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Better job standards for Treasure Island

July 20, 2012

Community and labor groups promote stronger wages and benefits for economically disadvantaged San Franciscans

by Brightline Defense Project

Development of Treasure Island, shown here as it may look in the future, and the Hunters Point Shipyard-Candlestick Point have been the topic of months of negotiations between lead developer Lennar and the China Development Bank, which may invest up to $1.7 billion, the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and the San Francisco Chronicle announced recently. San Francisco’s local hiring and contracting policies could be a stumbling block, WSJ speculates, but the Chronicle reports labor unions are “on board.” As part of the deal, however, a Chinese general contractor would build the roads, bridges and other infrastructure.
Over the last several months, a conversation has been underway about job standards for maintenance workers at Treasure Island. During last year’s deliberations on the Treasure Island Disposition and Development Agreement, community and labor advocates worked with Mayor Edwin Lee and the Board of Supervisors on language to require wage and working conditions enjoyed by landscaping and janitorial workers in the City and County of San Francisco for similar Treasure Island contracts.

The fundamental question of the Treasure Island dialog is: How do we serve a targeted population of candidates while delivering the wages, benefits and retirement enjoyed by workers doing the same work in the City and County?

Mayor Lee recently set a table in furtherance of an answer as maintenance contracts come up for renewal before the Treasure Island Development Authority (TIDA). These discussions have been robust and also suggest fertile ground for educating jobs stakeholders about the importance of maintaining area standard working conditions, supporting prevailing wage jobs, and the role that organized labor and community groups play in providing the best for working families.

In the first of these meetings three weeks ago, which included Laborers Union Local 261, Janitors Union SEIU Local 87, Brightline, the A. Philip Randolph Institute and Treasure Island service providers, one participant cautioned the parties against using the terms “prevailing wage” and “union jobs” interchangeably. This misguided comment revealed that, just as community advocates over the past several years have successfully educated local hiring stakeholders that “local hiring means union jobs,” the City must similarly journey down a path to understanding that “prevailing wage” does not exist without “union jobs.”

Treasure Island currently requires minimum wage with limited benefits and no retirement or journey level upgrade training for landscaping and janitorial workers. Service providers are required to sign a First Source Hiring Agreement in order to deliver opportunities to economically disadvantaged San Franciscans while targeting opportunities for formerly homeless workers and those facing barriers to employment pursuant to the important work of the Treasure Island Homeless Development Initiative.

These discussions have been robust and also suggest fertile ground for educating jobs stakeholders about the importance of maintaining area standard working conditions, supporting prevailing wage jobs, and the role that organized labor and community groups play in providing the best for working families.

Because of years of work by organized labor, community groups and policy makers in the City and County of San Francisco, living wages with full benefits, retirement and apprenticeships that develop long-term careers are the area standard for this type of work and “prevalent” to the point that they have become the “prevailing” standard for workers outside of Treasure Island. Without organizing efforts from labor and community leaders and without collectively bargained agreements, these conditions would not “prevail.” Minimum wage with limited benefits and no retirement or journey level upgrade training would instead be the norm.

A resolution is in sight, thanks to the hard work of Mayor Lee and his office, TIDA Commissioners and staff, community and labor representatives, and Treasure Island service providers. Advocates expect TIDA staff to announce a pathway to bring Treasure Island maintenance contracts up to the San Francisco area standard within the next 90 days. Slight modification of existing service agreements should deliver major gains for workers currently employed at Treasure Island.

This is just the start of a healthy dialog in San Francisco across multiple sectors in which San Francisco continues to move out of record unemployment while ensuring that the jobs we create provide living wages and benefits that support families and socioeconomic diversity in this great city.

To learn more, visit Brightline Defense Project. Executive Director Joshua Arce can be reached at josh@brightlinedefense.org.

 

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