SEIU 1021

SF City Attorney issues subpoena to nonprofit Felton Institute amidst unprecedented union-busting by a city-funded nonprofit


On February 7, SF Supervisor Myrna Melgar announced that the San Francisco City Attorney had issued a subpoena that will legally compel Felton management to appear before the full Board of Supervisors and answer questions about their unlawful anti-worker behavior.

Many Felton workers belong to SEIU 1021 already, but the majority are still organizing to join our union and fight to improve these conditions. Staff at Felton have refused to give up, despite a years-long, scorched earth effort by management to suppress their union drive. 

Nine unfair labor practice charges are currently pending against the organization for violations of the National Labor Relations Act, and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors has already convened one hearing to get to the bottom of Felton’s bad behavior. However, management refused to show up to that hearing, instead sending their Communications Director to read a prepared statement before refusing to answer questions.

Supervisors were understandably flabbergasted and upset by Felton’s refusal to engage with them, considering around half of the agency’s funding comes from the City & County of San Francisco. Now, with the issuance of this subpoena, it seems as if the other shoe is about to drop.

Responding to the news of the subpoena, Eva Cisneros, a an Employment and Education Specialist at the Felton Institute who is a member of the union organizing committee, said, “This is tremendous news, and we appreciate the Board of Supervisors’ commitment to holding Felton accountable for their unlawful behavior. It’s unconscionable for a city-funded nonprofit in San Francisco to engage in such egregious anti-worker conduct. Felton receives approximately 95% of their funding from public dollars. Holding employers like Felton, who receive millions of dollars in public funding, is necessary to protect taxpayers, workers, and the communities we serve.”

Felton Institute workers provide crucial social services to our most vulnerable community members. Years of short-staffing, lack of support, bullying, intimidation, and low pay for frontline staff have led to constant turnover and burnout—all of which impact client services. Meanwhile, Felton’s C-Suite executives report annual salaries over $200,000, with CEO Al Gilbert pocketing over $300,000.

The situation at Felton also helps explain an ongoing trend in the United States—year after year, union approval ratings continue to climb to historically high levels (reaching 71% last year), while the overall percentage of union members compared to the workforce as a whole slowly declines. It’s clear that workers want to join unions, and that our elected officials need to take action and support worker organizing efforts.

At the end of the day, however, there is no substitute for solidarity, as evidenced by Felton’s workers’ commitment to standing together and their refusal to back down in the face of inexcusable anti-worker behavior.