Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

Honoring Labor Leader Women on International Women’s Day in San Francisco

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

This week, to celebrate International Women’s Day, the City and County of San Francisco honored three incredible labor leaders. Never in my time at the Labor Council have this many labor leaders been honored on one day. But it was the three women whose dedication to the Labor Movement made this day even more historic.

Olga2017Mayor Ed Lee honored Olga Miranda for her leadership as an organizer and as the president of Service Employees International Union Local 87, San Francisco’s janitors union. Her years of fighting for good wages, health care and retirement benefits for the thousands of her mostly-immigrant members is legendary.

Olga is also the elected Secretary-Treasurer of the San Francisco Labor Council.

I first met Olga Miranda when I was the organizing and political director for Justice for Janitors back in the 1990’s and it has been wonderful to see her work ethic and dedication to the Labor Movement recognized this week. Most of our country doesn’t know the time and devotion it takes to be a labor representative – how much time it takes to take on the bosses so members have union representation and a voice at work. Olga has managed to maintain that dedication working 10-12 hours a day, often 7 days a week, while also being the mother of Joaquin, her son with her husband.

Olga was also honored in Sacramento this week as Woman of the Year by the California State Assembly for her political and member organizing.

Supervisor Jane Kim and Board President London Breed honored Conny Ford, former Secretary-Treasurer of Office and Professional Employees Local 3 and current Vice President of Community Activities of the San Francisco Labor Council, as a “Trailblazing Woman in Labor and Business,” a centerpiece of San Francisco’s Women’s History Month.

ConnyFord2017Conny has been instrumental in founding San Francisco’s branch of Jobs with Justice, a coalition of labor unions and community organizations dedicated to expanding economic justice for all workers, whether covered by a union contract or not. This new coalition has been controversial but game-changing for labor and community in San Francisco. Its work has brought broader coalitions with the Labor Council that led to passing the highest minimum wage in the country, the first Retail Worker Bill of Rights, and the Fight for Free City College, which resulted in free tuition for San Francisco students.

Conny Ford was a lead in all these campaigns and currently works with the Labor Council as campaign coordinator for our small, emerging nonprofit, sfCLOUT, which is dedicated to workforce development and housing justice.

FYI: The San Francisco Labor Council is an OPEIU shop.

Sabrina+Cohen2017Supervisor Malia Cohen honored Sabrina Hernandez, the first woman and first person of color to serve as a business representative of IBEW Local 6. A journeyman inside wireman (sic) who completed her apprenticeship in 1992, she still represents Local 6 members and fights non-union contractors who cheat workers out of prevailing wages and benefits. Sabrina serves the labor community as a member of the Board of Directors of the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District and is a delegate to the San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council. (Of all the labor directors over the last 25 years, Sabrina is the only one to have invited me to take the elevator up for a tour of the signature tower…)

These historic commendations for our female colleagues were even more special in this new era of unimaginable attacks on civil rights and economic justice. And the recognition that the Labor Movement wouldn’t exist without women is as powerful a statement that a City can make to our entire community.

Thank you, Olga, Conny, and Sabrina! And to all women who take the risk to stand up and fight for economic justice.

All Out for This Weekend’s Inauguration Actions

Friday, January 20th, 2017

Tomorrow’s inauguration will be a difficult and painful day for workers and their families in San Francisco and throughout the country. The president-elect has already nominated cabinet members who are opposed to public education, civil rights, labor rights, immigrants, women’s rights, affordable housing, green energy … the list goes on. And that’s why so many of us have been on the streets and loading social media with our concerns about protecting the democracy of this country.

I want to encourage all to attend the rallies and marches on January 20 and 21. Please see the links at the bottom of this email for more information and to download fliers.

On Friday Jobs with Justice SF is spearheading a day of actions beginning with an early morning march from the Embarcadero. SEIU 1021 is rallying outside of SFGH at 11:30 AM. The Labor Council is protesting against the proposed secretary of labor nominee at Carl’s Junior, outside UN Plaza at 4:30 PM. This will jump-start a city-wide rally and march at 5 PM at the Civic Center.

Please start your weekend with the SF branch of the National Women’s March starting at Bill Graham Auditorium at 3 PM on Saturday.

I am reminded of the sweet spot that organizers always dream of: “Nothing motivates workers more than a bad boss.”

Hope to see all of you on the streets. This is just the beginning of our resistance.

Jobs With Justice Dump Trump Day of Actions
Labor Contingent & Dump Trump Rally & March
SF Women’s March

A Few Observations of my Short Friendship with Tom Hayden

Wednesday, November 9th, 2016

Oct 28, 2016

Hayden+PaulsonAlmost 10 years ago I was touring a shirt factory in Hanoi with my colleague Kent Wong from the UCLA Labor Center. We were in Vietnam for an exchange he’d arranged between California and Vietnamese labor leaders.

