles County), will go into effect Jan. 1, 2016, and is intended to modernize California law by removing the term as a legal definition of an undocumented immigrant worker.

“My bill modernizes the Labor Code and removes the term ‘alien’ to describe a person who is not born in or a fully naturalized citizen of the United States,” Mendoza said in a statement. “Alien is now commonly considered a derogatory term for a foreign-born person and has very negative connotations.”

The term “alien” is a holdover from a bygone era, according to a news release on the new law from the governor’s office. Inserted into various provisions in the California Labor Code in 1937, the word was defined as any person who is not born in the United States or a fully naturalized citizen of the country.

But, over the years and with the rise of political rancor around the issue of immigration, the term took on some ugly connotations and its presence in the law books was long overdue for removal, Mendoza said.

“The word ‘alien,’ and any law prescribing an order for the issuance of employment to ‘aliens,’ have no place in the laws of our state and more importantly, should never be the basis for any employment hiring. (The law) deletes this outdated, discriminatory and unnecessary reference in state law,” he said.

TPaulson-AFLConvention2009Tim Paulson, executive director of the San Francisco Labor Council, which represents more than 100 unions and more than 100,000 workers across all kinds of professions, both public and private, said the law was a long time coming.

“I’m very pleased,” he said. “The word ‘alien’ has incredibly racist and un-American connotations.”

More than 16 percent of the U.S. workforce is composed of foreign-born workers, according to the most recent numbers from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, and foreign-born workers are more likely to be employed in the service industry than their native-born counterparts.

“There are two words we are opposed to: illegal and alien. There is no such thing as an illegal person, and there is no such thing as an illegal alien. All workers in this country, whether documented or undocumented, pay their taxes and do their fair share,” Paulson said.

“We are a nation of immigrants, and anything that connotes a negative implication of being an immigrant is antithetical to the idea of the American dream.”

Assemblyman Matthew Harper, R-Huntington Beach (Orange County), who cast the sole vote against the law, said that the term “alien” had become pejorative because the people it was being applied to had broken the law and that the bill itself was “just a way for legislators to get their names in the paper.”

“The negative connotations come from the fact that people are breaking the law. Changing the word won’t change the fact that folks are here illegally,” he said. “Bills like this are a waste of time, especially when we have much more serious issues to deal with.”

For his part, Mendoza dismissed that rationale.

“Just because we are dealing with this issue doesn’t mean we are turning a blind eye to other issues that matter,” he said. “For Harper to dismiss this bill so readily I think does a disservice to his constituents.”

Kale Williams is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: kwilliams@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @sfkale

 

SF Living Wage Coalition Honors Teamsters 856 Leader Rudy Gonzalez and SEIU 1021 Political Vice President Alysabeth Alexander

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

Two emerging, dedicated, young, but experienced and committed leaders in the San Francisco labor community were honored at an energetic dinner last Friday at the long-standing Living Wage Coalition fundraiser.

AlysabethAlexander-LvngWgHnree-2015Alysabeth Alexander is a rank and file nonprofit worker who has been entrusted and elected to represent her members in the legislative and political fields of her union, SEIU 1021, which represents over 50,000 workers in Northern California. She was vitally engaged in the campaign to pass San Francisco’s minimum wage ballot measure for $15 an hour and is leading ongoing efforts to raise the wage in other East Bay cities in SEIU 1021’s jurisdiction. Her passion for economic justice for housing rights, fighting predatory lending, advancing cost of living raises for non-profit workers, and being in the field with the labor movement during the historic Occupy Movement are attributes to her organizing leadership.

 

RudyGonzalez-LivingWageHonoree2015Rudy Gonzalez has recently been elected by his members as Vice President of Teamsters Local 856 and is Director of Organizing. Rudy was the coordinator of the historic organizing drive to win a voice at work for the employees at Edgewood school in San Francisco’s Sunset District. Rudy has been elected to serve on the San Francisco Labor Council’s Executive Committee and represents Teamster members with professionalism and passion.

 

Alysabeth and Rudy are two leaders who represent the future of the labor movement and make me sleep a little better at night because I remember when I was twenty years younger fighting in my union’s visceral organizing campaigns – winning or losing, but always fighting.

Historic Coalition Meeting with San Francisco Federal Reserve Board President John C. Williams

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015

FedReservePhoto-2015A national coalition of the AFL-CIO, the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD), and the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) was formed to create a campaign to engage the Federal Reserve Bank in all 12 districts across the nation. The campaign’s focus is to create a relationship of ongoing dialogue within the Fed to make sure that the economic needs of ordinary working men and women have a voice at the table. Our goal is to create a grassroots voice to challenge the traditional Wall Street-driven analysis that Fed members rely upon to decide monetary policy.

Our campaign was also designed to advocate for community and labor seats on the regional boards, as well as on a newly created community advisory committee.

With the progressive leadership of Board of Governors Chair Janet Yellen, recently appointed by President Obama, a consumer advocate as well as an advocate for adding economic inequality into the metrics for monetary decisions, we decided to take this opportunity to support worker voices and values.

