For some eight months SEIU 1021 San Francisco City and County workers campaigned against having any part of their $20 billion pension fund invested in high-risk hedge funds. But at its Feb. 11 meeting, the trustees of the San Francisco Employees Retirement System (SFERS), who oversee that retirement money, voted to put 5% of it into that controversial investment.
“This is really a victory for us, even if only a partial one,” said David Williams, president of SEIU 1021’s West Bay Retirees chapter, noting that the original proposal was for a 15% investment. “Our members’ actions reduced their exposure to hedge fund risks by two thirds. And even what’s left has hurdles to get over before it’s done.”
SEIU 1021 members packed five of the SFERS board’s monthly meetings and many of them spoke passionately and informatively against having their retirement savings put into risky investments. They also collected nearly 3,000 signatures of retired and active members on a petition against the proposal.
Hedge funds are aggressively managed portfolios of unregulated investments. They trade high risk in an attempt to get high returns.
The pressure had made the staff’s 15% proposal untenable, so pro-hedge fund trustee Brian Stansbury proposed only a 5% investment. Again some 30 members spent hours testifying at the meeting, hammering the proposal as not only too volatile for a pension fund needing stability to make monthly payments, but also too costly to administer, and lacking in transparency for members to know what is being invested in.
But when the vote was finally officially taken sometime well into the meeting’s fifth hour, the trustees went 6-1 for the 5% proposal. Only Herb Meiberger, a former SEIU member and the union’s elected representative on the board for the last 23 years, voted against it.
“One of the good things that came out of this is that we have many members mobilized and asking questions about where the money is going,” said Martha Hawthorne, a retired SEIU 1021 public health nurse working with Fossil Free San Francisco, a group trying to keep public investment out of climate changing fossil fuels. “Hedge funds aren’t the only bad investments here.”
Nearly lost in the hedge fund controversy, the board also changed its entire “asset allocation” formula, how it divides its investment money. The new asset allocation plan increases private equity investments to 18% from 16% and real estate assets to 17% from 12%. Global equity will be reduced to 40% from 47%, and fixed income to 20% from 25%.
Of concern to local activists was the allotment of $150 million of the increased real estate portfolio to Blackstone, the single largest holder of residential rental housing in the country and renowned for buying up rental units, jacking up the rents and evicting long-term tenants.
Left undecided in the board’s decision is the question of who will operate SFERS’ hedge fund investments. Will it be yet-to-be-hired SFERS in house staff or a contracted out hedge fund management firm?
There are arguments both ways. Keeping the work in house should allow for more transparency and control over whether the investments go into fossil fuels and anti-union firms or not. But it also raises the issue of creating an internal infrastructure and self-perpetuating bureaucracy invested in continuing in hedge funds. If this “experiment” in hedge funds goes wrong, it will be that much harder to jettison the program.
“This is the time for ‘due diligence’” said Jon Meade, a retired SEIU 1021 paramedic working on issue. “Who gets our $1 billion and how does that decision get vetted?”
In any event, it will take the SFERS board anywhere from one to two years to put all the pieces together and actually invest the money.
“This is just the beginning,” Williams said. “There is still staff to hire, infrastructure to put in place and questions about the transparency on how all this will be done. The guidelines for all this should have been worked out before the decision was made, not after.”
“We have a lot more work to do to get this board in line,” Williams added.
Gov. Jerry Brown has ignored people with developmental disabilities in his budget. They, along with their service providers, feel betrayed. Budgeted at 1990 levels, and with over $1 billion cut by the state from their bottom line, California’s DD system is on the verge of collapse—and Jerry Brown has proposed doing next to nothing to save it.
“The clients we serve don’t progress because funding has been cut, and we who provide services can’t make ends meet,” says Gary Gregerson, a direct service professional who has worked for over 17 years at the Arc of San Francisco, an agency that provides training in independent living, job coaching and employment placement, and recreation to adults with cognitive and intellectual disabilities. “I love what I do, but I have thought about changing careers. I can’t continue to live on $30,000 a year.”
Adults with developmental disabilities and their service providers rallied outside the California State Building in San Francisco on Thursday, May 15, to call attention to this serious problem–and to demand that Gov. Jerry Brown address it in his budget.
Gov. Jerry Brown campaigned on promises to restore funding to public services. SEIU 1021 endorsed him and campaigned for both him and his initiative, Prop 30. However, he seems to have forgotten people with developmental disabilities. His current budget proposals do nothing to restore funding to a system that has endured over $1 billion in cuts and is underfunded by over 30% annually.
All individuals in California with developmental disabilities (DD) such as autism, cerebral palsy and cognitive disabilities are guaranteed access to services to help them lead full, productive lives in the community through the Lanterman Act of 1969.
A network of 21 nonprofit Regional Centers, funded by the state and federal grants, connects these individuals and their families with the services best suited to their needs, and pays the service provider agencies for those services.
Three decades of direct funding cuts accompanied by unfunded mandates have resulted in a system that can no longer afford to recruit and retain qualified service providers or case managers and that cannot afford to meet mandated staffing ratios. This severe underfunding has not only caused unmanageable case loads, wait lists for services and deterioration of the quality of services, it has also jeopardized federal grants the system depends upon just to stay afloat.