Our tight schedule included a visit with the garment workers union at one of their worksites. During a back and forth after the tour I related that I’d recently worked on a campaign with the American anti-war activist Tom Hayden to pass an anti-sweatshop law in San Francisco that forbade the City and County from purchasing any goods or services that were produced under inhumane or slave-like conditions. Hayden had come up from Los Angeles and recruited me to help teach a graduate level class in legislative process that ultimately resulted in an historic piece of legislation.

The union representative’s eyes immediately lit up and she informed us that Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda had visited this very factory during their visit to Hanoi during the height, as she called it, of the “American” war.  Our visit to Vietnam was coinciding, ironically, with the height of the American invasion of Iraq. I replied that if San Francisco’s government couldn’t find enough American shirts that this union factory in Hanoi could definitely be on our good list.

Weeks later, back in Northern California, I was leaving a union meeting in Berkeley and noticed that across the hall a very crowded and animated class or workshop was happening.  Out of curiosity I slipped inside the room and realized it was a book reading featuring Tom Hayden. Hayden was reciting a narrative outlining the complexities and relationships of the religious and ethnic factions in Iraq that American foreign policy had essentially ignored during the invasion.  He didn’t need to overstate to the mostly gray haired crowd that this was not unlike our entry into Vietnam 50 years earlier.

His new book, “Ending the War in Iraq”, delved into the ancient history of the Sunni, Shia, Kurd, and other groupings in a way that illustrated how our invasion – and now occupation – the seemingly easy overthrow of Saddam Hussein and his Baath Party government (Mission Accomplished!) – had sucked us into the powerful historical undercurrents of religious war and Islamic politics that have persisted for centuries. (I write this in October 2016 while we still have troops in the chaos of Iraq and Afghanistan and other places in the region.)

After the book reading I introduced myself to Hayden and told him my Hanoi factory story. His eyes lit up and he handed the books he was signing to his assistant and took me aside to find his bag. “Tim, I just came back from Vietnam! My first time since the war.” He pulled a magazine from the bag. “Here is the my copy of the article I wrote in The Nation. Hot off the press. You can have it.”

We shared of few observations of the Union and Communist party officials we visited, noting their edged but conciliatory words as a combination of passion for their young, robust, capital-fueled, neo-liberal economy as well as the pride, sadness and complicated emotions at digesting the historic military and socialist political victory that had come with great sacrifice and suffering. Hayden’s article in The Nation, “The Old Revolutionaries of Vietnam,” is a great contemporary snapshot of this time in Vietnam – North and South.)

Before we could get deeper into conversation, Hayden”s assistant interrupted and dragged him back to the bookselling and autographing. “Let’s have dinner later,” he insisted, but I had another meeting that night.

A couple weeks later, Lisa Hoyos, AFL-CIO representative and former Hayden staffer during his legislative career in Sacramento, emailed and asked if I could drive Tom to a peace rally in San Mateo County. “He’d love to visit after the event and suggests dinner.”

The gathering – also at a union hall – was not unlike the Berkeley event. Hayden again gave a contemporary analysis of the sectors and players on the ground in Iraq and then fielded dozens of milquetoast questions. “Don’t you think that Rumsfeld and Cheney had an agenda that ignored the long term consequences of our actions?”

I’d made a reservation at Zuni restaurant in San Francisco and secured a table where we could relax and talk. Lisa warned me that Tom doesn’t drink and asked that I not order any alcohol. Fuck that! When I ordered a single glass of wine Hayden said “fuck that” and ordered a bottle.

That night was the only time I ever had a lengthy discussion with him. I’d ordered Zuni’s famous wood fired chicken – with bread, current, pine nut, balsamic vinegar and mustard leaf stuffing, and which takes at least an hour to cook. We were well into conversation and our second bottle of cabernet when it finally arrived.

Without getting into the weeds of our exchange I want to note that early in the conversation he talked about the evolution of labor leaders and their unions from the 60’s and 70’s moving from bread and butter institutions (grievances, collective bargaining, getting out the vote) to, in some cases, progressive activist organizations that ramped up even more union benefits for their members by fighting for immigrant and civil rights, opposing military expansion, promoting affordable housing, building community coalitions, and taking on the predatory healthcare industry, etc.

One question he asked me, “Lisa told me that you are a Progressive and helped, among other things, lead the AFL-CIO to the historic position of demanding the military withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan. What has taken the labor movement so long to start leading this kind of stuff?”

One reason is that it has taken a long time for some of us to sufficiently organize to get these positions – to actually get elected as the principal officer of a major union or Labor Council.

