By now you’ve seen the news coverage reporting that a fifth person was confirmed dead on Thursday in the massive California wildfires that have spread across more than a dozen counties from as far North as Siskiyou near the Oregon border to the central coast and borders of the central valley. These fires have destroyed over 800 homes and forced more than 20,000 people to evacuate their homes to seek safer ground.
Although we watch these stories unfold from afar, for the SEIU members in the particularly hard hit Lake County and the surrounding areas (including parts of Amador, Calaveras, Napa and Sonoma Counties), this nightmare is playing out before their very eyes as fires have already claimed several of their communities and over 140,000 acres. SEIU members serve as city, county and state employees, health care workers, home care providers and college faculty and employees in the affected region.
We are writing today to ask for your support in bringing comfort to these members, the communities in which they live and those to whom they serve.
During our SEIU California regional membership meetings in the winter of 2015, we had the opportunity to meet with our members from rural counties in Northern California. During our meetings these members shared with us the impact that the drought and the fires have had on their already economically depressed communities. Our members expressed the pride that they felt being part of a community that has always come together during difficult times to support and comfort each other.
The current crisis is no exception. The current catastrophe is more than any community can shoulder on its own. That is why we are writing to ask for your support.
Please join SEIU Locals in California by letting our fellow SEIU sisters and brothers in these ravaged areas know that they’re not alone. Please consider making a financial donation to the SEIU CA Wildfire Relief Fund. Download bank wiring instructions below, or send your contributions to:
SEIU CA Wildfire Relief Fund
c/o SEIU CA
1130 K Street, Suite 300
Sacramento, CA 95814
Your donations will be used to assist SEIU members affected by the wildfire with their food, clothing and shelter needs in the weeks ahead.
Together we can help bring light to a dark moment.
Mary Kay Henry
President, SEIU Local 2015
Former President, SEIU CA State Council
Sept. 24 — 4:30 pm
2) Solano Court comes through with fire relief donations
SEIU 1021 members and court management at the Solano County Superior Court have raised $1,475 for fire relief and split their gift between the Lake and Amador county courts. Thank you!
4) NBC Bay Area: “Valley Fire: President Obama Declares Major Disaster”
At this writing, the Butte Fire is nearly 90% contained but still burns over more than 70,000 acres.
All together, about 300 SEIU 1021 members and their families in Calaveras County have been directly affected by the Butte Fire. Nearly everyone was forced to evacuate their home at some point, but as of today all evacuation orders have been lifted and thankful people have returned home.
That is, those who still have homes. The fire has destroyed about 475 homes and destroyed or damaged nearly 400 other structures. As far as we know, four SEIU 1021 members with Calaveras County lost their family home to the flames.
Here are reports from our chapters:
Calaveras County. Local 1021’s 235 members had just begun contract negotiations before the fire hit them. Bargaining is currently on hold but expected to resume on Tuesday, Sept. 30. Members have risen to the occasion of the fire. County employees in BHS and HSA are staffing booths for members of the community to get their application papers for relief started. The booths are open all day on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
On a small but positive note, the crisis situation is finally forcing county management to communicate with employees. Hopefully the new CAO, Judy Hopkins — who started her job two days after the fire started — will want to turn this into a new spirit of cooperation, which would be a welcome relief from the cold shoulder and hostility of her predecessor.
ARC Amador. The chapter had just elected new officers before most of its membership was ordered to evacuate. Fortunately no one lost their home, but one member is still displaced after a close call when fire “licked the side of her house,” leaving one outside wall charred and black but the rest of the house undamaged — although uninhabitable for now. At the last chapter meeting, they discussed fire preparation and what to do in the future.
City of Jackson. The area had little damage to report, but still, 95% of this chapter’s members had to evacuate. SEIU 1021 members in the Public Works Dept. are now engaged in cleanup efforts.
Central Sierra Child Support Services. There are only 10 members in this chapter but all of them had to evacuate. No damage to report. Like Calaveras County, they are in contract bargaining too.
Please send tips, news, resources, and information about SEIU 1021 members and their activities in the fire areas to Randy Lyman, 1021 NewsWire Editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Despite much progress, the Butte and Valley fires that ripped across the landscape a week ago are still burning out of control over large areas, but even after the flames are out, recovery will take time.
SEIU 1021 members have been central to rescue and evacuation efforts, and will remain central as their communities rebuild. Amador County employees, for example, are taking care of rescued farm animals (pictured) and set up evacuee centers throughout the county during the worst of the crisis.
Many members and staff of SEIU 1021 live and work in Amador, Calaveras, Lake, Napa, Sonoma, and other counties affected by the blazes. As we learn more about the status of our members, staff, and communities, stay tuned to the NewsWire and this page for information on how you can help.
In Lake County, Redwood Credit Union has set up a relief fund in conjunction with The Press Democrat and Sen. Mike McGuire, and you can make donations at any North Bay or San Francisco branch or online. Checks payable to RCU Lake County Fire Victims Fund can be sent to Redwood Credit Union, P.O. Box 6104, Santa Rosa, CA 95406.
