SEIU 1021

May 1, 2020


Good afternoon, SEIU 1021 City of Oakland members, 
I want to provide an update on various items about the City’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and Union’s involvement.  So far, the city has been doing close to the minimum and the union has advocated for more family-friendly and worker-friendly policies as well as addressing PPE and safety concerns. We have won quite a lot from the City so far, but there are more battles ahead.
Before I get into it, I want to share the information about two upcoming budget events next week.  As we all know, the coronavirus is going to hit the City budget and we are all justifiably worried that the City is going to try to balance the budget on the backs of workers.  We need the City to use the rainy day fund and not harm any workers.  Next week there are two upcoming meetings where we can participate:

  1. On Monday, 5/4 at 1:30pm there is a finance committee meeting on the budget.  You can participate via zoom.
  2. The Mayor has been holding weekly tele-townhalls. On Thursday 5/7, she will focus on the budget. You can submit questions here: You can view the townhall on twitter at:

The City recently put out a long FAQ document, which is attached to this post.  While there are many items in the document that the Union does not agree with and are currently fighting, it’s important that you read the document since there is a lot of information about how to access emergency sick leave and information about Disaster Service Work (DSW).
Since the beginning of this pandemic, the City has made many unilateral decisions without meeting, and forced the Union to demand changes at the last minute.  For example:

The City originally planned to end paid administrative leave for non-essential workers effective April 8th.  The Union immediately met with management and communicated with our political allies, and we successfully extended ADO until May 3rd.

The City originally planned to staff parking control technicians at 100%, forcing people to violate the shelterin-place order even though no one was parking at the meters.  The Union was able to press the City to not enforce parking meters or street sweeping, and place all those workers on ADO.

In Public Works, the City was only providing one mask per day for field workers, who were then instructed to return to the yard to request another mask.  The Union argued this policy was ridiculous because it pressured workers to reuse old masks, and wasted work hours driving back to the yard for more masks.  After meeting with management, they agreed to allow workers to take out 10 masks at a time to switch as they saw fit.

There have been many more instances of the Union effectively forcing the City to adopt a more worker-friendly policy regarding COVID-19, but the City continues to announce policies first and bargain later, rather than reach out to the Union in advance.

With that being said, the City has announced that they plan to end paid administrative leave effective Monday May 4th, and have hundreds of workers report to their regular jobs.  For some workers, this means that your reduced schedule has ended, and you will once again be working 40-hour weeks.  For others, it means you will return to work from paid administrative leave.  And for others it means that the City plans to deploy you as a disaster service worker (DSW).

Essential Workers
The County Public Health Order provides significant leeway for the City to determine who exactly is an essential worker.  For example, it allows cities to designate 100% of sewers workers and streets and sidewalks workers as essential and have them perform normal duties at normal staffing.  The Union was able to drastically reduce hours worked for weeks, but now the City intends to call those workers back. 
The City argues that it has the authority to redefine all OPW, DOT, and KOCB work as essential under the broad guidelines provided by the County Order.  However, the City still has the obligation to provide for your health and safety, meaning adequate PPE and social distancing measures.  The Union has requested management provide us with details regarding how they plan to provide health and safety.

Disaster Service Workers
Under Government Code, all public workers are designated disaster service workers: In furtherance of the exercise of the police power of the state in protection of its citizens and resources, all public employees are hereby declared to be disaster service workers subject to such disaster service activities as may be assigned to them by their superiors or by law.

The City provided a long document detailing the policy regarding DSWs.  The document seems to address more directly disasters like earthquakes or fires, but the policy still applies under the current situation.  The City is now in the process of:

  • Surveying the workforce to determine availability to act as DSWs
  • Mandating all city workers complete a DSW training
  • Performing a skills assessment to align workers with DSW task
  • Identifying DSW worker throughout the city to deploy workers.

The problem is, the City did not present the plan to deploy workers as DSWs and present the relevant materials to the Union until Monday April 27th, and they plan on implementing one week later on Monday May 4th.  And, if a worker cannot work because the City has not provided them with a DSW assignment, the City expects the worker to use their own accruals.

In Alameda County, where SEIU 1021 represents 4,300 workers, the County has been meeting with the Union for over a month on identifying DSW assignments and deploying workers who otherwise were deemed nonessential.  It is outrageous to make workers suffer because the City failed to plan in advance.

The Union has demanded that the City extend ADO to any worker who is not recalled to their normal assignment, nor provided a DSW assignment.  If the City commits to working with the Union, we believe we can make sure that everyone has the ability to maintain a full paycheck without using their own accruals.

Please let me, your shop steward, or field representatives know if you have any questions about the Union’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and please share this important email with any coworkers whose email address we don’t have on file.

In Solidarity, 
Felipe Cuevas
SEIU 1021 City of Oakland Chapter President