In today’s recession-battered San Francisco, it’s no secret that business is in trouble and labor is in trouble. And who better to bring about changes to restart a growing economy than business and labor working together in harmony on issues they can agree upon?
Though new and not widely known yet, the Alliance for Jobs and a Sustainable Economy is exactly the sort of united effort for a healthier, more open business environment The City so desperately needs now. The alliance was formed this year — and is being actively operated — by some of San Francisco’s biggest and most powerful employer and worker groups.
First task on the agenda is to work toward electing a more jobs-friendly Board of Supervisors in November. But the alliance’s goal is to stay in action afterward, adding its efforts to the pro-economy-growth side of upcoming issues. For 2011, they expect to be heavily involved with overcoming the formidable obstacles delaying construction of the new California Pacific Medical Center on Van Ness Avenue and the rebuilding of St. Luke’s Hospital in the Mission. These projects alone are estimated to create some 1,500 construction jobs and 6,000 permanent jobs.
“Both business and labor recognize that we have an urgent need to focus on economic development now,” said San Francisco Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President Jim Lazarus. “San Francisco’s historic natural advantages aren’t enough today.
The City’s thinking must change.” As an example, Lazarus pointed to a series of supervisor amendments that would have killed the Lennar development at Hunters Point but failed by a single vote.
At the Building Owners and Managers Association of San Francisco, Executive Vice President Marc Intermaggio said, “It’s all about jobs. The City needs to expand the pie so that everybody has more opportunity. We’ve been too isolated in business and labor. Now we must listen and collaborate and search for acceptable compromises.”
Executive director of the Alliance for Jobs and a Sustainable Economy is Vince Courtney, who was called back from retirement by the United Healthcare Workers-West — an SEIU affiliate with some 23,000 San Francisco members — after more than 35 years as a labor organizer, union leader and labor attorney.
“Certainly I’d like to see good private-sector union jobs coming out of this,” Courtney said. “But first there have to be jobs. On the labor side of the alliance we understand that can’t happen in these tough times without sustained local economic growth that generates more employment.”
The alliance’s primary early tactic is to work at coalition-building among a wide spectrum of community groups — those that are not reflexively change-resistant. “People are really looking for something like this,” Courtney said. “The reception has been very welcoming.”
That positive response hardly seems surprising. For much too long, The City’s excessive fees, taxes, regulations and restrictions have been destructive barriers to job growth. It’s time for the forces that want business opportunity expansion to work together and reopen the doors to a widened San Francisco prosperity.