AFL-CIO Building Investment Trust Celebrates Workers At Pension-Funded Construction Project

The all-union construction crew at the new 888 San Mateo Apartments project in San Mateo was recognized at a worker appreciation event May 16, hosted by the AFL-CIO Building Investment Trust (BIT), in partnership with the San Mateo County Building Trades and Sares Regis Group of Northern California. The $69.9 million development that broke ground in June 2012 is funded by the BIT, which invests union pension funds in building projects around the country.

Recognizing the workers at the event, San Mateo Building and Construction Trades Council Business Manager Bill Nack said,

Thanks to the skilled union workers, this project is on budget and ahead of schedule. This is a great day and a great project. We are using union pension funds to get people to work.

Nack also thanked San Mateo City Councilwoman Maureen Freschet and Deputy Mayor Robert Ross for their support in getting the project approved. “Without the support of the entire City Council, this couldn’t have happened,” he said.

William Little, Vice-President of the AFL-CIO Investment Trust Corporation, said that while the primary objective of the BIT is to provide investors with positive returns on their investments, the BIT-funded projects also create good union construction jobs. The BIT’s labor policies require that on-site construction labor is provided through signatory union contractors.

Said Little:

The AFL-CIO Building Investment Trust has directly or indirectly invested in 29 projects totaling over $1.2 billion in commercial real estate in California. These investments have resulted in approximately 8.8 million hours of union construction work.

Since 1988, the BIT has directly or indirectly invested approximately $5.2 billion for the development and acquisition of more than 180 office, retail, multifamily, hotel, warehouse, and mixed-use properties across the country. BIT labor policies have enabled the Trust to generate an estimated 68 million hours of construction work nationally, as well as thousands of union jobs in the service, maintenance, and operation of properties owned by the BIT.

Art Pulaski, California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer, said the 888 San Mateo project was a good example of realizing the dream of solidarity. He said the dreamers of the labor movement thought about how to create a trust to pool together pension funds and invest them so that retirements would be secure, and took that dream a step further by investing those funds to create good, union jobs.

Pulaski told the workers:

We’re very proud that the labor movement, through the AFL-CIO Building Investment Trust, is continuing to do our part to help lift our state’s economy … The next time you are shopping at Safeway, or use a union auto mechanic, think about the union workers there. Think about the public worker in Sacramento—their pension investment gave you this job. That’s solidarity.

Kinsey M. Robinson, International President of the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers, and Allied Workers, praised the 150 workers on the jobsite for their skill and professionalism. He said that because of the union workforce, including members of Roofers Locals 40 and 95, the work was “done on time, and done right the first time.” He noted that the Roofers were one of the biggest supporters of the BIT and had invested in the Trust when it was first established.

It’s extremely important to invest in America’s communities and create jobs to ensure a full economic recovery. The AFL-CIO Building Investment Trust creates good jobs so that union members can provide their families a decent standard of living, while producing good market returns for union sponsored pension plans year after year. It’s a win-win for the labor movement.

A joint venture of Devcon Construction, Inc. and Regis Contractors Bay Area serves as the construction manager and general contractor. Devcon has a crew of carpenters and laborers on the project. Subcontractors include Alliance Roofing, Pacific Structures for the concrete work, and Decker Electric. Western States Fire Protection has a crew of sprinklerfitters from Local 483 and Simpson Sheet Metal’s  workers from Local 104 are doing the HVAC installation, architectural sheet metal and flashing. A crew of union carpenters from Local 217 and other Bay Area Locals is doing the framing for Country Builders Construction. Between 100 and 150 construction workers are currently on the job each day, with as many as 300 employed over the scope of the project. 

The 888 San Mateo Apartments will consist of two wood-frame four-story buildings containing 158 rental apartments, including 15 units designated as affordable units. The development sits on a three-acre site that most recently had an abandoned car dealership. It will feature an outdoor pool and playground, along with a fitness studio, and business. The project will be certified as a LEED-Silver Community, according to Brett Leon of the Sares Regis Group. It is close to public transit, including the nearby CalTrain station.

Shelley Kessler, Executive Secretary Treasurer of the San Mateo County Central Labor Council:

This mid-rise building at 888 North San Mateo Drive, which features a percentage of affordable units, is a clear victory for the community. When you get good wages and benefits, you can afford to buy what you build.” She said that as a member of the Machinists union, she was proud that her union is an investor in the project. We are investing in our future with our earnings. Here, sustainability is built with union labor.

Kevin McCarthy, President of PNC Realty Investors (an investment advisor to PNC Bank), which serves as trustee for the BIT, thanked the workers and the Building Trades leaders, and said,

We are grateful to our investors and to the members of the building trades on site who have made this project possible. We are also proud of the construction jobs that have been created, helping to spur local economic recovery.

The San Mateo project is one of ten BIT projects currently in development across the country. Total development costs for the ten projects is approximately $1.3 billion and is expected to create over 6,500 union jobs throughout the course of construction. The San Mateo development is expected to be completed in May 2014.