A case for Avalos, Yee and Dufty

Pub date September 20, 2011

OPINION Like all of us, SEIU 1021 can take three dates to the prom when it comes to voting for mayor, but narrowing it down in a field of so many candidates was still challenging. After a month-long process, we arrived at a dual endorsement of Supervisor John Avalos and State Senator Leland Yee for first and second choice, and Supervisor Bevan Dufty for our third choice.

It’s a diverse slate, and the choices are representative of the constituencies, perspectives and priorities in our membership.

Yee’s record on labor issues in Sacramento has been impeccable, and he has long been a staunch supporter of our union, so endorsing him was a no-brainer. The Guardian asked me personally, as I am also a transgender activist, how I could support Leland after his vote against transgender health benefits. Frankly, I was disappointed in how my response was framed.

Leland approached transgender activists a number of years ago and apologized for his vote. Instead of denying or rationalizing like other politicians might do, he had the courage to come to a community meeting of transgender activists, stand in front of us, admit he was wrong, and apologize. For people to continue to attack an individual for having a true change of heart is very discouraging. We would never make any advancement of our rights if we continued to shun those who have come to understand and support the transgender fight for equality. In fact, Yee’s support was critical to the collective effort to save Lyon-Martin, a clinic that is a key service provider for trans folks, after it almost closed earlier this year.

That’s why so many in the transgender community now support Yee so strongly and why he has become an even closer, tested ally through this experience.

SEIU 1021 has always had a very close relationship with John Avalos. Avalos has been a steadfast supporter of crucial social and health- care services, and has been a leader in creating needed progressive revenue measures. But most importantly, John understands how essential jobs are for lifting people out of poverty and stimulating the local economy for everyone in San Francisco.

Last year, he introduced a Local Hire ordinance that is becoming a real jobs generator in our city and a national model. Like many of our members when they first started working for the city, workers hired under the Local Hire ordinance may for the first time have a living-wage job with benefits.

And while some in labor have been critical of this legislation — in fact, it cost him the endorsement of the San Francisco Labor Council — that’s a short-sighted criticism.

As more people are employed in San Francisco with living wage jobs, they spend money in San Francisco, boosting tax revenues and in turn creating more jobs across the city. Moreover, this visionary legislation has other benefits — workers coming from low-income communities bring a new found pride in and community spirit to what could be otherwise economically depressed areas. That’s why SEIU 1021 supports Avalos, and why I am proud to endorse him as well.

Rounding out SEIU’s endorsements in this campaign is former Supervisor Bevan Dufty. Dufty has a history of supporting preserving city services. Some have argued that Dufty can’t handle downtown pressure, and yet, Dufty has consistently supported public power, took a stance against Sit-Lie despite intense pressure, and several years ago, at a critical juncture for Tom Ammiano’s signature health care legislation, Healthy San Francisco, he didn’t blink when we called on him to be our 8th vote. In fact, he committed to the bill, unequivocally, and called on other supervisors, like Fiona Ma, to say it was time. She immediately co-sponsored and eventually it was a unanimous 11-0 vote.

For labor and progressives, Ammiano’s Healthy San Francisco legislation was the single most important piece of legislation of the last decade. And while history has been rewritten, and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom now takes credit for the legislation, then-Mayor Newsom did not come on board until after Dufty declared his support, and as the 8th supporter, created a veto-proof majority.

Each of these candidates have shown their capacity to grow and transform as leaders making them the best choices for progressive labor, and we believe for the San Francisco. Whatever you do, you have three votes, make them count. 

Gabriel Haaland is a transgender labor activist and the SEIU 1021 San Francisco political coordinator.