City Hall protest planned by would-be solar panel workers 

Unemployed San Franciscans are expected to protest today at City Hall against a recent San Francisco ruling that threatens to lock laborers out of future municipal solar power construction projects.

The San Francisco Office of Labor Standards Enforcement recently ruled that most of the work at a municipal solar power plant construction site in the Sunset neighborhood should be paid at electricians’ high wages.

The ruling initially caused some laborers to be sent home from the site, followed by a nearly two-day site shutdown because of protests from southeastern San Francisco laborers and their supporters.

The laborers were eventually offered their jobs back after crisis talks between city officials and contractors identified tasks they could perform at laborers’ wages.

Laborers want the opportunity to perform more work with solar panels, however, to help them secure future employment within a growing industry.

Plans to install photovoltaic arrays on City Hall and other city facilities are on hold pending a longer term resolution to the dispute, which pits a powerful electrical workers union against laborers and their union and community representatives.

Protesters are expected to descend on City Hall sometime around 12:30 p.m. today to call on Mayor Gavin Newsom to reverse the recent ruling.

The protest is being organized by Aboriginal Blackmen United, the same group that organized protests that shutdown the Sunset Reservoir construction site for two days.

The group also shut down construction of the T-Third light-rail project in 2003 until Bayview residents were offered a greater share of the work.

Mayor Gavin Newsom told reporters last week that his office was mediating the solar dispute, but he declined to state whether the supported the recent ruling.

“I’d like to see us work together and get this thing back on track,” Newsom said. “I think we’ll get there.”

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John Upton

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