Champions For Our Community: Darrick Shanahan

Installing San Francisco’s many street signs is a critical part of making our city’s transportation run safely and smoothly. As president of the IFPTE Local 21 Sign Division Chapter, Darrick Shanahan knows this firsthand.

Sign workers install and maintain signs for all kinds of traffic purposes such as street names, no parking zones, towaways, one ways, and street cleanings. We also facilitate our city’s transition towards a more bicycle-friendly transit system by installing bike racks and infrastructure to protect bike lanes all throughout San Francisco.

Darrick doesn’t just serve the community — he’s part of it. “I was born and raised here. I’m proud to beautify my city and make it a safer place for pedestrians, cars, and cyclists.”

In addition to the skills needed in construction — such as use of a jackhammer or knowledge of concrete — the job also requires a careful attention to safety measures so that signs don’t pose as hazards during their installation or after. Coordinating these complex installations can require multiple crews including backups, watchers, and flaggers.

A key part of the sign workers’ protective equipment are our boots. For years, management said they couldn’t provide new boots more than once a year, leaving us to replace torn and unsafe pairs out of our own pockets. Darrick collaborated with fellow sign worker Gary Orr and organized their coworkers to hold management accountable. “When I started we were fighting to get our boots every year, and now we get our boots every year.” Now Darrick is an elected leader, Darrick continues to bring sign workers together to make our workplace equal and our union strong.

The public sign workers are committed to safety, but sometimes Darrick sees outside contractors cutting corners and moving signs they shouldn’t touch. “We’ve seen private contractors come out and take out signs and put them back up, and they’re putting them low. They don’t know the right height to put them at and it becomes a hazard. Private sector firms don’t care. They want to come in, do their hours, and go. We, on the other hand, have rules and regulations that the union and the City set up. We make sure it’s done correctly.”

Private contractors don’t share the public sector’s commitment to the common good — their aim is to maximize profits. This puts residents in harm’s way, and taxpayers on the hook for it.

This is why Local 21 fights not only for safe working conditions, but also for the full funding of our public services. Our interests are the public’s interests. Residents of San Francisco deserve a well-run city with safe, beautiful streets.  We must keep our work in the public sphere where it is democratically accountable.

Champions For Our Community is an ongoing series by IFPTE Local 21 aimed at profiling our diverse members and the work they do to serve the public and protect the public sphere.