SEIU 1021

Union members rally for Prop 1 with Gov. Newsom at SEIU 2015 in San Francisco
They then headed out to knock on doors and make calls to get out the vote.


On Monday, March 4, the eve of the primary election, members of SEIU 1021, SEIU 2015, building trades unions, and other unions filled SEIU 2015’s San Francisco union hall to rally for Proposition 1. The rally had a special guest: the ballot measure’s own author and chief proponent, Governor Gavin Newsom.

Proposition 1 would create a $6.4 billion bond that would pay for the construction of new treatment beds and housing for people struggling with mental health and severe substance abuse. 

“I was born in 1967, and that was the year Ronald Reagan took the oath of office to become Governor Ronald Reagan,” said Gov. Newsom at Monday’s rally. ”A few years before he took that oath of office, we had a peak of 37,000 psychiatric beds in the state of California. By the time Reagan left office in his second term as governor, we were down to 7,500 beds. Today, we have just over 5,500 beds. 37,000 with a population of 16 million. 5,500 with a population of close to 40 million. Is it any wonder we’re feeling this gap?

“There was a commitment that was never fulfilled to provide community-based care [when the locked facilities were shuttered]. It was never fulfilled. What Prop 1 does is fulfill that promise. What it does is advances the resources to address the #1 issue, and that’s the issue of housing. We need to stabilize people and deal with the reasons they’re out in the streets in the first place. We’re doing it with more accountability, more transparency, more reform, and we deliver on this promise at scale to finally address this issue in a meaningful way.”

After the rally, many of the attendees headed out to knock on doors and make phone calls to get out the vote for the election the next day. One of those was SEIU 1021 President Theresa Rutherford, who went canvassing to talk to voters in District 8 in San Francisco.

She explained why she supports Prop 1: “As a healthcare worker, I have watched people who have mental health challenges, who have substance abuse challenges, struggle to get real, consistent help. I’ve watched people go through the cycle of seeking help, getting partial help, and then going back, falling back, into the illness, falling back into struggling.

“And that’s predominantly because we do not have a system that creates continuity of care. We have a disjointed system that treats you as an emergency and then lets you go. And then you’re left to deal with the underlying longterm issues by yourself, and by extension, your family has to deal with that.

“For me, as a healthcare worker, having experienced this in the workplace, Prop 1 represents a wraparound. It not only treats someone in an emergency but creates a consistent system of care that includes having somewhere to live, because having somewhere to live, having a home, constitutes an important part of healthcare. 

“It also creates that connectivity while you’re going through your healthcare issues. You’re able to have a job, because having an address is essential to being able to have a job. It creates stability, because now you have a job, you’re able to function, you’re able to get on with your life while you’re getting treatment. That’s the ideal of Prop 1 that we must strive for as a society.”

Have you returned your ballot yet? Today is your last chance! Get it in before 8 p.m. Find a drop box here. Find your union’s endorsements for your area here.