Dear SF City Wide members:
The current contract between SEIU 1021 Citywide and the City & County of San Francisco expires June 30, 2014. Our first deadline is to complete Bargaining Team elections by Dec. 9.
Nominate yourself or someone you know in your chapter that will represent your values during 2014 bargaining. Download the Election Notice and submit a nomination form.
Nominations must be faxed to Tiya Thlang at (415) 431-6241 or emailed to Tiya.Thlang@seiu1021.org. Nominations must be received by October 25, 5PM.
Download here: SF City Wide Bargaining Team Election Notice (Oct.-Dec. 2013)
(See event photos here: Kaiser stop draining San Francisco tax payer dollars)
Dear SEIU 1021 members:
SEIU Local 1021 is committed to maintaining both Kaiser and Blue Shield as healthcare options for our members. We are also committed to keeping healthcare affordable for our members and will oppose unwarranted and unjustified rate increases by any healthcare insurance provider.
Our union has taken on the fight for more affordable healthcare.
In San Francisco, we are challenging Kaiser’s rate increase, which would gouge San Francisco for an additional $15 Million — despite the fact that Kaiser patients are healthier and require fewer services. Kaiser has so far refused to justify this rate increase.
From 2010- 2012, Kaiser has charged HSS $87 million more than it actually cost to provide services. That’s a 13% percent profit margin, far above the Blue Shield two percent profit pledge. Now, Kaiser demands an additional $15 million dollars for 2014 that they refuse to justify.
While SEIU Local 1021 members and SF residents struggled and made sacrifices to get through the recession, Kaiser banked over $2 billion in profits last year. That’s billions in profits while union members, taxpayers, and residents suffered cuts in wages, benefits, and city services.
We ponder: If Kaiser and other healthcare insurers are gouging city employees, it is likely they are gouging all of us. In SF, we’re fighting for a solution to runaway health costs for everyone. Transparency is the first step.
Here are two things you can do for a more affordable and transparent Kaiser:
• We need members to come to a full Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, July 23 at 2PM in room 250.
• Call Kaiser CEO Bernard Tyson– 510-271-2659 –to demand that they negotiate in good faith and provide greater transparency in their rate setting, rebate $11 Million to the City for their unjustified rate increase, and withdraw their opposition to Senate Bill 746 that would establish Kaiser transparency.
Larry Bradshaw, SEIU 1021 VP of San Francisco, Paramedic at the SF Fire Department and a Kaiser member for over 25 years
Karen Joubert, SEIU 1021 VP of Representation working at Laguna Honda Hospital and a Kaiser member for over 49 years.
PS. Read more about the unjustified Kaiser rate increase here:
SF Chronicle: Rate increase creates criticism of Kaiser
See event photos here: Kaiser stop draining San Francisco tax payer dollars
(SAN FRANCISCO—July 10, 2013) SEIU Local1021 rocked San Francisco City Hall today! A wave of San Francisco nonprofit workers, nurses, healthcare workers, museum guards, custodians, retirees and community allies— testified in favor to stop Kaiser’s unjustified $15 million rate increase allocation to the SF budget. SEIU 1021 members and allies held signs that urged SF supervisors to stop Kaiser from draining SF taxpayer dollars—and they did!
SF Budget and Finance Committee Supervisors Eric Mar and John Avalos voted 2 to 1 to send Kaiser’s $15 million rate increase back to the Health Services System (HSS) Board for further consideration. Committee Chair Mark Farrell, a member of the HSS Board, was the only vote to recommend the rate increase to the full Board of Supervisors for approval.
HSS board has one week to reevaluate Kaiser’s rate increase.
For months, the HSS Board asked Kaiser for data to justify a 5.25% increase in the 2014 premium. Kaiser refused.
While Kaiser thrives under the cover of “proprietary” — reporting annual profits of $2 billion since 2009 — SF had to cut back on vital services in a recession caused by corporate greed. SEIU 1021 members and other workers had to give up wage increases and are paying more and more for benefits.
“Enough is enough. Kaiser’s failure to report and refusal to negotiate are egregious and negatively impact all SEIU members, other workers, City taxpayers, and the City budget, said Karen Joubert,” SEIU Local 1021 VP of Representation and Laguna Honda Hospital Employee.
Hard-working women of SEIU Local 1021 slapped on fake mustaches and gathered at San Francisco City Hall to protest Mayor Ed Lee’s gender equity challenge to the private businesses.
Many Local 1021 members believe it’s a double standard for Mayor Ed Lee to challenge private business on workplace equality when city officials were planning to cut the wages of job positions filled by women people of color while leaving the pay of many workers in classes held predominantly by white and male workers untouched.
The wage cuts impact licensed vocational nurses, eligibility workers, child support workers and many more.
“I hope Mayor Lee leads by example,” said Brenda Barros, who works at San Francisco General Hospital. “The same behavior he’s complaining about in the private industry, it’s happening in the public sector.”
San Francisco has been a leader in pay equity dating back to the 1980’s when female workers’ salaries were brought in line with their male counterparts. Now the city officials want to reverse history.
SEIU Local 1021 members working for the Jewish Community Center (JCC) of San Francisco ratified a new contract this week that includes substantial wage increases and improvements in health care.