Hundreds of Alameda County workers and community members picket to say “Alameda County: STAFF UP NOW!”
On Monday, February 13, hundreds of Alameda County workers and community members rallied at Lake Merritt Amphitheater to protest the nearly 25% vacancy rate in the County, with 2,611 unfilled positions. The rally started with a moment of silence for Richard Valle, a longtime champion of labor and progressive causes across the East Bay, who recently passed away. The workers planted flags to represent the 2,611 vacancies, and marched to 1221 Oak St. to deliver a letter demanding the Board of Supervisors solve the staffing crisis.
Footage of the flags: https://www.dropbox.com/s/pf34w6nwenvgiq1/DJI_0215.MP4?dl=0
Footage of the flags: https://www.dropbox.com/s/frrao8c6z3sw027/DJI_0214.MP4?dl=0
William Wells, an SEIU 1021 member who works for Alameda County as an Eligibility Tech, providing financial services and food benefits to underserved communities across the county, said, “Recruitment and retention is the issue at hand. Staffing up is essential! We need to let Alameda County know that we provide essential services to an underserved community. All of us are essential employees, and we are vital to the running of this city, this county, and this state.”
Kim Blakiston, a Public Health Nurse, said, “When I first started with Alameda County, I started at Juvenile Hall, in a collaboration called the Transition Center. My role was to support the youth transitioning from custody to being back out in the community, providing health support, health connections, and health education. I touched about 700 youth and their caregivers annually, which I think had a huge impact on them. I left that position in 2020, and since then, it hasn’t been filled, so if you do the math, you can see that the impact there is potentially 2,100 youth and their families not having any immediate health support. We really want Alameda County to staff up so we can support our community! Give the community members what they need!”
Theresa Rutherford, SEIU 1021 President, closed the rally at the Amphitheater and said, “The 2,611 vacancies there represent services that are not being delivered. It also means that all those workers who are covering for those vacancies are sacrificing their own families to do the work! We know that all off us during the pandemic were here and kept the community safe, and made sure that lives were saved. It’s about community, and it’s about lives, and it’s about making sure that our communities thrive and our society succeeds, but it won’t happen if we don’t have workers in place. We need staffing, we need retention, and we need workers to be treated with respect. No community survives without us!”
The other speakers at the rally included Edward Vieira-Ducey, President of Alameda County Prosecutors Association, affiliated with Teamsters Local 856, Jane Brown, President, Local 21 Alameda County Public Defenders Chapter, Ian Wilson, Alameda County Surveyor, Local 21 Member, William Wells, Alameda County Eligibility Technician, SEIU 1021 Member, Kim Blakiston, Alameda County Public Health Nurse, SEIU 1021 Member, Clarissa Doutherd, Parent Voices, Keith Brown, OEA and Alameda Labor Council, Christine Miyashiro, Policy Director for City of Oakland Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan’s Office. Check out the whole rally at https://fb.watch/iGEHNmrbT1/.
Jane Brown said, “Alameda County employees do the most with the least and continue to serve our most vulnerable. Alameda County employees are undisputedly a cut above the rest. It’s time for Alameda County to recognize this and fight for its employees the way we fight for the communities we serve!”
“Each vacancy represents a vital service not being provided to the people of Alameda County,” said Edward Vieira-Ducey, President of the Alameda County Prosecutors. “And with a staggering 2,611 vacancies, it is clear that the County is failing the very people it is meant to serve. In our unit, we have over 18% unfilled positions. That is 18% less staff to fight for victims and their families. It’s time to invest in our county services and the workers who provide them.”
After marching to 1221 Oak St., the Alameda County Administration building, the picketers delivered a letter telling the Board of Supervisors “Enough is enough. The Board of Supervisors must solve this problem. It’s time to Staff Up Alameda County!”
- Group shot of the rally end at 1221 Oak St.:https://www.dropbox.com/scl/fo/z8st7xz9cpnlrkz2yxg5d/h?dl=0&rlkey=bkiuoz9×9195gu1brzuh1l2kb
- FB live of the rally:
Text of the letter delivered to 1221 Oak St.:
February 13, 2023
Alameda County Board of Supervisors
1221 Oak St, Suite 536
Oakland, CA 94612
Dear Board of Supervisors:
For years, Alameda County has had a large number of vacant positions. In June of 2020, there were more than 1,500 empty Full-Time Equivalencies (FTEs), and the problem has only gotten worse: as of August, 2022 there were 2,332 vacant FTEs, and a total 2,611 empty positions across the county—nearly a quarter of the County’s entire head count.
Every vacant position represents work not being done for County residents.
The work County workers do for our community is vital and irreplaceable, and we have all seen the tragic cost of this understaffing crisis.
The community members and County workers who have signed this letter are unanimous in calling on the County Board of Supervisors to listen to the community, address their needs, and solve this staffing crisis. We simply can not afford to let our community and our workforce suffer with nearly one in every four seats unfilled, the work delayed, undone, or spilling over onto other staffers’ caseloads.
The numbers are stark: 40 registered nurses not providing healthcare; 239 social workers not improving lives and helping the most vulnerable among us; 148 eligibility techs not helping connect people with the services they need.
Our community has suffered enough. Alameda County’s workforce has struggled enough: for months at the bargaining table, and for years in their workplaces they have attempted to make clear the scope and severity of this understaffing crisis. Enough is enough. The Board of Supervisors must solve this problem. It’s time to Staff Up Alameda County!
Sincerely, the Undersigned Alameda County Workers and Community Members