Despite National Uncertainty, California Building Trades Workers Still Earned Victories

December 2016 – Well, the 2016 election is now in the history books, and it certainly delivered an ominous signal to Building Trades workers and their families across this country. The nation has spoken, and for the next four years, we will have a President whose history has not shown him to be always a friend to Building Trades workers and their families. With this said, we are open to work with him to give him an understanding of why the prevailing wage is good for America, the construction industry, taxpayers, and the infrastructure that services this nation.

With that said, as working families in California, we have much to be grateful for and much to be encouraged by. California’s election results proved once again that our activism and unwavering unity makes a huge difference in political results, and consequently in our quality of life.

In California, we overcame a huge early disadvantage to defeat one terrible ballot measure, and we passed other very good ones. It appears we have elected a state Legislature that will work successfully with Governor Jerry Brown to protect and advance workers’ interests.

Our greatest single victory must be the narrow defeat of Proposition 53, the initiative that would have blocked or delayed vital infrastructure projects in California by subjecting all revenue bond-funded projects greater than $2 billion to a statewide vote.  This would have made the funding of many badly needed, job-creating public works projects far more difficult, thereby killing tens of thousands of Building Trades workers’ jobs.

Proposition 53 was leading in the polls for most of the campaign. But the Building Trades, along with the California Chamber of Commerce and Governor Jerry Brown’s campaign fund, combined to raise $21 million to lead an educational campaign to defeat it.

The ballot measure was worded in an appealing way that made it seem as if voters were being empowered. But our informational campaign pointed out that it would remove local control of local projects, and stop much-needed construction. It would have permitted voters in different parts of the state to block each other’s projects by voting against the funding. We ran television, radio, and digital ads telling the truth to California voters, that if 53 passed, the aging infrastructure of the state of California would not be able to sustain the growing population, and the quality of life and education in this state would be greatly diminished.

We also distributed huge numbers of bumper stickers and hard hat stickers to work sites all across the state. Only by working tenaciously together were we able to overcome the huge early disadvantage and defeat Proposition 53, which would have caused immense harm to working families for decades to come.

Strong, unified support from the Building Trades also proved a key factor in winning voter approval for Proposition 51, a $9 billion school bond measure for construction and modernization of schools and community colleges across California.

In addition to providing greatly needed new school facilities for California’s students, the measure will create good construction jobs throughout the state. An extensive network of project labor agreements with school districts in California assures that this work will go to the skilled and trained workforce of the Building Trades.

We helped pass Proposition 52, to continue state fees on hospitals and earn federal matching funds for indigent care, preventing these costs from being passed off to our union health care trust funds. And we supported and helped pass Proposition 55, to continue the stream of tax revenues first approved by voters in 2012, ensuring the state’s fiscal solvency, and its ability to invest in job-creating infrastructure, for years to come.

Voters also restored two-thirds Democratic supermajorities to both the State Senate and Assembly, further strengthening our ability to enact legislation that advances workers’ interests, and state budgets with the resources to get things done.

Local jurisdictions also approved billions of dollars worth of school bonds, and in Los Angeles, the passage of Measure M will generate billions of dollars for vital transportation infrastructure in the decades ahead. In the Bay Area, voters approved Measure RR, a $3.5 billion bond for repairs and improvements to BART.

I hope this recap makes it clear how important the political activism and tenacious unity of the Building Trades still is, and will continue to be in the years to come.

Sure, the national political news may sometimes be discouraging. But let’s be clear: here in California, we are still doing what it takes to sustain and improve the quality of life for Building Trades workers and their families. We will not ever lighten up in that quest.