Wednesday, April 25, 2012

SF Ex: Union Rules Jeopardize
Pro-Gay Flag Lowering on May 17?

Last week, Dan Schreiber of the SF Examiner penned an excellent story about efforts by the small and no-budget Gays Without Borders to participate in a global day of LGBT solidarity and activism, by lowering the United Nations and American flags at the centrally-located UN Plaza, pictured above.

Schreiber reports that a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Works told him the fee to lower the flag was due to union rules. I'm as pro public union as the next guy, but reading how union rules mandate hefty costs and a required number of hours in order for the public to access flagpoles on public property disgusts me. It's this kind of crap that creates animosity toward public unions.

Our plan to lower the UN Plaza flags would take no more than 10-20 minutes for a DPW worker with a key to insert into the control box, bring the UN flag down half-way, then another 10-20 minutes to do the same with the Stars and Stripes. Twenty-four hours later, the process would repeat itself to raise the flags back to their normal positions.

I'm pleased that DPW's spokeswoman says there's potential wiggle room on the fee. Let me also say that my member of the Board of Supervisors, Jane Kim, in whose district lies UN Plaza, is assisting us with finding a way around the four-figure cost. My hope is that Supervisor Kim and her colleagues will collaborate with Gays Without Borders, DPW and union representatives to fly the flags at half-mast without gouging activists.

From the Examiner, bolding added:

If you want to fly a flag at half-staff for an occasion in San Francisco, it could cost up to $1,500. Local blogger and LGBT activist Michael Petrelis found that out the hard way when he asked The City’s Department of Public Works to do that [UN Plaza] to commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia on May 17.

“I mean, c’mon,” Petrelis said. “If San Francisco, of all cities, can’t find a way to lower two flags for 24 hours to honor dead gay people from around the world, what does that say about San Francisco?”

Gloria Chan, a spokeswoman for Public Works, said union contracts require station engineers to lower the flags and be compensated at $90 per hour for a minimum of four hours, no matter how long the task actually takes . . . [that] could be up to $135 per hour for two four-hour sessions — one to lower the flags, and one to re-raise them — for a total of $1,080. What makes up the remaining cost is unclear.

Chan said Petrelis was provided with a fair, “across-the-board” cost for the activity, but considering the circumstances, the department plans to work with the inquiring group — Gays Without Borders — to lower the final bill.

Petrelis . . . noted that the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution in March to recognize the day. Chan said it remains unclear if Gays Without Borders would still have to cover the cost of the flag lowering in the case of a citywide recognition of the day, but that details are still being considered.

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