SEIU 1021

Know Your Rights
Stay Safe at Work


Your union has become aware of health and safety concerns in the City of Oakland, including concerns outside of those normally associated with the work performed in Police and Fire Emergency Communications and Public Works.

We have met with the City, and made it clear to them that the health and safety of our members and their families is a non-negotiable priority. It is the responsibility of every one of us to watch out for any unsafe or unhealthy work assignments, and to speak up when they happen. Here’s how to do that:

Section 13.3 of our contract with the City protects us against unsafe work. If you feel that you are being told to do something unsafe, follow these steps:

  1. Report the issue to your immediate supervisor. Write down the time, the date, the assignment you have been given, and why you believe it is unsafe, and keep these notes for later. If you can, email those notes immediately to
  2. Until your supervisor gets there, you do not have to do the assignment. You can request that an SEIU 1021 steward be present at the meeting with the supervisor, but management is allowed to have the meeting without a steward present.
  3. Your supervisor will assess the situation and should implement appropriate safety measures.
  4. If your supervisor can’t resolve the situation, contact your union representative so we can take the issue to Employee Relations and Risk Management.

REMEMBER: You can not be disciplined or retaliated against for any reasonable, good-faith concern about safety.

For your convenience and future reference, here is the contract language that protects you against unsafe work assignments. It can be found on page 73 of our contract.

Memorandum of Understanding Between City of Oakland and SEIU Local 1021
Article 13: Safety
13.3 Complaints

Where the employee has a good faith belief that a work assignment presents health and safety risks outside those normally associated with the work, he/she must report the issue to their immediate supervisor. The supervisor will meet with the employee, assess the concern, and determine appropriate and necessary actions to ensure the risks do not remain. While the employee is awaiting the arrival of the supervisor, the completion of his/her assessment, and the implementation of the appropriate safeguards, the employee shall not be required to perform the disputed assignment. Once appropriate safeguards are in place and/or if no immediate risk of injury exists, the unit member is expected to continue in their assignment without work interruption.

If the safety or health concern involves work that presents an immediate risk of injury to the unit member, his/her co-workers, or the public, the unit member may refuse to begin or continue the work assignment. The employee must immediately report the immediate health and safety risk to his/her immediate supervisor. The supervisor shall assess the situation to determine the appropriate response to the immediate risk.

If the health and safety dispute is not resolved on the day it is brought to the attention of the supervisor, the employee may request that the issue(s) be presented by the Union to Employee Relations and Risk Management for review. The employee, Union, and the City shall meet within 3 working days of the escalation of the complaint to that level unless mutually extended by the City and the Union. The issues presented will be reviewed and further investigated, and recommendations for remedial action will be presented to the Department for implementation.

No employee shall be subject to retaliation for reporting safety or health concerns, participating in any procedures set forth in this section, or refusing to start or continue a work assignment pursuant to this section. No employee shall be subject to discipline for initiating or pursing a complaint through the procedures of this section, including refusing to start or continue any work assignment, unless it is finally determined that the employee did not have a reasonable, good faith belief in the reported health and safety concern.

The Union may elect to employ its own safety consultant to investigate.