Our main goals were to initiate a dialogue to counter the national blunt instrument economic data that merely pointed to indications that there is aggregate employment and economic growth without looking at what worker realities really mean.

We would point out:

  • Wage stagnation
  • Underemployed workers & workers working 2-3 jobs
  • New job creation is paying much less than before the economic collapse of 2008

After a coordinated national rally outside all 12 Federal Reserve Branch Banks across the nation in 2014, our San Francisco coalition received an invitation to meet with San Francisco Board President John Williams to address our concerns.

Each city and region has different flavors to their local coalitions and I believe that our meeting last week was historic and groundbreaking. Our local San Francisco coalition strategized for weeks and was fully prepared for our meeting and I believe the results belied our local strategy of engagement.

This national coalition has had meetings in Boston and Kansas City, but in other areas of the country our coalition has been either rebuffed or ignored.

Besides local representatives of the San Francisco Labor Council, CDP, and ACCE we invited Dr. Steven Pitts, labor economist at the University of California, Berkeley, and Derecka Meherens, Executive Director of Working Partnerships USA and co-convener of Silicon Valley Rising, a faith, community and labor coalition that is fighting for housing and economic justice in the South Bay.

Workers from ACCE, UNITE HERE Local 2, and SEIU USWW presented testimony about how the economy is not working for wage earners and that raw unemployment numbers don’t tell the true story of underemployment and creation of verifiable living wage jobs.

At our coalition meeting we asked the San Francisco Fed for four places to engage with our worker coalition:

Don’t Raise Interest Rates
Since the unemployment rate is a blunt tool for measuring the labor market’s strength, we urge the Federal Reserve to evaluate remaining slack by looking at wage growth. Until wage growth is at least 4%, there cannot be any wage-driven inflation pressure. Given the lack of any real inflation threats, there is no need to act prematurely and raise interest rates before the economy has reached full health. We ask that you hold off on any interest rate hikes for the rest of 2015.

Establish an Ongoing Relationship with Our Organizations

  • Come to a town hall or union meeting to hear from workers
  • Take a tour of one of the neighborhoods where our members live and work
  • Attend an event where you can meet our members and their families
  • Attend an event where you give a speech to our members and the public and answer their questions about the economy and the Fed

Assign Staff to Help get Banks to Invest in Community Housing
HUD, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac, and some other major banks are selling off pools of delinquent mortgages to private equity firms, hedge funds, and other Wall Street entities. We would like to see those mortgages be sold to nonprofits that have raised the necessary capital to compete in this market for the purpose of saving homes from foreclosure and creating affordable housing. We would like the SF Fed’s help in convening conversations with commercial banks to explore this possibility.

Set Up Procedures to be More Transparent in Appointing the President and Board Members
The Board of Directors of the San Francisco Fed includes 8 representatives from banks and corporations and only 1 representative from a nonprofit. It includes no representation from labor, consumer, or community-based organizations. We would like the Federal Reserve to add more voices of those who represent working families to its Board of Directors.

President Williams was very engaged in our two hour dialogue and agreed to (2) and (3) and said that the transparency model (4) initiated by the Minneapolis branch was something he would be committed to pursue.

See the Reuters article that followed our meeting.

The coalition will be planning the best ways to pursue these breakthroughs. Every policy, issue, or campaign the San Francisco Labor Council pursues has multiple labor and community partners.

Thank you Grace Martinez from ACCE for arranging the logistics of the meeting and Ady Barkin from CDP and Eddie Acosta of the AFL-CIO in DC for trekking to San Francisco. And great kudos for Bayview residents Ebony Esler, Pastor Yul Dorn and Kevin Stein from the Community Reinvestment Coalition for making the real and passionate appeals to make all of us realize what this economy really means to struggling working who are still being squeezed out of the American Dream.

San Francisco Historic Legislative Organizing Honored in Washington, DC

Monday, July 20th, 2015

JobsWithJusticeBanquetPhoto2The San Francisco Labor Council and San Francisco’s Jobs with Justice were on the host committee for the Jobs with Justice national fundraiser in Washington, D.C.

Jobs with Justice is a national AFL-CIO labor and community organization initiated by various International Unions in reaction to Ronald Reagan’s unilateral annihilation of the Air Traffic Controllers union when they went on strike for safe working conditions. It was clear to some unions in the 1980’s that we needed to organize deeper relationships within the community to fight the business assaults on workers and their unions. This 1980’s reactive vision is one that many of us in progressive trades unions have taken on aggressively in this new century. (Footnote: The Air Traffic Controllers had endorsed Ronald Reagan for President.)
At the JwJ fundraiser San Francisco rank and file workers from United Food and Commercial Unions Locals 5 and 648 were being honored for their role in our coalition that passed the first Retail Workers Bill of Rights in the United States.

Our San Francisco legislation, passed unanimously by the Board of Supervisors after a year-long campaign, mandates that formula retail stores post their work schedules 14 days in advance so that workers can plan their life schedules for child care, school and other humane ways to live.

This groundbreaking legislation also mandates that part-time workers who are working 24 hours a week and want to work four days a week have to be offered those extra hours before the employer hires another worker.

