Why Elections Matter

San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin addresses Teamsters 856 members at Shop Steward Appreciation Day on October 3, 2015.

San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin addresses Teamsters 856 members at Shop Steward Appreciation Day on October 3, 2015.

In 2015, Teamsters Local 856 backed veteran progressive Aaron Peskin in his bid for Supervisor District 3 in San Francisco. At the same time, a measure was on the San Francisco ballot that aimed to curb illegal short-term rentals in the city. If passed, the measure would have forced sites like AirBnB to play by the same rules as traditional hotel properties and provide the city with information that could be used to enforce current zoning laws and collect occupancy taxes. The measure failed – largely thanks to the $8 million cash influx AirBnB supplied to defeat it. But Aaron Peskin did not. He was elected back to his former seat on the Board – ousting Mayor Ed Lee’s appointee – and tipping majority of seats on the Board back to progressive.

Fast forward to this month, when the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 10-0 to pass legislation that requires short-term rental sites to only list units that are registered with the City or pay fines of up to $1,000 a day. The new law gives teeth to existing legislation that required hosts to register with the city, but was difficult, if not impossible, to enforce.

Friend of Local 856, Supervisor David Campos, sponsored the new legislation, and was backed by Peskin and Supervisor Jane Kim – who is the Local 856-endorsed candidate running for State Senate. (Stewards may remember Campos from when he spoke at our 2014 Steward Appreciation Day. Peskin was a featured guest speaker at our Steward Appreciation event last year.)

Short-term rental sites constrict the already precious housing supply by enticing landlords to take what used to be long-term rentals off the market and turn them into short-term rentals or de-facto hotels, much of the time in residential areas not zoned for such businesses. Developers also buy up properties to turn them into short-term rentals. These “hotels” in turn hire non-union housekeeping and maintenance staff, create nuisances for neighbors, drive up housing prices, and put traditional properties in the city – that do have to report occupancy rates and pay taxes on such – at an unfair disadvantage – properties where more than 1,000 Local 856 members make their living to support their families.

The new law is a major step toward accountability and housing protection for working families. It would not have happened without a progressive majority on the Board – a majority not in existence prior to the 2015 election of Peskin. This is why elections matter. Not just in San Francisco, but all cities where Local 856 members live and work and at the state and national level.

Local 856 has an extensive political program spearheaded by our political director, Trish Blinstrub and our public policy coordinator, Malia Vella. The candidates we support are put through a rigorous endorsement process, which includes interviews where they’re asked tough questions by our staff, stewards and activists to ensure that their stances and values align with ours and that they will defend and move forward the rights of our membership.

We’ll never be able to match the piles of money corporations and big business spend on elections – but we can use our strength in numbers to counter their strength in dollars. That’s how we win. With our votes. With our voices.

As we get closer to November and the General Election, we’ll be keeping a close eye on not only national races, but also those right here in our backyards. Check our website for endorsements and if you’re feeling inspired and want to get involved, contact Political Director Trish Blinstrub at 650.266.7730 or Trish@ibt856.org for more information on ways you can volunteer and make a difference.