Political Participation Leads to a Better Life for Workers

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October 2014 - We have just wrapped up another outstanding legislative session for working families in California, and now we focus on earning more favorable outcomes in the November 4 election.

It should come as no surprise to anyone in the California Building Trades that those two things, legislative results that enhance workers’ quality of life and winning elections, are deeply intertwined. If we are successful at electing public officials who understand and care about working families, we can get good legislation passed. In short, political participation leads to a better life for workers.

Here in California, we have participated with energy and unwavering unity, elected great public officials to represent us, and as a result, we have achieved many victories in the legislative arena, resulting in a better quality of life for Building Trades workers and their families.

The single most important political outcome we helped make happen was the election, four years ago, of Governor Jerry Brown. At that time, California was mired in a terrible recession, unemployment was soaring everywhere but especially in construction, and the state was buried under enormous, crushing annual budget deficits.

But unlike his Republican predecessors, and the ultra-rich Republican who ran against him in 2010, sneering with contempt and disregard for working people, Jerry Brown believed in balanced budgets, with adequate revenues to invest in job-creating public works projects, and possessed a deep sense of understanding and fairness toward workers. That sense shows every time we interact with Governor Brown, and it comes from his upbringing and his Jesuit education that emphasized fairness and compassion even in the face of pressure that powerful business interests bring to bear on state government on a daily basis.

We also elected worker friendly legislators up and down our state, and working with this Governor and these legislators, we turned things around in California.

Governor Brown signed Senate Bill 922, a Building Trades bill to keep local governments free to consider entering Project Labor Agreements.

He signed Senate Bill 7 to protect prevailing wage for workers on local public works projects. He signed Senate Bill 54, important legislation to improve safety at refineries, to ensure that contract workers who work at those dangerous facilities are well-trained and that 60 percent of them will come out of state-approved apprenticeship programs.

Most recently, Governor Brown reviewed several bills of labor and the State Building Trades. After detailed review, which included putting us  through the Spanish Inquisition on the details to ensure that these things would improve workers’ lives, and improve the economy, he signed the following measures.

Senate Bill 785 to authorize design-build authority for local governments, which require the contractors on such projects to have a workforce of a minimum of 60 percent that have graduated from state approved apprenticeship programs, driving our economy and ensuring quality at the lowest bid.

Assembly Bill 1870, to fix the Division of Apprentice Standards’ formula for distribution of apprenticeship funding, so that the labor-management programs that produce most of the graduates get a fair share of the grants.

Assembly Bill 155 provides the Monterey County Water Resources Agency with design-build authority for a water transfer project only if it enters into an agreement with the Monterey County Building and Construction Trades Council. This guarantees the best-trained, highly-skilled, streamlined work force will build it to the highest standards while bringing good jobs to local workers, and provides crucial infrastructure to the region that will provide benefits for decades and beyond.

Assembly Bill 1581 requires that school projects performed under the “lease-leaseback” procurement method use prequalified contractors.

Over the last four years we have had a governor who has a burning desire to drive the economy by creating high quality jobs with decent wages in the private sector. He understands that the state’s economy will only be successful if it has modern, efficient infrastructure, so commerce can move goods and people with good airports, safe bridges, new clean mass transit. Governor Brown also knows we need an updated water system; while supporting public education, including the crown jewel of California, the UC, CSU, and community college systems; all to service our growing needs. He is achieving all of these things while supporting the training of 53,000 Building Trades apprentices that will supplement Building Trades workers as they retire. Again, looking to the future of a state that he truly loves and has taken responsibility for.

This resulted from the individual workers, your involvement, your activism, and your pennies. Our political action fund consists of a deduction of pennies from each of our members, and leads to hundreds of thousands of dollars that puts working people’s voice in the political process.

What a difference we have made, even as anti-worker politicians in other states have driven workers into the ground, with right to work laws, poor wages and benefits, and a race to the bottom.

Our immediate mission this November is to make sure that Governor Jerry Brown is resoundingly re-elected for another term. When working families have decent jobs, it drives the economy. Therefore, they buy washing machines, cars, homes, send their children to higher education, all of which is a machine that makes business successful. In other words, when the plankton does well, the whales of business also thrive. Republicans and business should join us on the side of decent jobs. Their future depends on it too.

If we stay determined and united, we can do anything we set our minds to, that improves the lives of working men and women in California.

Political participation leads to better lives for workers. It’s been a great past four years for California Building Trades workers. Now on to the next four.

 

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