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Labor Council

AFL-CIO Building Investment Trust Creates Good Union Jobs in San Mateo County

June 2015


The 888 San Mateo Apartments were built by union building trades members.

The AFL-CIO Building Investment Trust hosted a tour of the 888 San Mateo Apartments for labor representatives May 11. The $70 million project consists of two four-story buildings on three acres with 158 rental apartments, including 15 units designated as affordable units.

William Little, Vice President of the Building Investment Trust, said the BIT operates with one of the most comprehensive labor policies in the real estate industry, requiring all-union labor for the construction. “When we invest, we are creating good jobs and a good return on the investment,” he said. He noted that the project cost $70 million to build and is now valued at $83 million. The 888 San Mateo Apartments are already 90 percent leased.

Little said the project created 350 union construction jobs and that, “Not only did we build all-union, but we will operate and maintain the buildings with union labor.” Little said the project would employ members of the Teamsters, Laborers, and SEIU, among others, for security and maintenance of the apartment complex.

James Ruigomez, San Mateo County Building Trades Council Business Manager, said, “Using our pension funds to create jobs for our members benefits the local economy as they spend their earnings in the community. It’s the common cause that unions are built on: strength in numbers.” Ruigomez said more unions should invest in the AFL-CIO’s Building Investment Trust and Housing Investment Trust.

San Mateo County Central Labor Council Executive Secretary-Treasurer Shelley Kessler said the project is, “A positive and uplifying example of how union pension investments help workers and the community. It creates new housing stock and opportunities for people to live closer to their worksites, which is a major issue in San Mateo County. It will also provide jobs for union members who will maintain the building.”

The recently completed development is one of ten BIT-funded projects currently in pre-development or construction nationwide. In California, the AFL-CIO Building Investment Trust has directly or indirectly invested in 35 projects totaling over $1.7 billion in commercial real estate. The investments have resulted in approximately 10.5 million hours of union construction work. Over its 25-year history, the BIT has invested over $5.8 billion for the development and acquisition of more than 180 office, retail, multifamily, hotel, warehouse, and mixed use properties across the country. These investments have generated approximately 70 million hours in union construction work and created thousands of union jobs in the service, maintenance and operations of facilities owned by the BIT.

William Little and Lynn Fieldman, the BIT’s Vice President of Construction and Labor Relations, also spoke at the San Mateo County Central Labor Council delegates meeting May 11. Fieldman, a retired member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, said that through the AFL-CIO’s investment programs, “We are investing in ourselves.” He said unions should invest in the AFL-CIO’s Equity Index Fund, which invests union pension funds in major S&P 500 companies.

“The more that unions invest, the more leverage we will have through proxy voting on things like executive compensation, corporate governance and socially responsible investments,” Fieldman said. He said the AFL-CIO is also working on setting up other funds to invest in energy and infrastructure development and hospitals, he said.

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