Oakland is going through an unprecedented construction boom. While this boom has brought prosperity, it has also brought debates about whether developers should be required to hire local workers, when union labor should be used, and what constitutes a fair wage for workers?
But Oakland is hardly alone in these debates. Honolulu, Austin, Denver, Seattle, Portland, New York and Los Angeles, as well as many other major cities, have also seen an explosion of development activity in the past few years.
The Oakland Conduit reached out to workers in cities with big development booms to learn more about the worker debates happening elsewhere. Hopefully, this gives Oaklanders some perspective on the labor challenges happening in their city.
This week, the Conduit hears from workers in Honolulu and Austin.
(Austin, Courtesy of Wikipedia)
Responses from Matt Friestman, Business Manager of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 520
What are IBEW 520’s top priorities as related to the development in Austin?
To regain market share. To foster rapid growth in our local [Union] (especially with our younger workers).
What are your union’s top legislative priorities as related to development in Austin?
To fight the ultra-conservative push in the legislature to limit local control. They (Republicans) say they want to eliminate our local laws like banning plastic bags; like requiring Uber and Lyft to fingerprint their drivers just like we require [of] our taxi drivers; like protecting our Heritage Oaks (keeping a land owner from chopping down a thousand-year-old tree within the city limits); like requiring construction contractors to grant a 10-minute rest break with water (the first such ordinance in Texas); like requiring contractors to provide Workers Compensation Insurance (we’re the only state with no such requirement) and many more self-governing laws.
But what they’re gunning for, what really, really upsets them, is our living wage requirement of $13.50 on city-funded projects (it’s not about plastic bags – it’s our money they’re coming for!)
Are there any laws Austin (or the state of Texas) has passed that have made it easier for your union to get work? Any laws that have made it harder? (Local hire laws, etc.)
See above. And we also recently had Davis Bacon wages adopted for all city, community college, and independent school district work.
What are the big projects in Austin that your union is currently working on? How many units/floors are these projects?
New campuses for Oracle and Apple.
What are the big projects in Austin that are currently not using union labor but should?
A 56-story Independence condo and countless others (we only have 15 percent market share).
Have your local politicians embraced union labor in your city?
Nine out of 10 council members are labor-friendly, as is the mayor.
(Honolulu, Courtesy of Wikipedia)
Responses from Damien Kim, Business Manager-Financial Secretary for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers 1186.
What are your union’s top priorities as related to the development in Honolulu?
We would like to meet every developer to discuss their concerns in getting zoning and permitting. The development has to make sense as well--is it affordable housing, gap housing, or mixed-use? Are they open to a Building Trades Project Labor Agreement?
What are your union’s top legislative priorities as related to development in Honolulu?
Having out-of-state companies or developers use local workers. Stop the bid-shopping by the general contractors, and respecting our procurement process.
Are there any laws that Honolulu or the State of Hawaii have passed that have made it easier for your union to get work? Any laws that have made it harder? (Local hire laws, etc.)
Governor Neil Abercrombie in 2013 had a law passed for using State Project Labor Agreements on projects of $250 million and/or more than 4 trades on the job.
Are there any laws/guidelines Honolulu or the State of Hawaii could pass to make them more labor-friendly?
Keeping procurement laws from being attacked and ensuring that they choose “best qualified” as supposed to “lowest bidder.”
What are the big projects in Honolulu that your union is currently working on? How many units/floors are these projects?
All major condominium projects, most about 40 stories and 200 to 400 units, as well as all major hotel renovations, are done union.
We have a great relationship with the developers as well as our state legislators and city council.
What are the big projects in Honolulu that are currently not using union labor but should? How many units/floors are these projects?
Happy to report - none!
Have your local politicians embraced union labor?
We have great politicians here in Hawaii, with an overwhelming majority that supports union labor.