SEIU 1021

Felton Institute faces harsh criticism for union busting, anti-worker activity
San Francisco Board of Supervisors sides with union and workers


The Board of Supervisors hearing at San Francisco City Hall last Tuesday, April 25, was a testament to union power. In an unorthodox move, the entire board listened to reports of San Francisco nonprofit Felton Institute’s union busting and anti-worker activity. It was clear from the outset that the board was unhappy with Felton. The worker testimonials, supported by indisputable evidence that SEIU provided, were reinforced by every board member on the dais chiming in with their support for the workers and their dismay at Felton’s brazen, unethical actions.

As Felton Institute Clinical Case Manager Ayla Lorraine shared, “It was a relief to hear that the supervisors are taking this seriously. They considered the dignity of workers at Felton and the broader implications of how social services are delivered in SF. I left the courthouse feeling supported and empowered.

“I’ve worked with 1021 on this campaign for three and a half years. I didn’t expect it to be easy, but I don’t think we expected Felton to be such a bad actor and for this fight to get so ugly. The union has poured so many resources, sweat, and tears into this effort, and the hearing was a beautiful example of their commitment to Felton workers. The whole force of the local was deployed to make sure our voices were heard. It’s a community I’m proud to be part of.”

Despite many workers being denied time off to deliver their testimonials in person, their voices were still heard, as union leaders read handwritten letters from Felton union members and workers aspiring to become members. In addition to these testimonials, union members and supporters from other local nonprofits showed up in solidarity to share their thoughts.

ARC of San Francisco Senior Director of Administration and Operations Nina Asay learned about the hearing only a few hours before and made it a point to attend, stating, “Working with the union, we have experienced less than 3% turnover rates over the past five years, which is unheard of in our field. A lot of that comes through the relationship and collaboration since we’ve joined with the union. It’s important to remember that in nonprofits, our goal is to help our participants live in community—and if we as employers are not allowing our workers to thrive and live and work in community—we’re not really following our mission.”

The hearing received coverage in the SF Standard with the header “SF Nonprofit Grilled Over Alleged Union-Busting,” where they quoted SF Board President Aaron Peskin, capturing his frustration with Felton: “If we have another one of these hearings, there will be severe consequences.” It also quoted SEIU 1021 President Theresa Rutherford’s statement that Felton is employing a “culture of disenfranchisement.” We also received favorable coverage in 48 Hills with a flattering piece highlighting our moral victory that includes memorable highlights, such as President Peskin’s rhetorical inquiry of Felton Communications Director Sarah Richardson Baker, asking if she knew what card check neutrality means. The support for this local issue shows how much labor issues continue to resonate.