A construction workers listens to San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria's speech at a rally on Election Day. / Photo by Brittany Cruz-Fejeran

Brigette Browning is Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the San Diego & Imperial Counties Labor Council, representing 200,000 working families.

Carol Kim is Business Manager of the San Diego Building & Construction Trades Council, representing over 30,000 skilled tradespeople.

Earlier this year, San Diego passed San Francisco as the least affordable metro region in the country.

How did we end up on top of this undesirable list? The yawning gap between cost of living and income. San Francisco is still more expensive, but the Bay Area’s median income is nearly $33,000—a whopping 40%—higher than San Diego’s.

The best way to get off the top of the list is to make sure San Diego workers have unions to make our economy more fair and to raise the standard of living for all of us.

Here’s the good news: San Diego’s labor movement is already making historic strides forward, and we’re just getting started. We’re organizing new workers across sectors, securing better contracts with improved standards, and fighting for laws—like November’s Measure D—to balance our economy and protect our future.

Tourism is the third largest driver of our economy and accounts for one in eight local jobs, yet thousands of leisure and travel workers are struggling to make ends meet. As tourists came roaring back over the last year, workers in service industry jobs acted together to demand what they deserve. After months of stalled negotiations, workers at the Hilton Bayfront went on strike as Comic-Con kicked off and quickly secured a major contract that will bring the lowest hourly pay to at least $24 by 2024. This contract will set a new standard across one of our biggest sectors, creating a model for future hospitality contracts.

A union construction job has long been a pathway to middle-class prosperity, and more than 10,000 skilled tradespeople will be needed to complete already-approved projects from Pure Water to the new sports arena in the next decade. San Diego’s Building and Construction trades are bringing those jobs to communities that have been historically excluded, through targeted outreach programs and successful apprenticeship-readiness training courses that we’re expanding across the region.

But all construction jobs aren’t created equal. Union construction workers earn better wages and benefits, build retirement wealth, and do it all with stronger workplace protections. That’s one important reason we’re fighting to pass Measure D this November. When conservatives controlled city hall, they collaborated with downtown developers to rig the rules against union workers and the contractors who employ us. Measure D will help us make sure good jobs building our city go to local residents. It protects taxpayers from fraud and waste. It improves working conditions for those building the future of our city. And it ensures we can continue receiving state funds we rely on to build city projects.

We’re also hard at work building the economy of the future. The green energy economy is a major opportunity, but climate resilience must come with good, green jobs. The Imperial Valley could become the world’s cleanest lithium-producing region. With strong unions, we can negotiate contracts that guarantee the wealth is shared by local workers, not extracted to prop up mine bosses and Wall Street. We’re greening San Diego’s grid and energy production while working to ensure workers in today’s energy industries can transition to good jobs in a green energy economy. And thanks to a project labor agreement, Pure Water will protect San Diego’s water supply in the long run while growing wealth today for the union workers on the job sites.

While bringing up the standard of living through good union jobs is critical to making our region affordable, it’s not the only step.

That’s why San Diego’s labor unions are establishing new partnerships to create affordable housing, expand our transit network, and protect valuable state funding for our infrastructure. We fight when we have to, and we also collaborate with employers who want to do right by workers. Every bid for the sports arena project included commitments to hire union labor to build and operate the properties. That’s thousands of good jobs in the coming years where workers will have a fair wage, a safe workplace and voice on the job.

Our region’s future has tremendous promise—promise we can only realize if working people come together to create a future where we all thrive.

Labor Day isn’t about the past, it’s about the world we can create through solidarity. If you’re a union member, get active and help shape your union’s direction. If you don’t have a union, form one. And when your ballot arrives, vote YES for ballot measures and candidates that will move our region forward by giving workers a fair shot.

Join the Conversation


  1. Paying higher wages is great, but that drives the cost of everything else higher as well. Drivers of the trucks delivering supplies get more, and as a result the cost for those supplies goes up. What are those supplies? Building materials for creating the necessary housing for the region. Food to feed people, this also now goes up. Companies are not going to make less money than they do now, so the cost will continue to go up. I know of two conventions that have already decided to go elsewhere for their conventions because of the high cost of hotel rooms. Keep it up, and you’ll lose more.

  2. Newsom signed a bill yesterday allowing union dues to be income tax credits. Is this payback for the union donations to stop the recall?

  3. This article is preposterous. The only way that housing will be affordable in the major metro areas of CA is if the housing market crashes. Even a small increase in wages wouldn’t put a dent in the crisis which anyone with the most basic math skills can understand. The other issue involves policies that allow foreign investment. Other countries with much smarter politicians don’t allow foreigners to invest without a partner so that foreigners can’t buy up much of the real estate and creating a supply crisis. The government also over incentivizes small business ownership over working a salaried position. The great resignation started many years ago with many of the people in question becoming real estate investors.

  4. According to a recent research, America’s Finest City tops the list for having the country’s most costly housing market. But it doesn’t always imply our houses are the most costly. San Diego defeated San Francisco as the city where buying a home is the most expensive. We all decided that it is preferable to live in a retirement community when my dad made plans to purchase a new house after retiring, and luckily for him, we discovered https://silvergaterr.com/.

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