INFO/DONATE: Amador County Animal Response Team
MyMotherLode.com: “Butte Fire: Relief Resources And Ways To Help”
YubaNet.com: Butte Fire Updates
After a rousing call to action from students who have been helping faculty’s efforts to win a fair contract, the Workers’ Rights Board panel, including SF District 1 Supervisor Eric Mar, Vice-President of the SF Unified School District Board of Education Matt Haney, Rev. Richard L. Smith of St. John’s, renowned playwright and educator Cherrie Moraga, prominent artist and educator Celia Herrera Rodriguez, and Executive Director of the Jamestown Community Center Myrna Melgar, responded to what they had heard.
“I taught at SF State for 16 years, and I helped found New College of California, so I identify with what the SFAI folks are dealing with, and the victimization and demonization that courageous faculty organizing are facing. We as government officials have to do everything we can to hold accountable institutions that are really squeezing the lowest-paid workers and taking away this ideal of education that can make you a better servant to your community,” said Sup. Eric Mar.
“What kind of sickness has come across our city, our society, when we would dismantle the very thing that is the source of our prosperity? When we would attack the very people who are most essential–our educators? There’s something deeply wrong at the core when we’re having a conversation of people who are undermined and attacked, who should be celebrated and supported. In this city especially, the amount of wealth in this city, that we would be having this conversation here in this very place where blocks from here they’re renting 1-bedroom apartments for $7,000, selling million-dollar condos, that we wouldn’t support our young people to have a future in this city? There can be nothing more shameful than that,” said Matt Haney, elected SF School Board member.
The SFAI Poster Syndicate, led by SFAI adjunct professor Art Hazelwood, produced a series of prints for participants and guests.
SEIU 1021 and a coalition of unions and community groups are celebrating victory after the Richmond City Council made this city of 108,000 residents the first ever to enact rent control protections in Contra Costa County. The law also requires evictions be based on just cause.
The strong rent-control law is the first step in a broader agenda developed by the community/labor coalition to fight economic inequality in the city. They fought for the measure in response to a reported 30 percent increase in rents in just a few years. The coalition includes local unions and a range of resident, tenant, anti-poverty and other progressive organizations.
Richmond is the 10th Bay Area city to pass a rent control law and the 16th in California — the first in the state in three decades.
“I have lived in Richmond all my life,” said SEIU 1021 member Robbie Hurtado. “My rent has been increasing every year from 10% to 20%. I support rent control because it levels the playing field between the property owner and renters.”
“This is a real step towards economic justice,” said Alysabeth Alexander, vice president for politics of SEIU 1021. “The rapid growth of Silicon Valley is causing displacement throughout Northern California, causing a true housing crisis that demands immediate action.”
The stories below highlight the important role played by SEIU 1021 in the rent control coalition:
Beyond Chron/Tenants Together: “Richmond Passes Rent Control”
Landlords turned out in force to oppose rent control, but had no support from any allies outside the landlord industry. … The real estate industry threw everything they had at these council members, but were unable to derail these basic protections against unfair rent increases and arbitrary evictions.
Tenants Together: “Rent Control Passes in Richmond”
Beyond Chron: “Richmond 1, Gentrification 0”
Contra Costa Times: “Richmond becomes first city in Contra Costa to approve rent control”
Consensus Among Community, Labor, Small Business, and Government to Lift Low-Wage Workers and Address Income Inequality
BAY AREA, CA – Emeryville legislators voted unanimously to raise its minimum wage to $12.25 with a path to almost $16 by 2019, making it the highest in the nation. Their vote was spurred by consensus for a higher regional minimum wage between residents, workers, faith leaders, and small businesses. In their deliberations, Emeryville Mayor Ruth Atkin and Councilmembers cited the crisis of income inequality as the reason for their decision. The law will go into effect on July 1st after a final procedural reading of the ordinance on May 19th.
“We have to move people out of poverty,” said Gary Jimenez, Vice President of SEIU 1021. “We are winning the fight for $15, and the Bay Area is moving to develop the first regional standard in the country for wages and working conditions.”
“With income inequality out of control, we need to lift the floor for low-wage workers so if you work full-time, you don’t need public assistance,” said Emeryville Mayor Ruth Atkin. “We have a tempered regional approach and consensus that includes business. This is a policy for the common good.”
The Emeryville ordinance will raise wages for small businesses to $12.25 on July 1, with a path to $15 by 2018. Big box retail stores and other major employers with more than 55 employees like IKEA – which profited $3.7 billion last year – will raise to Emeryville’s living wage of $14.44 on July 1. The two wages will converge in 2019 at an close to $16, and continue upward with annual cost of living increases. All workers will earn 6 to 9 paid sick days as well.
At the Council meeting, roughly 25 members of the public delivered passionate testimony in favor with virtually no vocal opposition. There was clear consensus from workers, small business, faith leaders, and community members that $12.25 would be a fair place to start, helping workers, and beginning to create a regional standard to level the playing field for business.
