Rchard Bermack Photography


Roofers and Waterproofers Local 40

Organized Labor

Roofers and Waterproofers Union Local 40 "WE GOT YOU COVERED"
On top of a new terminal building at the San Francisco International Airport, roofers cut out triangular pieces from sheets of brown insulating material. The thickness of the sheets is tapered, and the roofers fit them around the drain covers to create low spots to funnel water into the drain. Other workers have already sprayed beads of pink and yellow glue, resembling the icing on a cake, which holds down the insulation. Then more glue is sprayed, and a layer of thin black material is rolled on as it is heated with a "dragon" torch, spouting flames from five burners. Operators control the intensity of the heat as they roll the paper by pulling a long metal cane. "It really beats the old days," Roofers and Waterproofers Union Local 40 rep Sal Botello says. "You just walk backwards and roll it on. Before you had to get down and it was hard on your knees and your back. It was really terrible." Traditionally roofing has been one of the tougher trades. It is estimated that 95 percent of workers entering the trade quit after the first year. Non-union contractors are notorious for burning out and abandoning their employees. Local 40 has attempted to improve the lives of roofers, providing some of the best health care and retirement benefits. After 30 years, roofers can retire with close to 100 percent of their salary. Safety conditions have vastly improved, both in work procedures and in the materials used. Although roofers still use hot tar on built-up roofs in some situations, most modern roofing is done with roll-on materials that are glued down and heat sealed. Single-Ply, a neoprene material that can be applied with hot or cold glues and is extremely durable and waterproof, is also used. In the 1980s, the advent of new synthetic materials, including polyurethane and epoxy coatings, led to an expansion of roofing into the waterproofing trade. Now Local 40 workers apply waterproofing materials not only to roofs, but also to parking lots, reservoirs and concrete foundations. They work on everything from commercial highrises to single-family residential homes. Local 40 represents 600 roofers and waterproofers in San Francisco and San Mateo Counties. Local 40 members were joined by Oakland Local 81 members working together for Western Roofing Services at the San Francisco International Airport. The general contractor is Turner Construction.