Carpenters outside of Mission location of Flour + Water.
Carpenters outside of the Mission location of Flour + Water. Taken March 7, 2023. Photo by Lydia Chávez.

These days, if you want to head over to Flour + Water for black trumpet arancini or black pepper strozzapreti, you might have to pass by a grim reaper — and some angry carpenters. As the restaurant renovates a space for its forthcoming flagship pizzeria in North Beach, the carpenters union is campaigning against carpenters working on the project being paid below the union’s $57/hour “standard.”

The union alleges that Cookline, the construction company hired by Flour + Water to renovate the new location, has subcontracted carpentry from a Salinas-based building company that pays its carpenters $28/hour and offers no benefits. This hourly wage is the price of the restaurant’s pork raviolini or gnochetti sardi (before tax, tip, the city’s restaurant mandate charge, or the restaurant’s “Zero Foodprint” charge) and less than a quarter of the price of the pasta-tasting menu.

Chris Brown, a co-owner of Cookline — which has worked on several successful, high-end restaurants, including Tartine Berkeley and Inner Sunset, as well as Pizzeria Delfina Pacific Heights and Bar Piccino — could not confirm the wages, because Cookline uses a subcontractor. 

“I wouldn’t know what other companies pay their employees,” he said, adding, “None of our employees, nor any of our subcontractors’ employees, have raised any issue with the way they have been treated or how much they have been paid.” 

Diana Hossfeld, a representative for the Flour + Water Hospitality Group, said they trust Cookline’s experience “when selecting subcontractors for projects where we collaborate.” 

Daniel Gregg, a senior field representative for the Northern California Carpenters Union, said that a lawyer representing the restaurant group served a cease-and-desist letter to the carpenters protesting outside of the restaurant. The union responded by filing an Unfair Labor Practice, on the grounds that their labor rights are violated by the notice.

Hossfeld said the letter was issued to address pamphlets that were handed out with the personal phone number of Thomas McNaughton, the co-executive chef and founding partner. The issue will be settled by the federal National Labor Relations Board.

“We’re not saying they need to be union,” said Gregg. “The goal is just for everybody to do the right thing.”

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Christina grew up in Brooklyn and moved to the Bay in 2018. She studied Creative Writing and Earth Systems at Stanford.

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  1. My favorite part is, “None of our employees, nor any of our subcontractors’ employees, have raised any issue with the way they have been treated or how much they have been paid.”

    Yet unions find it totally reasonable to pressure contractors and subs into paying dues to get a 2x bump they’re not asking for and at the same time attempt to shame a business into submission or demise.

  2. “We’re not saying they need to be union,” said Gregg. “The goal is just for everybody to do the right thing.

    So what’s the right thing if not unionizing? Is this action just a routine to justify the dues they receive from union members?

    1. The right thing if not unionizing is to pay the prevailing wage. That is how general contractors and subs have traditionally skirted unionizing.

  3. Not considering union labor or not issue- $ 28 per hour is very very low wage locally for a skilled carpenter, and Cookline is very aware of this. There should at least be added fees for healthy carpenter surcharge, safe running commute vehicle surcharge, SFMTA parking ticket reality charge, my kids have no healthcare surcharge etc…

    Ok, kidding aside.
    Smells like exploitation.

    1. Angie could you or Mission Local provide us readers with documentation these workers are making $28/hr and not
      Just serve as a mouth piece for the union?

  4. “Labor cannot stand still. It must not retreat. It must go on, or go under.”
    — Harry Bridges

  5. More Union nonsense. Pissed Off because their guys didn’t get the contract. What a joke.

    “We’re not saying they need to be union,” Yeah Greg, that’s exactly what you’re saying.

  6. I’m in union supporter, and former SEIU dues payer, but am always slightly skeptical of local 22 “actions” (I’m guessing that’s who this is). They have a strategy of picketing in front of restaurants who are employing contractors who they have a problem with *elsewhere*, not at the picketing location. They were set up outside the old Bar Agricole location a few years ago protesting a company who they were in negotiations with for a job elsewhere, hoping that Agricole would pressure them also? Very weird and affecting the paychecks of tip dependent staff.

    1. SEIU local 1021 is pretty much the biggest joke I have ever seen. They do literally nothing for their dues-paying members and they are wildly inefficient.

  7. In favor of the carpenter union, they are proper. There are structural and finish carpenters. They ha to take years of apprenticeship. They are safe. They are economical. They are creative because they apply archectural design. Architecture applies art and design. They know how to properly build. They know how to communicate. It’s a guild, a culture. They are proper.

    1. They are priced out of the market.
      And that’s not only from a competitive standpoint, that’s from the standpoint that projects are not happening altogether. Prominent out-of-town example: Lennar pulling out of the naval base development in Concord after the unions demanded they be paid San Francisco rates.

    2. Yeah, and union stevedores controlled the SF waterfront, and drove ALL the cargo shipping business away. They’ll drive every employer away if they can.

      1. Not in such distant pasts all that funny money from the middle-east, pension funds and fed coin minted at 0% interest flowed into San Francisco, propping up union labor. Highrises! Tenant improvements! The going was great for carpenters and over at the plumbers&pipefitters local 38. You cannot begrudge them for taking their share of the pie.
        Now though the gravy train has stopped. If it’s anything at the carpenters’ as it’s at local 38, they have scores of tradespeople sitting at home pulling EDD. White knuckles and backsides squeezed. Uggghhh, protest!
        For those interested, visit Ocean Beach one of these days and admire the carpenter union’s rehabbing of section 8 housing on Lower Great Highway. A handful of quad-plexes, resplendent like now. There is no doubting the work was done to the highest standards of craftsmanship, I am saying this without irony. Only issue, done to the tune of $1mio per unit. And that’s where the wheels come off. Outside of government work, they win no work when they bid at the “standard”.