by Lorena Gonzalez
Workers throughout the United States and in San Diego faced unprecedented challenges this year. A full scale attack on middle-class wages and benefits, along with a tough economy, made 2012 seem like a very long year for middle and working class folks. But, when it was all said in done, this year should leave a smile on our faces in San Diego – and these are 10 of the reasons why.
10.) No strikes in the organized retail sector, while the unorganized gain a voice. UFCW Local 135 members at Food 4 Less, CVS, and Rite-Aid avoided potential strikes and ratified contracts that maintained wages, health care and retirement benefits. Meanwhile, retail workers at unorganized facilities started to empower themselves, looking for opportunities to betters their workplaces as well. Throughout the country and here in San Diego County, we have been inspired by the bravery of the “Our WalMart” Associates who have spoken out against the world’s richest and most powerful employer about troubling treatment in the workplace.
9.) Labor agreement won to protect all workers signed for any possible expansion of the Convention Center. The San Diego Building and Construction Trades signed an agreement with the developer ensuring all workers on the Convention Center – union and nonunion – will receive prevailing wages, healthcare and retirement. There will be training opportunities for local residents that lead to careers in construction rather than a piecemeal job and workers will be hired first from the San Diego region, which means those workers will be able reinvest in their communities and continue to rebuild San Diego’s economy. The current Convention Center workers also extended their Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), ensuring a unionized operation of the Convention Center once expanded.
8.) Our kids win as 1,200 teacher layoffs avoided at San Diego Unified. After years of crippling cuts to education funding, San Diego Unified was facing dramatic layoffs of teachers and school staffs. In a tremendous showing of selfless commitment, our teachers renegotiated with the school district to save jobs and put students first. Then in November, Californians stepped up to stop the bleeding by passing Proposition 30. We avoided losing weeks off the school year, defended our teachers against steep cuts, and invested in our children to build a better future for San Diego and California.
7.) More healthcare for tourism workers! UNITE-HERE Local 30 signed a first contract at the Gaslamp Westin, adding another union hotel that provides full family healthcare to their workers in downtown San Diego. The rise of union density in the Class A hotel industry in the region – to its highest any of us can remember – means that all hotel worker standards continue to rise, whether those workers enjoy a union or not. That helps grow the middle class as we continue our commitment to ensuring San Diego’s leading industries help their workers to succeed as well.
6.) Prop 32 goes down in flames. Proposition 32 was the most brazen attack on working people in living California memory, and it was beaten soundly – but it wasn’t easy. Agents of corporate millionaires and billionaires came up with their most deceptive campaign yet to cut working people out of the democratic process, but they were met by an unprecedented mobilization that out-innovated and out-hustled the other side to such a degree that it unquestionably helped boost other candidates and measure up and down the ballot. We’ve won three straight times, and we’ll be ready for the next round.
5.) Unprecedented healthcare gains for the service sector. After years of working outside the spotlight to support some of San Diego’s most important industries, SEIU-USWW fought for and won fair wages and a path to full family healthcare for suburban janitors. A multi-day fast added much needed media attention to the struggles of some of our hardest working, lowest paid workers. Airport janitors also negotiated a contract that strengthened standards and increased wages.
4.) School Bonds ensure school improvement and opportunity for local construction workers. San Diego Unified School District extended the Project Stabilization Agreement under Prop S that has resulted in construction savings and training and employment opportunity for workers in low-income San Diego neighborhoods. They also added the local hire goals, high work standards, and healthcare guarantees to the work that will be done under Prop Z, the $2.8 billion bond passed by 61 percent of the voters in November. These bonds, while providing much needed investment and repairs to our school infrastructure, have also been one of the best jobs programs in the region.
3.) Neighborhoods and foreclosures got some attention. After over a year of hearings, the City Council passed the labor-supported Property Value Protection Ordinance and it became the first ordinance signed by Mayor Bob Filner. It will bring important accountability to banks and protect our communities as they continue to rebuild the local economy. This doesn’t solve neighborhood blight or foreclosures, but it is an important first step.
2.) Finally a contract at our ONLY union news station – KGTV Channel 10. No guilt local news watching! After close to seven years of working with no contract, KGTV Channel 10 workers ratified a new contract! Entering the 60th year representing workers at KGTV, NABET-CWA Local 54 workers were able to assure job security and fair wages for all the behind-the-scenes workers who make KGTV go.
1.) A Clean Sweep on Election Night. This election season, San Diego saw an unprecedented coalition mobilize to support workers and communities long ignored in San Diego politics. Those people stood up like never before and elected Mayor Bob Filner as the first Democratic mayor in 20 years, Supervisor Dave Roberts as the first new member and first Democrat on the Board of Supervisors in twenty years and its first open LGBT member ever, and Congressman Scott Peters to replace longtime Representative Brian Bilbray. And the list goes on: Vargas, Block, Atkins, Weber, and Hueso; Bensoussan, Salas, Diaz, Gastil, Vasquez, Sotelo-Solis, Wood, Sanchez, and Campbell; School and College Boards, Water and Fire Districts. Working people were heard this November.
As 2012 closes and we look forward to 2013, there are tremendous opportunities to continue investing in the working San Diegans who make our region function, grow the middle class, and rebuild the economy.
Si se puede.
– Lorena Gonzalez is Secretary-Treasurer, San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council