Executive Officer's Forum - Carpenter politics
Bob Alvarado, Executive Officer
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"'Because' didn't work when you were 6, and it's not going to work now."
Carpenters in Action meetings kicked off last month at Local 35 in San Rafael. We had a good discussion, and I'm looking forward to more. You don't need to attend a meeting at your own local, just check the schedule for a meeting that works for you, and come see what the CIA is all about.
We talk about a range of issues at these meetings, and allow some time for questions. This month's column expands on one of the issues we touch on at the CIA meetings: Politics. Like it or not (and there is a lot to dislike!), politics is something we ignore at our peril. It is in the political arena where decisions are made that affect jobs, wages and working conditions. Our ability to organize and set our own standards is affected by political decisions on a daily basis.
We're talking carpenter politics: work issues, not social issues. We focus on issues that affect us all as union carpenters, like prevailing wages and job creation. I understand that there are many reasons that go into your decision about how to cast your vote. If you base those decisions at least in part on economic issues, listen to what we have to say. When your union makes recommendations on a ballot measure or endorses a candidate, we'll always give you reasons to consider, that relate to us all as carpenters and union members. "Because" didn't work when you were six, and it sure isn't going to work now.
Politics is about creating work opportunities. The record is very clear: when we get involved, we get the work. Whether it is supporting a private development project in front of your local city council, or supporting big infrastructure projects like the Oakland Airport Connector, Carpenters standing up for jobs helps those jobs become a reality. That's why we say, "the job you create may be your own."
STANDING UP FOR OUR RIGHTS
We also have to stand up for our rights. Despite a record of success, prevailing wages are under attack in some communities in California, through the use of "city charters." We have had success standing up to these efforts, but the fight continues.
In other states across the country, we've seen the return of "right to work" laws, which are aimed squarely at destroying unions. Although we have yet to see that effort in California, we face a ballot initiative this fall that will try to deny our very ability to get involved in politics as a union. If that is successful, we won't be able to defend ourselves.
Speaking of ballot measures, there is one this June that deserves some consideration. It would modify current term-limit rules, reducing the maximum potential time in the Legislature from 14 to 12 years. It would however, mean that people could spend 12 years in the Assembly or Senate. Complex decisions like infrastructure investment require a long-term view, and the current system does not encourage or reward it. I recommend we try this modification, and see if a little more stability in Sacramento won't improve their focus on the important issues, like jobs.
Regardless of what you decide about this particular ballot measure, I hope you will pay attention to carpenter politics—get informed, get involved and vote!