On the Heels of One Union Plumber’s Departure from Government, Another Sacramento Friend of Labor Has Decided Not to Seek Re-Election
Labor unions in the City of Sacramento are facing the reality of trying to survive the GOP’s War on Workers after losing two of their most staunch allies in city government. While still mourning the retirement of local labor and political leader Harry Rotz, a United Association plumber from Local 447, news came on Monday that Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy, another friend of labor, would not seek re-election.
Rotz was the type of man all organizations look for in a leader. Despite his success he was seen as a man of the people and known by labor, citizens and the political world by his first name. In May of 2010, in a write up about the California State Pipe Trades Council Convention, Mesorfa.org wrote the following about Harry Rotz:
Mr. Rotz leads the purpose of the Local 447 in a very humble and low profile sort of way. The Sacramento Bee newspaper says: “Union business manager Harry Rotz is described in political circles as a Wizard of Oz, rarely showing his face but constantly making his presence known. He never does media interviews, doesn’t like to wear name tags at events, and at Sacramento City Hall is known simply as “Harry.”
Sacramento Municipal Utility Board member Nancy Bui describes Harry Rotz as a man who gets the job done, “He’s totally the wizard behind the curtain.”
“(Rotz) carries the lion’s share on a lot of things,” said Matt Kelly, Secretary Treasurer of the Sacramento-Sierra Building and Construction Trades Council. “And what Local 447 does benefits all the building trades and labor in general.”
While Harry Rotz humbly stays unknown to outsiders, his work through the Local 447 sustaining its mission is very clear: promoting unionized workers and taking care of the 1,300 plumbers the union represents. This includes being a part of the team to bring progress for a cure to cancer found in plumbers, pipe fitters, and all other laborers within the building trades.
Men like this are hard to replace. His legacy in the labor movement dates back to 1993 and he was the exact type of man needed in this time of uncertainty.
Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy had a long and positive relationship with local unions as well. In 2011, she reached out to the AFL-CIO to ask for volunteers to help repair the homes of seniors and low income families. The AFL-CIO and Building Trades were more than happy to help the community and Councilwoman. These types of relationships can be invaluable, not only to the political process but to the constituents who demand a balanced voice in government.
These two retirements and a looming ballot measure that could ban Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) prompted the Sacramento Bee to write an article that asked are, “Unions Losing Influence?”
“Labor has been under attack for the last several years,” said Sacramento public relations consultant Doug Elmets. “They’re never to be underestimated, but given the current economic environment, both locally and nationally, they’re being forced to come up with a new paradigm to succeed.”
Along with the partisan movement to ban PLAs, city employees are being asked to contribute more towards their pensions. This textbook attack on organized workers is ramping up in advance of the 2012 election, when Democrats hope to reverse the trend through electoral gains. Unions will have to hope that the likes of Harry Rotz and Sandy Sheedy can be replaced so that middle class families can have their voices heard in Sacramento, and so that the movement can collectively answer “no” to the Sacramento Bee’s question.