IBEW Helps Win Veterans Housing
June 20, 2014
A 2013 survey by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development revealed that 22 percent of homeless Americans lived in California. And the state contained all of the top five major cities with the highest rate of unsheltered veterans--San Jose, Los Angeles, Fresno, Oakland and San Francisco.
IBEW locals in California have long recognized the need to support the men and women who return from military service, often after several wartime deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Last December, we reported on Los Angeles Local 11’s program to recruit at least 50 percent of future apprentices from among the ranks of military veterans. Business Manager Marvin Kropke, a Purple Heart-decorated Vietnam veteran, said, “When America’s heroes return home from wars abroad, they should not have to struggle to find a job.”
This year, the local and other labor organizations throughout the state extended their concern for returning veterans to the issue of housing.
During the months leading up to the June 3 primary elections, Local 11, sister Los Angeles Local 18 and the state’s building and construction trades supported Proposition 41, a ballot referendum to establish bond funding to finance millions of dollars of affordable multifamily housing for low-income and homeless veterans or those recovering from physical injuries or mental health issues.
The measure, originally proposed by California Assembly Speaker John A. Perez, would allow the state to borrow up to $600 million by selling bonds to investors.
The bonds would be repaid using general tax revenues. The cost to taxpayers to repay the bonds would average about $50 million annually for 15 years, a number less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the state budget.
To build voter consensus behind Proposition 41, unions helped fund the Coalition for Veterans Housing, comprised of dozens of organizations, including the VFW, the American Legion and the state’s Democratic and Republican Parties.
On June 3, Proposition 41 was passed, with more than 65 percent of voters approving the measure.
“We are excited about the wide majority behind Proposition 41. We want California to lead the country in truly respecting our veterans by providing opportunities for both decent jobs and decent housing,” says Kropke.
Local 11 recently conducted a video chat with 12 active duty soldiers in Afghanistan about joining the local’s apprenticeship program when they return home.