Rchard Bermack Photography


Stam Waren Roofers Training Center

Organized Labor

Roofers finally get a place of their own: Stan Warren Roofers and Waterproofers Training Center Dedication
This year began with a long-anticipated event for the Bay Area building trades, the dedication of the Stan Warren Roofers and Waterproofers Training Center, on January 7. For over 60 years, Bay Area roofers had wanted their own training center. “We got tired of moving around from building to building each time our lease was up, and we wanted something that would be ours,” explained Bruce Lau, financial secretary for Roofers and Waterproofers Local 40. The first union apprenticeship program began in 1946, a joint venture between the union and the Regal Roofing Company, according to Steve Tucker, Local 40 business manager, but the union did not have its own permanent facility for a training program until now. An audience of nearly 60 people attended the dedication of the center in Livermore. The center is a joint project of San Francisco Local 40, Oakland Local 81, and San Jose Local 95.

Organized Labor spoke with Leo Juarez, president of Local 40 and a graduate of that first class of 1946. According to Juarez, the lack of their own facilities and the reliance on contractors has been detrimental to the trade. Contractors and foreman often take advantage of workers, teaching them only enough to keep them dependent on the contractors, and not enough to work for other employers. “You treat someone like dirt, and they don't stick with the trade.”

From the beginning Juarez had dreamed the union could have its own place, but he had no idea how to go about it. It wasn't until one of his students, roofer Stan Warren, became a union business agent and convinced employers to contribute 8 cents an hour into a building fund, that the idea started to become a reality. That was in 1997, and it would take another 14 years of effort. “I asked Stan how he could keep on going, and he said, 'Leo, I'm just gonna get up every morning and keep on trying.' He was turned down three or four times before he saw any results, but he got the ball rolling.”

“Stan was the guy who put his skin in the game,” stated training director Dan Smith. “He kept bringing it up, meeting after meeting, year after year. Some guys were annoyed, but I was inspired. Finally he did his own thing: a contract opened up, and he negotiated that 8 cents an hour and started the building fund. People said, 'What about the other locals?' and he said, 'Don't worry about it, somebody has to be first. They'll come along.'”

“I had the idea of a center long before Stan, but he taught me how to form a coalition. He'd come up to you and say, 'How can we work together?' And then, 'Okay, now that it's the two of us and the rest of them, we need to make it the three of us, and then the four of us and then the 10 of us.' And he kept going until we hit critical mass. You know the saying, 'How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.'

And that's what he taught us.” With his sense of leadership and determination, in 2000 Stan Warren became secretary-treasurer of the San Francisco Building Trades Council, where he served until his untimely death in 2005. He died of a brain tumor at age 44, never getting to see his dream realized, but his wife Geri and his son Gage were present at the dedication of the center named in his honor. “I brought my son because I wanted him to see his dad's dream come true, and the mark he left. Roofers are often thought of as 'that dirty trade,' those people who do that necessary job that no one else wants to do. He wanted roofers to have a place of their own, where they could feel good about their profession, and good about themselves, a place where they could continue to get training even after they became journeyman, a place where they could go on to the next level, and become the best at their profession, where they could strive to be the best they can be,” she stated.

William Callahan, executive director of the Associated Roofing Contractors, remembers negotiating that first contract with the 8 cents an hour. “I miss Stan, he was a man of vision. We both understood that labor-management cooperation is where it's at, that men don't work unless the contractors are competitive, and the contractors aren't competitive unless they have a skilled workforce. Union contractors cannot compete on price, they have to compete on quality. So the more you invest in your work force, the more competitive you become. We're looking for a whole new era in the expansion of our industry, and the union sector needs to lead the way.”

The roofing industry is changing rapidly. With the advent of green technology, roofers will be installing solar technology, and even the infrastructure for roof gardens, Smith told the audience.

Training director Jose Oscar Padilla took visitors on a tour of the two-story 24,000-square foot facility, which includes five classrooms, a 7500-square foot indoor mock-up area, and two acres of outdoor areas for building projects. Padilla was especially proud of the computers and flat panel screens for power point presentations. “People ask, 'Why do roofers need to know computers?' I tell them union roofers are no longer uneducated people. We train our members in all aspects of the roofing trade, including managing a job, and that means being able to run computer software applications. With this facility, we will be able to bring in manufacturers to do training on all the newest products, including green technology.”

“Stan Warren had the dream of a training center, but he had no idea that it would be this big or modern. Now we have to take it to the next step of creating the program to train the roofers of the 21st Century,” Tucker told Organized Labor.