“I have two jobs to help my mom pay the bills, and it’s hard to pay for transportation to get to school so I can get an education,” said 16-year old Emerald Jenkins, Emeryville Pak ‘n Save worker who gets paid $9 an hour. “It’s just common sense to raise the minimum wage. Not only would I be able to pay the bills, but if I earn more, I spend more, and that helps everybody.”
“Emeryville’s leadership is contributing to the positive tipping point on the minimum wage nationally,” said Jennifer Lin, Deputy Director of the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy. “Two years ago, $15 was unthinkable, but today it’s unstoppable because of the broad consensus we have among workers, community members, faith leaders, small business, and our elected leaders.”
“Our employees are our greatest asset, and If we want to grow our community, we have to make our jobs better jobs,” said Ahna Adair, owner of CommonWealth Micropub in Emeryville and CommonWealth Café and Pub in Oakland. “We’ve done it in Oakland, and the sky hasn’t fallen. We’ve raised our prices 25 cents on a coffee, and I think our customers just perceive it as the new norm.”
Jackie, an Emeryville Starbucks low-wage worker and ACCE member, said in tears, “I can’t afford to live on my own, and have to rely on my sister to get by. I have medical bills that are destroying my credit, and I don’t have enough money to see the doctor. So many of my coworkers are in the same boat.”
“With the new minimum wage, more workers will be able to live here and support Emeryville’s local businesses,” said Judy Timmel, 22-year Emeryville resident and member of Residents United for a Livable Emeryville (RULE). “And if I have to pay a little more in businesses, I don’t mind because I know it’s going to the right place.”
Councilmember Dianne Martinez thanked workers for their moving testimony and said, “If our workers are creative enough to make it on minimum wage, our businesses are creative enough to make it work. We are all going to rise together in Emeryville.”
Emeryville is the latest city in a national movement for $15 that began in the fast food industry across the country. The vote occurred as neighboring Berkeley and Richmond also look to raise their wages. Last November, 82% of Oakland voters and 78% of San Francisco voters approved wage raises to address growing income inequality in the high-cost Bay Area region. Oakland’s $12.25 wage went into effect this past March 2, and San Francisco on May 1.
More than 190,000 workers in Oakland and San Francisco won a raise thanks to the November initiatives. A higher minimum wage in those two cities alone will put $500 million into workers’ pockets, which gets spent in local businesses
SEIU 1021 members joined low-wage workers outside City Hall on Friday to celebrate the raise in Oakland’s minimum wage and the benefits it brings to local families, communities, and the economy.
Oakland’s minimum wage will increase to $12.25 per hour on Monday, March 2nd, due to an overwhelming 82% vote for Measure FF, which also provides 5 to 9 paid sick days for workers. 78% of San Francisco voters also voted for Proposition J, raising their minimum wage to $15.
Low-wage workers and local small business owners, along with unions and community groups, have joined together to raise the wage and improve economic equality throughout the region. In addition to Oakland and San Francisco, East Bay cities–including Berkeley, Emeryville, Richmond, and others—are taking steps to raise their minimum wages to $15.
“I am a long-term temp for the City of Oakland, what they call a Temporary/Part-Time, and that means I have no consistent schedule. The City adjusts my schedule so I never qualify for any benefits. It’s hard to get by. The new minimum wage law will provide me with paid sick days for the first time in career with the City,” Marcus Brown, Public Works Park Attendant Temporary/Part-Time Worker, Oakland.
SEIU 1021, as part of the Lift Up Coalition, is working to strengthen a regional standard for wages and protections, and its basis in the growing crisis of economic inequality in the Bay Area.
To help spread the word about the raise, members of the Lift Up Oakland coalition are reaching out to the community via an online advertising campaigns, the distribution of posters and other brochures to local businesses, and direct outreach to workers throughout the city.
LiftUp Oakland submitted 33,682 signatures from Oakland voters to put its measure for a minimum wage of $12.25 and paid sick days on the ballot. The coalition called on 1000 hours of work by more than 253 volunteers and the support of 45 labor, community, and faith organizations to gather the signatures, a reflection of overwhelming community support for this minimum wage proposal.
The Lift Up Oakland Steering Committee worked hard to pass Measure FF. SEIU 1021 is a part of a coalition of labor, community and faith organizations, including ACCE Action, California Nurses Association, East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, East Bay Organizing Committee, Restaurant Opportunities Center of the Bay, Service Employees International Union – United Long Term Care Workers, Street Level Health Project, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5, and UNITE HERE 2850.
“I support raising the minimum wage because it will help all of Oakland citizens live better lives and show that our city is a trailblazer for economic justice in America,” said Chris Higgenbotham, an Oakland fast-food worker and teacher
“The increase in minimum wage is a great benefit to working class families because it gives them the opportunity to provide a more comfortable life for their children. With this raise, families can now invest in their children’s education and workers like myself can start on a path to lead a better and more dignified life,” said Toribio Ticante, an Oakland day laborer.