But it’s not just simply electoral. Our members, defined as workers, have to trust us if we are to keep these jobs for more than one term. That organizing is the most important. And part of that trust comes from that bread and butter work of trying to get raises, good contracts and organize jobs sights to pay those good wages. A constant turnover of officers is usually a good indictor of a struggling union where organizing doesn’t reach far enough in any of that necessary work.

“I guess that must be a part of it…..”  I sensed impatience and disappointment with this answer.

And then for some reason I blurted out that “even when we push the benchmarks to a higher level we are still accused by the Left of being sellouts!” ….even though we aren’t screaming from the scaffolds in our hardhats and pissing on the longhaired hippies marching down Michigan Ave……

Later we started a silly game of trying to judge who the best labor leaders and politicians were – leaders who tried not to sell out or compromise, yet still managed to get things done. Or at least be defined as trying.

I started with the example of Hillary Clinton who was going to be the savior for Single Payer Healthcare when Bill first got elected. “Before the Beltway giggled and ate her lunch?” Tom winked.

Some other examples:

Jimmy Carter: “Campaigned that he wasn’t from Washington and demonstrating that promise for the next four years by getting booted out.”

Andy Stern: “Smart. Vanguard. Abandoned Democracy.”

Dennis Kucinich: “Couldn’t get elected outside of two neighborhoods in Cleveland.”

Tom Ammiano, San Francisco Supervisor: “Hmmm. Good one. No, wait. He sold us out on our Sweat Free ordinance when we asked for $100,000 for compliance.”


We talked about the struggle to bring in the resources and talent to sustain progressive campaigns for the labor movement amidst the constant corporate attacks and the failed labor laws that keep us on the defensive.

I took my last sip of wine and noticed that only two tables still had customers. The servers, always attentive, were ready to call it a night.

As I paid the bill I asked what he was doing besides writing, accepting these gigs and lecturing. He told me with little enthusiasm that he was “on the short list to be hired as a full time professor” at a college in Southern Cal.

Why the tepid response? “I have been told there is no way that I can be hired despite being the most qualified.”  Why?  He looked me in the eye. Ah, yes…. Another blackballed lefty.

The California Democratic Party Convention opened in San Jose last summer with minor fanfare. Like our national labor movement, we wouldn’t be endorsing for President until after the primaries. Too many unions and major associations were still supporting either Hillary or Bernie. After the primaries were tallied we’d drag our belated unity into Philadelphia at the Democratic National Convention.

But delegates were jockeying in San Jose to run as Democratic National Committee members and Tom called and said he was running and asked for my support.  I asked him why, he’d already run and served in major elected offices throughout his career. Convention delegate?

“I want to stir up some issues in Philly.”

I had many friends – incumbents and otherwise – on the DNC ballot, but I gave him my support. I even took personal privilege as Labor Chair of the Party and gave him the microphone at the jam-packed Labor Caucus meeting (the largest caucus of the California Democratic Party).

He surprised everyone by saying that he now supported Hillary.*  When asked why he moved away from Progressive Bernie he answered that Hillary has the best chance of putting together a real post election coalition that includes African-Americans, Latinos and women.

This was quintessential Tom Hayden, the calculating of next steps that has defined Hayden’s career. Take to the streets and media to promote and define policy; wash up and march into the convention halls and legislative chambers to get it done.

The vote for DNC was an uphill climb – the campaign for any new DNC candidate meant that one had to challenge the insiders, the entrenched, the establishment, and piss folks off.

Tom fell just short on the ballot but he went to Philadelphia anyway.

If you followed the platform fights and newscasts from Philadelphia (that didn’t focus solely on the nomination of Hillary Clinton), Tom Hayden was all over the place and everywhere. When I talked to him on the phone at his home in Santa Monica a few weeks ago he said he “may have overdone it physically at the convention but that I shouldn’t worry, he was on a recovery regimen.”

Tom Hayden was always on a recovery regimen. Over 50 years of organizing, traveling, fighting, strategizing, counting votes, writing, recovering.  From jail or as a Senator; over a typewriter or in the Ivory Tower.

Tom Hayden was one of the most unique and important shapers of public policy in contemporary American history. He left us too soon.


  • Tim Paulson is the executive director of the San Francisco Labor Council, AFL-CIO, which represents over 150 union and 100,000 members. He is also the elected labor chair of the California Democratic Party.
  • Part of Hayden’s trip to Vietnam was facilitated by the same Vietnamese leader that guided our labor visit, Chau Nhat Bihn, Kent Wong’s friend and colleague from the Vietnamese General Federation of Labour (VGFL), who had taken the Harvard Trade Union Leadership Program a few years prior and spent the war years in and out of the tunnels of the Ho Chi Mihn Trail.
  • *”I Used to Support Bernie, but Then I Changed My Mind.” The Nation


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: 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.


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