Community Opinions

COMMUNITY OPINION: Working families speak up for jobs

District 2 Supervisor candidate Wayne Norton writes that the collective voice of labor stresses the need for local jobs to strengthen the middle class.

This community opinion was contributed by San Benito County Supervisor District 2 candidate Wayne Norton. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors.

The voice of San Benito County working families spoke loudly about the need for good-paying local jobs with the endorsement of Measure N by the Santa Clara-San Benito Counties Building Trades Council.

Measure N would make the zoning changes necessary to create the Strada Verde Innovation Park, an autonomous vehicle testing facility and commercial center.

The endorsement of the Building Trades Council sent a clear message from local workers that the current status quo is not good enough, and that they need jobs close to home that pay wages that lift up working families and improve their quality of life.

The Building Trades Council includes 24 labor unions representing 30,000 workers in the two counties. There are 1,600 building trades union members who live in San Benito County who are part of the 70% of our workforce who must commute out of our county to work.

My friend, Al Gonzalez, who lives in San Juan Bautista, is the business representative for UA Local Union 393, plumbers and fitters. He dispatches union members to job sites. Al tells me his local members constantly seek work here so they can be close to their families or participate in community events. Sadly, our county’s status quo does not provide work for these skilled craftsmen/women.

Strada Verde promises to rejuvenate our county’s job market. Current estimates are that 18,000 workers will be hired to construct the facilities. It is expected that the bulk of those workers will be trade union members.

That is why David Bini, the chief executive officer of the Building Trades Council, is an avid supporter of Measure N and Strada Verde. He understands the opportunity this presents for union members to work right here in San Benito County. Bini knows that these jobs will provide local families with the resources to support local businesses, which have been heavily impacted by the COVID pandemic.

I am proud of my role in facilitating an agreement ensuring that the jobs at Strada Verde will pay well and benefit working families. The Strada Verde developer and Building Trades Council are completing a Letter of Intent to sign a Project Labor Agreement that includes local hiring goals once a general contractor is selected. 

The support of working families has been the bedrock of my campaign for County Supervisor. Labor unions built the middle class, and fight for everyday citizens. I care deeply about their needs. Workers using their collective voice to seek equality and justice in the workplace to sustain their standard of living is an honored tradition, and is a right that is widely supported by the American people.

I am honored to have been chosen to advocate for the well-being and needs of working families.

San Benito County needed jobs before the pandemic wrecked our economy. The need is even greater today. If we are going to be able to afford to fix our roads, make Highway 25 safer and make infrastructure improvements that benefit the lives of our people, we must have local jobs and economic development at the forefront of our recovery.

We’ve got a lot of work to do.

Let’s get started rebuilding our economy.

 

Wayne Norton

Recognized by the State Assembly in 2019 for protecting the environment, Wayne Norton is a two-term elected Aromas Water District director and candidate for San Benito County Supervisor in District 2. A Vietnam veteran and former political reporter, Wayne was the managing editor of the daily Hollister Free Lance. He is an active advocate for quality public education and was a founding staff member of Anzar High School, a California Distinguished School. As a former Ombudsman, Wayne protected the rights of residents in nursing homes and investigated elder abuse. He currently serves as a director on the Seniors Council of Santa Cruz and San Benito Counties, and has consistently led and volunteered for a variety of public commissions and community organizations since moving to the area in 1985. Wayne can be contacted at (831) 227-3530, nortonforsupervisor@gmail.com, waynenorton.com or on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.