S.F. UNIONS VS. ANTI-LABOR BUILDERS
By Dick Meister
San Francisco unions have a great opportunity to join together against
one of their greatest foes -- a major enemy as well of affordable housing
and neighborhood preservation advocates.
That would be Joe O'Donoghue, head of the Residential Builders
Association. President Larry Mazzola of the Building and Construction
Trades Council describes him as "under-handed, wily, vindictive, and
tenacious ... a blustering, anti-labor, union-busting individual who has,
along with members of his association, become wealthy by performing
construction work in San Francisco under non-union conditions."
Thanks to the association's domination of the City Planning Department
and alliance with Mayor Willie Brown, that work has included lucrative
developments approved by the City despite their negative impact on the
Now O'Donoghue is trying to discredit the Carpenters Union, probably the
strongest of the association's labor opponents. He's claiming that members
of the union who mounted an informational picket line to protest the use of
non-union carpenters by his right-hand man, contractor Joe Cassidy, had
engaged in "contemptible" anti-Catholic, anti-Irish conduct. That
supposedly occurred on the site of a building project at a Noe Valley church
Citing the carpenters' alleged misconduct, O'Donoghue demanded that the
United Irish Societies bar the union from this year's St. Patrick's Day
That would have been a serious affront to the Carpenters, whose Local 22
long has held an important place in San Francisco's Irish American
community. But despite O'Donoghue's position as chairman and chief
financial backer of the parade, members of the Irish Societies refused to
bar the Carpenters or even consider his allegations against the union. As
they noted, the National Labor Relations Board is the forum for hearing
As he often does when crossed, O'Donoghue reacted furiously. He
immediately resigned as parade chairman and withdrew himself and the
builders' association from any participation. That was a great blow to the
St. Patrick's Day plans, for the association had been expected to provide
about $100,000 -- at least half the budget -- for the parade and related
That's where the rest of the city's unions come in -- or should, if they
heed the Building and Construction Trades Council.
Several unions had come to the carpenters' defense by warning the United
Irish Societies that if the Carpenters Union was barred from the parade, no
other union would participate. And now Trades Council President Mazzola is
asking unions generally to help make up some of the heavy loss of parade
funds caused by O'Donoghue's withdrawal of support.
As Mazzola said, it was "outrageous retribution designed to severely
injure the Societies" for refusing to go along with an attempt by
O'Donoghue "to do irreparable injury to the Carpenters Union and
indirectly to the entire labor movement."
Mazzola suggests that unions buy as many tickets as possible far a
fund-raising dinner the United Irish Societies is holding at the St. Francis
Hotel on March 14. His own union, Plumbers Local 38, and several others
already have bought tickets at $100 each.
Beyond that, Mazzola is urging union members to turn out in full force
for the St. Patrick's Day parade March 16. It would be a fitting response
to the anti-union and anti-community efforts of profit-lusting Joe
O'Donoghue and his associates and a fitting tribute to the Irish Americans
who have played a key role "in advancing workers' rights and building the
American labor movement."
Copyright 2003 Dick Meister, a San Francisco-based freelance columnist who
has covered labor issues for four decades as a reporter, editor and