Union Shakeup Could Have Implications for California Housing Policy

One of the most powerful opponents to California’s YIMBY legislators, the Trades union of building and construction workers, is under new leadership. Some observers speculate that the change could indicate a new era of development politics.

2 minute read

July 19, 2023, 11:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Several office towers are under construction next to a freeway in Burlingame, California.

Sundry Photography / Shutterstock

The State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, a powerful union known commonly as “The Trades” and one of the most dedicated opponents to the California State legislature’s recent streak of housing policy innovations, announced a change at the top this week. Chris Hannan will be the new president, replacing Andrew Meredith, who served in the position for two years.

According to an article by Dustin Gardiner, Lara Korte, Jeremy B. White, and Sejal Govindarao, the change could have come as a result of the political battles over housing in recent years, and could also have a lasting impact on policy making to come.

As the article reveals, the influence of the Trades has been strained due to a break in the union ranks over housing legislation. “[T]he California Conference of Carpenters broke with the Trades over a major housing measure, Assembly Bill 2011. The carpenters argued the union had been too protectionist when California doesn’t have nearly enough construction workers to build the housing it needs.”

“The bill made it easier to build urban infill projects that have often been held up by local regulations that discourage density — in part by eliminating the Trades’-favored requirement that projects use ‘skilled and trained’ workers, a de facto requirement to use union labor,” according to the article.

Legislators have also expressed frustration with the Trades, according to the article. Former Speaker Anthony Rendon, described in the article as “a labor ally,” is quoted saying, “The Legislature was frustrated with the Trades standing in the way of a lot of the things we wanted to do.”

The article suggests that “Hannan may represent a friendlier approach,” citing environmental advocates and staffers from the governor’s office to support the speculation.

Tuesday, July 18, 2023 in Politico

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