Why did ParkMerced get rid of union workers? Why should the city approve a Park Merced investors’s project in the Mission? Demonstrators made the connection today (and the police didn’t interfere)

A large protest march moved through the Mission
A large protest march moved through the Mission

By Tim Redmond

JUNE 24, 2015 – A large, loud procession of labor and tenant advocates marched from 16th and Mission to the Florida Street offices of Maximus, part owner of Park Merced and the developer behind the Monster in the Mission.

By the time the march reached 18th and Florida, more than 100 people had joined, including Sup. John Avalos, who said he was “passing by and heard the ruckus.”

Labor and tenant activists and Mission community leaders joined forced and linked the anti-union activities of Park Merced to the new project that many fear will lead to more displacement.

Members of SEIU United Service Workers West distributed literature pointing out that Robert Rosania, the head of the Maximus development group, is also a partner in ParkMerced, where union workers with as much as 30 years of experience were summarily laid off earlier this year when the giant apartment complex shifted to a nonunion contractor for janitorial and maintenance services.

The Mission and 16th project is going to need Planning Commission approval, and may wind up being appealed to the Board of Supervisors. So its future will depend to a great extent on city politics.

(Oh, and of course, on the fate of the Mission moratorium, which might be on the November ballot.)

A strong voice of opposition from labor (and labor is increasingly united on stopping inappropriate projects in the Mission) will make the approval process more difficult.

Jane Martin, an organizer with SEIU USWW, spoke to the crowd about labor and community solidarity
Jane Martin, an organizer with SEIU USWW, spoke to the crowd about labor and community solidarity

It’s why I can’t fathom what Rosania was thinking when he got rid of the union workers at ParkMerced and pissed off the entire labor movement. Even the Building Trades Council, which has in the past supported most big projects, is backing off that position – and might well decide to show solidarity with the USWW folks and not support anything Rosania wants to do in this town.

The guy’s from New York, and apparently not too savvy about local politics, but he’s got some experienced local advisors – and I can’t believe they didn’t warn him that a union battle at ParkMerced would come back to haunt him.

Not smart.

The march wound its way through the Mission, with the police stopping traffic at major intersections, at times chatting with the marchers, and generally acting exceptionally well.

For a moment, police tried to block the door --then backed off, which prevented any clashes or violence
For a moment, police tried to block the door –then backed off, which prevented any clashes or violence

When the march arrived at 18th and Florida, the Tac Squad was on hand, with motorcycles lined up to block the door to the complex where Maximus has an office. But someone in the line of command told the Tac Squadders to back off, that they weren’t needed – which was smart and avoided confrontation.

Someone inside the complex opened the door – and for a moment, one officer tried to block the protesters from entering, but then backed away and let them in.

For the next half hour or so, the protesters flooded the entryway by the Maximus door, chanting, listing to speakers, and making noise. Two people who refused to give me their names or acknowledge whether they worked for Maximus approached the police who were standing outside and asked if there were going to be arrests.

One said that the action was “disrupting our work flow.”

Andy Blue, one of the protest organizers, quipped: “This is the sharing economy. We are sharing your space.”

After occupying the space outside the Maximus office, the protesters peacefully marched out
After occupying the space outside the Maximus office, the protesters peacefully marched out

A sergeant on the front lines calmly said that officers would move in if necessary to protect private property, but that it made no sense to arrest everyone, a difficult process that would take hours, when the demonstrators were just going to make their point and then leave.

Which is exactly what happened.

After a while, the group chanted “we will be back” and marched out, in orderly fashion, while the police looked on. Nobody was arrested; there was no abuse. I almost felt from the vibe that the cops understood what this was about; hey, most of them can’t afford to pay market rent in the city, either.