2020 Impact Awards: Brian Thomas, Labor Contract Relations Infrastructure Enterprise

This year, we received 60 nominations in the individual category. Nominators took the time to tell us about their amazing SFPUC colleagues and partners. They thoughtfully shared with us why they nominated these impactful individuals. Their written nominations also give us a view into other departments and areas we may not be familiar with. We hope reading the written nominations will inspire you as much as they did us.

Brian, thank you for having such a profound impact on those around you, the communities we serve and SFPUC! 

Award: Effective Workforce Award

Nominated by: Chris Colwick

Most SFPUC staff and many of our partner agencies, contractors and community stakeholders regularly hear about our efforts to promote “Workforce Development.” These efforts reflect the SFPUC Mission Statement, sometimes stated as a philosophy of being a good neighbor. Our workforce development programs and the efforts necessary to be a good neighbor are not always visible or easy to grasp.

Workforce development encompasses a collaborative approach among a variety of partners to provide resources, training and opportunities for local residents and businesses in SFPUC service areas to encourage local participation in our work. Done successfully, these programs positively impact the lives of residents, small businesses and the communities in our very own back yard. Brian Thomas is instrumental in making this happen.

Brian is a Labor Relations Specialist working with the Workforce and Economic Program Services (WEPS) team in the Infrastructure Division. He often jokes, “my job is to get jobs.” Brian is a key member of the WEPS team responsible for ensuring that the contractors and subcontractors delivering work for SFPUC projects are meeting or exceeding the goals for hiring local residents and subcontracting with local businesses. Brian started out doing this work with the Water System Improvement Program and is now supports the Sewer System Improvement Program in San Francisco. Much of his time is spent out in the field, educating, encouraging and connecting local residents looking for work with training programs, labor unions and firms doing the work. Brian embodies SFPUC Values and his work touches on every single one of our Goals, but I’ll focus on just a few.

Teamwork, Inclusiveness & Diversity: Guided by the SFPUC’s Environmental Justice and Community Benefits policies, Brian and the WEPS team provides training and support to diverse, traditionally underserved communities. Brian coordinates with his team at SFPUC headquarters, he builds relationships with the contracting community, he understands how to engage and support the Trade Unions and he cares for the individuals he supports by encouraging them towards a better life.  Brian has a unique ability to thoughtfully and successfully navigate so many teams and build relationships that serve the interests of the SFPUC but also the firms, unions and individuals he works with. He acts as a liaison, a mentor, a coach. He serves as a role model for many of the people he works with and celebrates helping people take steps toward a healthier more financially stable life.

Brian works directly with Bayview residents to connect them to programs and services that provide opportunities for them to participate in upgrades happening at the Southeast Treatment Plant. Brian is helping ex-felons, single mothers and others start a new life, contribute to their community and earn living wages that help support families and encourage others to follow suit. He tells them, “get to bed early, get up early, get to your training program or jobsite early and pay attention”. He calls to provide encouragement or congratulations. He is investing his time and energy into the future of these individuals just as the SFPUC is investing in the future of our infrastructure. 

Effective Workforce & Stakeholder and Community Interest:  Brian acts as a liaison between the SFPUC and community, contractors and unions, training programs and social service agencies and various permutations of these. Brian does this in a caring and professional manner that builds credibility and trust with stakeholders. Brian’s interactions with non-profits, union members, City departments, contractors and community members is a reflection of the SFPUC commitment to supporting a diverse and effective workforce and providing opportunities to underserved communities in our service area, particularly those who have been impacted by SFPUC operations. His work ethic, excitement and compassion for his work and those he works with is contagious. Ultimately, Brian is more than a reflecting of an effective workforce, he is an ambassador and champion of SFPUC values to the broader community.


Stakeholders: Brian raises stakeholder awareness about the programs and services that connect local businesses and resident with training and opportunities to participate in SFPUC projects. This builds trust with those who otherwise would feel disenfranchised and burdened by our operations.

Workforce: Brian is a key part of construction teams, educating them on how to navigate bureaucracy, and helping to get qualified, dedicated apprentices and pre-apprentices on the jobsite.  Brian builds bridges and strengthens relationships between key workforce elements, including SFPUC staff, contractors, community partners and labor unions. Brian’s work results in productive and proud resident workers who serve as role models in their own communities.

Environment: We are upgrading our aging systems to ensure we can continue to protect our environment today and for generations to come. Brian’s efforts support effective, safe project teams and crews with workers who are directly connected to the communities where work is happening. Supporting our contracting and labor partners means they deliver projects in a responsible and timely manner, bringing seismically safe and efficient equipment and facilities online faster so we can continue to do our job of delivering high-quality services 24/7/365.

Below are a couple of links highlighting recent success stories that reflect Brian and the WEPS work: