Uncivil unions - Page 4

What the fight over Larry Mazzola says about the progressive and labor movements and their uneasy relationship
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Larry Mazzola

Instead, supervisors appointed Synder, a widely acclaimed transportation expert who created the modern San Francisco Bicycle Coalition then started Transportation for a Livable City (now Livable City) before becoming the first transportation policy director for the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR).

"I don't like how that went down, and I'm not happy with the inability of the board and labor to come to an agreement," Snyder told us. "I was stuck in the middle. I wish they had sent someone the board could have agreed to."

After the vote, Snyder went back to the SPUR office and resigned. SPUR director Gabriel Metcalf admits that labor leaders lobbied him to pressure Snyder to withdraw his name, and that he asked Snyder to do so. But Metcalf said he didn't want to lose Snyder, whose vast knowledge of transportation issues as been a real asset to SPUR. "It was his choice and not my preference."

"This issue is not why I left SPUR, but it was the precipitating event," said Snyder, whose progressive values have occasionally differed from SPUR's stands. "My sense of social justice has more to do with class issues than I was able to pursue at SPUR."

In fact, the clashes between progressives and developers (who are often backed by the trade unions) often revolve around how much affordable housing and community benefits will be required with each project approval. Snyder said the defining question is, "How do we accommodate development in San Francisco and maintain progressive values in a capitalist economy?"

He didn't answer that question, but it is one the building trades also understand. Theriault said he supports holding developers to high standards, even when progressives have block certain projects to get them. "I'm okay with that as long as I see the endgame," Theriault said.

He expects the progressive board to listen to labor more than Daly or Democratic Party chair Aaron Peskin, who Theriault said helped shore up the progressive opposition to Mazzola (which Peskin denies). "With the exception of Daly, the relationships are reparable. But they have to show some independence from Daly and Peskin," Theriault said. "The real fear for me is what comes next."

Theriault was referring to things like new historic preservation standards that supervisors will soon consider, as well as the string of big development projects coming forward this year. And for progressives, they hope their efforts to save city jobs will be followed by labor support for progressive candidates for the Board of Supervisors (such as Debra Walker and Rafael Mandelman) in next year's election.

"The one thing I know about labor is, we've been screwed by politicians on the left and the right," Casey said. "Are we angry about this and disappointed? Yes. But does that mean the alliance between labor and progressives is dead? No. We're going to work through this stuff, talk, take deep breaths, and move forward."

NUHW's founding convention takes place April 25 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Everett Middle School, 450 Church St., San Francisco.