North Central VP Akbar Bibb on what’s at stake for the region in the Nov. 8 election
Leading up to the November 8 general election, we’re sitting down with SEIU 1021 member leaders across Northern California to talk about what’s at stake for workers like us whose employers are (or are funded in large part by) elected leaders.
This week, we’re talking to North Central Regional Vice President Akbar Bibb about what is top of mind for him as the general election approaches and with many bargaining units in the midst of contentious contract negotiations.
“Across the North Central Region, management still isn’t listening. They intentionally aren’t trying to hear the issues that the workers are making known, provided all the safety measures they needed to work in the pandemic. In Solano and Napa, it was just as if a pandemic had never happened in regard to the fight for the cost of living, and a fair contract. There’s a blatant disregard towards County essential workers for the hard work we did during the height of the pandemic.
“Volunteering this political season is important because we actually have a voice. We know they showed us who they truly are. They showed us in multiple ways how important this election is for us to really exercise our voice, step up, and let this community know who they really are.
“Since we know how they really feel about us, we can change the board, change the city council to fit what is needed for this community. We can’t sit back and wait for someone else to do it. This is opportunity for us as members and as community leaders to really to stand up and support those who can’t advocate for themselves. We have to make a difference.
“I’ve been a social worker for over 20 years. I’ve been with Solano County for 28 years. And the high-risk population that I serve was dying from COVID-19. Most of the time, they tested positive or were trying to prevent contacting COVID. I have to go into a lot of institutions as conservative investigator and as an adult protective services worker for the County to try to protect our our elderly population and our mentally challenged and at-risk population. So, it just feels like all that work, and all those things that we’ve done, it just it was lost to short-term memory for the County.
“I’m definitely keeping my eyes on the Solano County Board of Supervisors race. We actually have Wanda Williams, an SEIU 1021 member, running for the board. I’m also watching out for our schools board races, because this is where really the rubber meets the road. So we’re just trying to get that support. That’s our goal, really get that support. We have the numbers and we know what’s at stake, we hold the power to make the changes we want to see.”
“It’s just a continual fight to get to the table after all these years. Instead of it being something that should have been like, ‘Hey, thank you for all your years of work through this pandemic,’ it seems as though management’s not really trying to compensate the workers for all of the work that they’ve done for the community. It feels like they were being short-sighted, you know–just barely giving enough to survive these increases to their rent, gas, general inflation.
“And in many counties, the coffers are full. But instead of putting it back into the community that’s being served by these workers, they’re busy saving up for the next potential crisis, even though we were there and are still here now. They’ve never done anything to really let these workers feel the support. Currently in Solano County we’re working in a staffing deficit that is similar to Napa. We’re down more than 20% in staffing and we managed to still serve our community in this shortage. However, we’re being punished for that by not getting the support that would help retain workers.
“A couple of issues we’ve been fighting for are big things for us. For example, Juneteenth and Cesar Chavez are important dates. In the county that I work in, it’s something that we’ve been fighting for as well. Most of the counties and cities that I represent are extremely conservative counties and not willing to acknowledge Juneteenth or Cesar Chavez. These are agricultural counties, so they have all the more reason to hold up Cesar Chavez as a leader and a fighter for labor and for our agricultural workers. To not acknowledge or honor Cesar Chavez is just ridiculous. With one of the most diverse counties, why would you not honor Juneteenth? These days aren’t holidays for me. Those are days of remembrance and days that we need to reflect and understand our history.
“Those days are days off as something to celebrate and remember. Instead, we’re being told we’ve got to give up a holiday to get those days officially recognized. To me, this is something that really is indicative of how these workers have been treated despite showing up for the communities they have served during a pandemic while understaffed.
“Napa County workers have ratified a contract that includes a 10.25% cost-of-living adjustment over two years, but we’re back at the negotiations table in 18 months. We’re in a continual fight just for a fair contract. The overall thing for this region is that we’ve got a lot more work to do.”
Join Akbar Bibb and other SEIU 1021 leaders in getting out the vote for endorsed candidates and ballot measures!