Next week, we commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Southern California Drywall Strike. On June 1st, 1992, SoCal drywallers started a 6-month long strike against fraudulent contractors, stolen wages and poor working conditions.
When his employer stole $60 from an already minimal paycheck, Jesus Gomez knew he had to do something. From the moment his employer refused to pay him back, Jesus and his fellow drywaller Ubaldo Vazquez joined forces to gather the rest of their SoCal drywall brothers and sisters to fight back and take action.
When contractors refused to negotiate and enter into a contract, the drywallers intended to paralyze the construction industry if their time, work and money wasn’t respected. Jesus and Ubaldo had never done anything like this before, but knew it was there only option. “They didn’t believe we would be able to do something – that we would go for a few days and that we would return to work because we were hungry,” said Jesus.
But they didn’t; instead, the drywallers went on strike for 6 months, sacrificing their time, their livelihoods and even their safety in the process. Many of those involved were undocumented. Residential construction within Southern California all the way down to the border came to a halt. Along the way, Jesus and Ubaldo met with UBC President Doug McCarron, who at the time was EST of the SWRCC. McCarron describes the drywaller’s strike as a “turning point” that changed the Carpenter’s Union forever. Local’s lent Jesus and Ubaldo their buildings so they could hold meetings, and the Carpenters provided financial and moral support along the way.
After 6 months, thousands of drywallers on strike, hundreds of arrests, and one free-way takeover, a formal agreement was signed on December 2nd, 1992. Drywallers were to receive an increase of 50% in wages and other benefits. The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners became the new safe haven for the drywallers of Southern California.
This is the story of the brave workers who became leaders and changed the Carpenters Union forever. We are forever grateful to Jesus, Ubaldo and every person who joined the movement. “It changed my life,” Jesus says, “and the lives of all the workers have changed since then.”
To learn more about the 30th anniversary of the Southern California Drywall strike, watch the video above or click the link here.