AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka Visits San Francisco

AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka was in Northern California a couple of days ago to support our robust GOTV effort to defeat Proposition 32 and pass Proposition 30. Before arriving in San Francisco, he stopped in Sacramento to give a boost to Ami Bera, our candidate for that seat for Congress, and in Modesto to shore up the attacks on our Congressional friends John Garamendi and Jerry McNerny. He spent the night in Oakland after attending the vibrant Alameda County Central Labor Council phone banks.

The next morning he met me at the San Francisco Labor Council offices at 6AM. I gave him one of my Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers hardhats (I was once Vice President of the San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council when I was an officer of BAC Local 3) and drove him to a 37 story high-rise construction sight on 10th and Market to greet building trades members on their way to work. We were joined by Building Trades Executive Secretary-Treasurer Mike Theriault and other Labor Council and Building Trades leaders who Mike helped turn out with less than 24 hours notice. It was raining, forklifts were splashing between supplies, Local 38 Plumbers and Sheetmetal Local 104 members had a big truck delivery that had to be hoisted by crane onto the project and there was a major cement pour that had us scrambling. But there was a feeling that I haven’t had in a long time that hope is finally around the corner.

Thank you to all the business representatives who tweaked their busy schedules and met us that morning. President Trumka spoke with almost 200 workers, handing out No on 32 hard hat stickers, and got to talk to many union members who were finally working in San Francisco as the economy (no thanks to the Republicans) is finally turning around. San Francisco, a union town, is one of the American cities where workers have finally come out of the hiring hall to work at what they know best and are beginning to recover from the devastating downturn that reckless Wall St gambling had created.

After a quick greasy breakfast a block down Market St. we headed to a meeting of the District Council of Ironworkers, where leaders from 14 unions covering California, Nevada and Hawaii, were meeting in a union hotel on Fishermen’s Wharf. Local 377 in San Francisco, which is helping the Council with Chinese language phone banks, heard that President Trumka was going to be in town, and Danny Prince, its President, asked if I could arrange for Trumka to stop by. California Ironworker unions are engaged both in No on 32 campaigns and are running programs in Nevada for Obama. We came into their conference to great applause and Rich engaged these leaders with updates from the battle ground states – not only for Obama, but on the possibilities of taking back the House. He also answered a great question about how we can get on the offensive politically instead of just defending our rights. He said, “We are going to replicate that ALEC strategy of putting out anti-union bills throughout the state houses and are coming up with anti-right wing business bills of our own.” And out of the clear blue Rich stated, “And I promise that the Employee Free Choice Act will be back on the table!” Ironworkers were pleased.

Before leaving on an afternoon flight to Vegas, California Labor Federation leader Art Pulaski hosted a small luncheon at a fish house. We talked about next steps. (Angie Wei, Chief of Staff and the best legislative director in California, came down with Art!) Despite the well organized California labor operations in our Central Labor Councils, Rich reminded  us:  “No matter which way the November 6 election falls in DC, the states houses, or your cities, there will be a lame duck Congress that is itching to continue Bush-era tax cuts to the rich and make benefit cuts to Social Security and Medicare. This ‘grand bargain,’ this solution to ‘sequestration,’ which even Obama is touting, is totally unacceptable to the labor movement.”

Rich, thanks for stopping by.

AFL-CIO Update: Since I scribbled this article I have been told that Senators Feinstein and Boxer have just been added to the “watch” list for compromises on millionaire taxes and entitlements.

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