All SF Solar Projects On Hold After Labor Dispute Causes Community Protests
Workers Sent Home From Sunset Reservoir Last Week Are Back On The Job, But No More Solar Until City Decision Is Rescinded
June 21, 2010, SAN FRANCISCO, CA--A plan to put solar panels on top of San Francisco City Hall was to be voted upon by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission as soon as early July. However, that project and all future solar efforts have been held up indefinitely after the San Francisco Office of Labor Standards Enforcement took sides in a labor dispute and caused community protests that shut down the city's Sunset Reservoir solar project for two days last week.
According to Friday's , after a turbulent week at Sunset Reservoir that has caused many to question whether an all-inclusive green workforce is a pipe dream or a potential reality, the Public Utilities Commssion has preemptively placed all of its solar projects on hold until a labor disagreement between electricians and laborers is fully resolved. A June 11 decision by the city's Labor Standards office to bypass the state, which has not yet weighed in on the dispute, to rule that only electricians can perform tasks related to solar in San Francisco has many asking whether San Francisco has followed its own prevailing wage ordinance. The community, environmentalists, and San Francisco policymakers have roundly urged the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement to rescind the seemingly flawed decision in light of the severe impact it has caused.
A commitment that no less than 30% of the jobs on Sunset Reservoir will be performed by economically disadvantaged San Francisco residents was jeopardized by the labor decision, as community hiring on the project is possible only through the laborers union. The City's decision to take sides had immediate impact: three laborers from Bayview-Hunters Point were sent home last Monday morning, with all remaining community hires to follow. Just 24 hours later, dozens of community protesters shut the job down.
One high-ranking city official suggested that the only possible resolution is to delegate San Francisco solar work between laborers and electricians, as well as roofers in the case of the City Hall rooftop installation, with the electricians admitting a new class of members from disadvantaged communities in order to participate in community hiring. "Community hiring can benefit not only laborers in Bayview-Hunters Point, it can also help an electrician in the Sunset District that lives across the street from Sunset Reservoir," said Brightline Executive Director Joshua Arce. "Community hiring ensures that everyone works."
Staff at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission have worked nearly around the clock to address the solar meltdown that the Labor Standards Enforcement decision has caused, but many have asked what the PUC's Labor Relations Office did or did not do to prevent the City from getting involved and causing solar in San Francisco to grind to a halt.