SEIU 1021

Marin Housing Authority employees begin unfair labor practice strike to protect County’s most vulnerable

Marin Housing Authority employees on an unfair labor practice strike

Monday, March 11, SEIU 1021 members at Marin Housing Authority (MHA) began an unfair labor practice strike. The strike is currently ongoing at the time of this writing Tuesday, March 12.

This strike comes after MHA employees voted unanimously on February 26 to authorize their bargaining team to call a strike. 

“I’m passionate about my work. Striking is the last thing I want,” said Ceena Ford, a program specialist at Marin Housing Authority. “But MHA’s bad-faith bargaining have forced us into a corner — we can’t continue to leave MHA residents in dangerous, demoralizing living conditions.” 

For years, MHA has been replacing union jobs with contractors such as Nan McKay – an incompetent agency that has been terrorizing residents with faked inspections and false termination notices. Due to the heroic pushback from a coalition of MHA employees, MHA residents, and Marin County taxpayers, MHA’s Board of Commissioners recently agreed to phase out the vast majority of Nan MacKay’s contract over the next 12 months, bringing that work back in-house. 

While a laudable concession, MHA residents remain living in unsafe, degrading conditions. During recent board meetings, residents have repeatedly pleaded to have their living conditions fixed, including mold, lack of ventilation, and dubious electrical wiring. 

“In the high-rises, we’re living without adequate heating. In addition, we’re dealing with problematic plumbing, mold, and rat infestation,” said MHA resident Royce McLemore. “That’s why I stand with MHA employees who are fighting for adequate staffing.” 

“The lack of ventilation has meant that we have to open windows. But the windows don’t have screens, so we’re constantly dealing with bugs. Also, sometimes our water turns brown,” said MHA resident Tasharah Benjamin. “That’s why MHA must staff up.” 

The solution is clear: MHA must become capable of attracting adequate levels of union staff. 

“Outsourcing is but a superficial fix to our short-staffing crisis,” said Melanie Raquel, a case manager for Marin Housing Authority. “We share a vision with our employer to bring work in-house. Union employees know best how to protect our community’s most vulnerable.”

On the first day of the strike, spirits were high: picket signs raised in the air, chants, and music loud.

SEIU 1021 President Theresa  Rutherford gave a speech to the crowd of employees and their allies: “You are a powerful group. I’ve already heard how you’ve removed a contractor who has been harming our community…We are a social justice union! When the community thrives, we thrive. It’s a symbiotic relationship. We can’t have one without the other.

“We also know that the people who deliver the highest and best services are union workers, because we know what we’re doing, we’re trained, we have the history, and we have the heart.”

Read this great coverage of the strike in the Marin Independent Journal here.