Everybody pays lip service to the "working class." Politicians are especially fond of talking about people who use their hands to manufacture things (like furniture makers and bakers) or use their hard earned skills to repair stuff (like car mechanics or electricians). Its the sort of work that commands respect because, well, its hard and its essential to maintaining the quality of life of every single individual throughout this country. The respect, however, doesn't extend much further than the lip service. Government, including our local one, has done nothing in the past few decades to ensure that the lives of those that work in in traditional industrial jobs will be decent ones. San Francisco has been especially hostile to our blue collar workforce: under the Planning Department's proposed rezoning San Francisco will be left with the smallest amount of industrially zoned land of any major city in the United States and we will also lose about 10,000 industrial jobs over the next 15 years. Is that anyway to treat the people who keep our country running?
There is a silver lining. Through tireless community advocacy the City's plan does preserve a core industrial area in the neighborhood where only industrial development will be allowed. This, however is not nearly enough. MAC is fighting to ensure that those workers that have worked in traditional kinds of blue collar jobs (what the Planning Department calls Production, Distribution and Repair or PDR) find a place in the new types of businesses that are coming into or already exist in the neighborhood. Here is what we are pushing for:
New style industrial businesses will be allowed to come into the neighborhood only if they:
- Move into existing buildings which are three stories or more and were built before 1950 (to limit the number of these new businesses);
- Provide jobs for immigrants, people who have less than a 4-year college degree, individuals who do not speak English as their first language, people with disabilities, Low-Moderate Income individuals, and folks who have been displaced from other industrial jobs. We want an average of 25% or more of these jobs go to folks that are part of the traditional blue collar workforce;
- Offer training, benefits, and progression paths for these same individuals over time.
We want the City to support “traditional” and “next generation” or “hybrid” PDR businesses that meet the hiring requirements above. We also want it to support entrepreneurship and micro-business start-ups, especially those who are trying to grow future PDR or hybrid-PDR companies that will provide employment opportunities for our traditional industrial workforce.
MAC has reached an agreement in principle with the Northeast Mission Residents Association (NEMRA) and representatives of the Planning Department and the Mayor's Office of Economic and Workforce Development to try to move this idea forward. More than with most policy recommendations, the devil is in truly in the details of this idea. Without proper monitoring and enforcement mechanisms we could be left with a bunch of new office based businesses who's only job openings for community members involves a broom and a mop. MAC is working on creating a strong set of implementation measures that will ensure that our neighborhood benefits from the new wave of industrial jobs that is moving into the neighborhood and that our "working-class" neighborhood remains proudly so in the 21st century.