Trade-union leaders say hiring law has members moving to San Francisco — on paper 

San Francisco’s new local-hire law has been in effect for less than a month, yet it appears to already have had an impact on trade unions — several union members are now claiming to be city residents.

It’s not because union members are suddenly moving into The City, but because dozens have simply changed their addresses on paper, according to union leaders who opposed the local-hire ordinance.

At the plumbers and pipefitters union, Local 38, as many as 20 members suddenly have addresses within city limits, according to business Manager Larry Mazzola Sr.

“We knew this would happen,” Mazzola said. “We made jokes around here that you could just put down 1621 Market Street [the address of the union hall] and you could just collect your mail here.”

The local-hiring mandate requires contractors performing city public works or improvement projects to meet mandatory levels of San Francisco resident participation, starting with 20 percent this year and rising incrementally to 50 percent.

Some trade unions opposed the ordinance because it conflicted with the way members are picked for jobs, Mazzola said. Before the law went into effect, members who had been out of a job the longest were the first to get picked for work. The local-hire ordinance, however, prioritizes San Francisco workers even if they recently had a job.

If a contract is worth more than $400,000, contractors are required to check the addresses of workers to make sure they live in The City. That can be determined by checking a piece of mail and an identification card, according to Supervisor John Avalos, who introduced the legislation.

“I would think that the union leaders would want to make sure that members were not changing their addresses in order to comply with the law,” Avalos said. “It’s not enough to just pretend you’re a San Franciscan.”

The anecdotes have been rolling in from all major trade unions, said Mike Theriault, secretary-treasurer at the San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council. Members are simply changing their addresses, using their relatives’ or friends’ homes as proof of residency.

If officials are lax about enforcing residency requirements, then you’ll see more people lying about their addresses just to get work, Theriault said. If they are strict about enforcement, they might find that workers are living out of their cars or doubled up with other union members in apartments.

But Avalos said the law will still provide more work for local residents and the plumbers and building trades unions don’t want the policy to succeed. “I hope that changes, and I expect it will,” he said.


How it works

  • 20 percent: Local workforce currently required
  • 5 percent: Increase each year
  • 50 percent: Maximum mandate, expected in seven years
  • 4.3 million: Hours worked on taxpayer-funded projects in 2009

Source: Local-hiring ordinance

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Brent Begin

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