Based on this groundbreaking victory in San Francisco this law is now being introduced statewide in Sacramento, Minnesota and other communities around the United States.

JobsWithJusticeBanquetPhoto1The fundraiser was held at the beautiful marble-clad Women’s Museum for the Arts on New York Ave. Dinner was an informal mix of three kinds of mashed potatoes eaten in martini glasses – apparently a Jobs with Justice tradition.

Congratulations to Julie Fisher and Mark Ortiz from Local 5 and Sandra Herrera and Michelle Flores from Local 648. They gave great comments in front of a national audience of international presidents, press, and activists. Gordon Mar and Michelle Lim from JwJ, UFCW 648 President Dan Larson, 648 representative Julissa Hernandez and I were honored to be on the stage to support them. The San Francisco Labor Council is proud of these worker-leaders that contributed to this coalition campaign.

Workers and unions need to build on this victory and organize the more than 100,000 non-union retail workers in San Francisco.

Addendum: Maria Elena Durazo, my former counterpart at the Los Angeles Federation of Labor, now Vice President of Unite-Here International Union for Immigration Rights, was also honored. She, Jobs with Justice Executive Director Sarita Gupta, and I are in this second photo at the celebration.

 

From the Desk of Executive Director Tim Paulson

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

Richard Leung, 62, former President of SEIU Janitors Union Local 87 and for many years an executive board member of the San Francisco Labor Council, passed away this weekend after a long battle with cancer. During his leadership at Local 87 Richard led the passage of the Displaced Workers Protection Act, legislation that provides job security and organizing rights for janitors and security officers in San Francisco.

Mr. Leung was born in Hong Kong and after immigrating to the Bay Area earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley. At Berkeley he became an active member of the Asian American student movement and the next three decades of his life were committed to advocating for the rights of service workers in multiple California unions.

Richard was a founding committee member of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO and has served on the executive board of the Service Employees International Union.

After his diagnosis with cancer, Richard arranged to leave legacies for the social causes closest to his heart. He sponsored an essay contest for children of Local 87 janitors. He also established a fund through Give2Asia that supports scholarships for children of migrant workers and grants for labor research. Finally, Richard contributed to the construction of a museum at Donner State Park in Truckee, California, where an accurate history of Chinese laborers in the U.S. is featured.

Richard is survived by his wife, Katie Quan, Senior Scholar at the University of California Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education, his stepson Eric, Eric’s partner Melynee, and his step-granddaughter Ella-Rayne. He is also survived by his sisters Wiana Choy, Linda Cheung, Beverley Chan and their families.

He has designated and provided for the San Francisco Labor Council, in conjunction with the UC Berkeley Labor Center, to host a labor forum to educate and highlight the legislative and organizing campaigns that San Francisco Bay Area unions have undertaken during the last twenty years.

Information on services to follow.

From the Desk of Executive Director Tim Paulson

Monday, June 15th, 2015

Paulson_Leroy_MLK2009


Leroy King, International Union of Longshore and Warehouse Workers (ILWU) leader and longtime San Francisco Labor Council delegate, has passed away at 91 years old. He died of natural causes at his home in Saint Francis Square in San Francisco’s Japantown, a cooperative complex he helped found to provide homes for union members and their families during a time in the 1960’s when housing discrimination against minorities was still an issue – even in a progressive city like San Francisco. Leroy King joined ILWU Local 6’s warehouse union after WWII and was soon appointed a regional Director for the International Union where he served during the leadership of the legendary Harry Bridges.

Even in retirement Brother King was a friend to the San Francisco Labor Council and helped me personally as Executive Director in our policies and duties. He brokered political tensions at our Martin Luther King Day celebrations; he was a reliable labor steward on the Redevelopment Commission where he served under six mayors from Diane Feinstein to Ed Lee. Leroy King was always available as a mentor to young leaders in our many unions and he had to be a little proud that some of the devastating redevelopment and gutting of the Fillmore District that displaced so many in the African American community, started to make a bit of a return with some of the build out of the Fillmore corridor in the Western Addition.

During my tenure at the Labor Council Leroy stopped by my 2nd floor office in the ILWU headquarters almost every month after doing business on the 4th floor. If I didn’t have to answer more than ten questions about the many legislative and political campaign we were working on I would be relieved. I’d often drive him back to his house in Saint Francis Square.

Leroy King was a legend and historic part of San Francisco labor history.

We will miss our friend.

 

Victory to Edgewood Workers in San Francisco!

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

Victory to Edgewood Workers in San Francisco!

Edgewood LogoCongratulations to the workers at Edgewood Center for Children and Families who voted to join  Teamsters Local 856 last night! The perseverance of Edgewood professionals who simply wanted a voice at work was rewarded with this majority of workers who voted to join a union.

From their Unionize Edgewood Facebook page:

Tonight we stood together and showed confidence in each other. With every YES vote we cast we affirmed that we can achieve more by standing together than by going it alone.

We voted for us, for our coworkers and for a better Edgewood for our clients. And we won the vote!

Want to congratulate these workers? Stop by their  FacebookTwitter pages today.

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