SEIU 1021

Workers at San Francisco’s Human Services Agency say short staffing threatens their ability to implement the City’s new drug screening law for welfare recipients


Members at San Francisco’s Human Services Agency (HSA) protested short staffing in their department, which they say makes it impossible to implement a new law that requires them to screen welfare applicants for drug use before signing them up for county public assistance.

Prop F, approved by San Francisco voters in March, requires HSA workers to screen applicants for County Adult Assistance Program (CAAP) benefits but provides no additional funding or staffing to an already overburdened workforce with staff vacancy rates as high as 40%. They say caseload backlogs and longer wait times for benefits will result in more hunger, homelessness, and overdose deaths as the City’s most vulnerable struggle to access food, housing, medical care, and other types of assistance they need.

“We took these jobs because we wanted to help people who need that support to get back on their feet or, in some cases, just to survive,” said Marquitta Collins, an Eligibility Worker Supervisor with SF HSA. “So it’s incredibly demoralizing when our bosses, all the way up to the mayor, say they care about making sure those with the least have their needs met, yet fail to even take us seriously when we tell them how the current staffing crisis is harming the people who depend on the services we provide. Prop F just adds insult to injury – adding layers of new work on top of work we already don’t have the staffing to get done efficiently.”

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Proposition F promises to worsen an already dire situation by requiring workers to implement new processes and enforce new policies without additional funding, staffing, or training. HSA workers are fed up with watching vulnerable clients suffer while the City refuses to address their concerns around staffing, workload, and unfunded mandates in contract negotiations. On Wednesday, they will rally to protest the harm caused by short staffing.

SEIU 1021 filed an unfair practice charge with the California Public Employment Relations Board on March 7 regarding the implications of Prop F due to the City’s contractual obligation to negotiate working conditions with the union. City negotiators can address these issues in contract negotiations—city workers’ current collective bargaining agreement expires June 30—but so far have not addressed workers’ complaints.

City workers are determined to fix the short-staffing crisis. One week ago, on Wednesday, March 13, thousands of public employees represented by San Francisco labor unions including Teamsters, IFPTE Local 21, SEIU Local 1021, and more attended ‘Strike School’ to learn their rights and prepare for a possible strike if City administrators fail to fix the urgent staffing crisis that has resulted in over 3,700 vacant permanent positions.