North Coast News – May 2021
Check out what SEIU 1021 members are working on from Marin to Del Norte County!
We have a new regional logo! We’re excited
to unveil our new North Coast logo, created with assistance from
our regional leadership, which can be seen on the left side of
our newsletter banner above.
In the coming weeks and months, and particularly as Chapters begin to prepare for bargaining, the SEIU 1021 shirts, posters, and other swag will begin featuring this new logo. Keep your eyes peeled—we’re excited to roll out this new logo to unite North Coast members from all corners of our region, from Marin to Del Norte.
Keep reading to see what’s new up and down California’s North Coast this month for SEIU 1021 members.
Member Spotlight: Meet Travis Balzarini, a leader in our union from Sonoma County
Travis Balzarini -Sr. Programmer Analyst, Information
Systems Dept at the County of Sonoma
Sonoma County Chapter Vice President
Active 12 years
Tell me about the work you do on the Budget and Finance Committee for our union’s Executive Board (BFC)
Usually, we meet once a month except when we are writing the budget. We take all the funding requests across the local and we either approve or deny the requests depending on their merits. We craft a budget for local-wide spending and we talk through whatever issues come up during that process.
What other leadership positions do you hold in the local?
I’m a delegate to the North Bay Labor Council for SEIU and I work with the SEIU California West Coast Pension Trustee group.
Why do you believe the BFC is important?
It’s important to adequately fund our campaigns so we can achieve tour goals and our members get the contracts they deserve. We also balance that against keeping the Local financially stable so that we can continue to make these investments in our members and continue fighting for their work conditions.
What inspired you to join the BFC?
I was recommended for the position and interviewed by the regional Vice-President, Mary Sandberg. I didn’t know much about the role but I’ve always had an interest in finance. The role fit into my interests and as a programmer, I’m very analytical which activated my skillset. Being on the BFC helped me transition into my role on the Sonoma County Pension System team because the kind of financial management is very similar.
How can members get involved or apply for one of the vacant seats on the E-Board?
They can contact any of the chapter or regional leadership or their reps to let us know they are interested. We look forward to having new people to represent our interests in the region. Anybody who has a somewhat analytical mindset would be perfect. Most of what we do is not very heavy on math and investment knowledge. Anyone who is willing to learn can get the job done.
What is something the BFC does that most people don’t know about?
We take community ally requests and sponsor or fund community allies that we work closely with. For instance, in the North Bay, we work with North Bay Jobs with Justice. We donate yearly and attend their fundraising events (NBJWJ). Through working on the BFC with community allies like NBJwJ, we are supporting ALL workers having collective bargaining rights, employment security, and a decent standard of living within our community and our economy. We donate to numerous organizations across the Bay Area that we partner with in some form or another on economic, social, or political justice. It’s not just what our union does at our worksites, through the BFC we also help the community in a lot of ways.
Members working for the Town of San Anselmo reach a new one-year contract extension, and first-time bargaining team member Mattie O’Grady reflects back on the process
Congratulations to our members working for the Town of San
Anselmo, who just settled a 1-year contract extension! Bargaining
during COVID has presented a whole new set of challenges to the
negotiations process, but members were pleased that they could
reach an agreement quickly, including Mattie
O’Grady, a Supervisor in the Recreation Department, and
first-time bargaining team member for SEIU 1021.
“The person who had been on the bargaining team for a long time in our department retired a few years ago, and we had two department members step up for the last year, but this year it was just sort of my turn to step up and play that role. I’m always open to learning new things and trying out new opportunities so I wouldn’t say that I was nervous, but I was definitely interested to see how it all works,” said Mattie.
Reaching an agreement took about 4 bargaining sessions, which were all conducted over Zoom. 1% raises will go into effect in both July of this year and January of next year.
Mattie was surprised at how smoothly things at the table went in this most recent round of negotiations, saying, “Obviously because of COVID, these negotiations were different than normal. Things were all done via Zoom and we moved quickly and collaboratively in reaching a resolution. There’s a lot of uncertainty around the impacts of this pandemic on the town’s budget, of course, but I’m grateful we secured an agreement that will reward our members for their work and sacrifices throughout this time.”
“For me personally, it was really important to keep an open mind and remember that I was bargaining for the greater good and not just for myself. Being on the bargaining team wasn’t just about putting forth my own priorities but also the things that are important to my colleagues and coworkers,” Mattie said. “I would say that I was a little hesitant to get involved at the beginning but I’m so glad I did. Our union is a big part of our life at work and it was a great learning experience. I saw my role as representing everyone’s values and views at the bargaining table, and I was proud to do that. I’d like to thank my colleagues, fellow bargaining team members, and SEIU1 021 Field Rep. Joel for all of their hard work throughout this process.”
How one member’s efforts turned into a movement for racial justice in Mendocino County
In May of 2020, the country and most of the world were shocked as we witnessed the untimely loss of George Floyd’s life at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department. As the pain and outrage of another state-sanctioned murder sparked movements and marches across the globe, Troyle Tognoli, the Mendocino County Chapter Vice President, was activated to call on her peers and organize her community to bring awareness and change through the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Witnessing the murder of George Floyd jolted me. It triggered me and I found myself alone in my blackness as I was sitting there in shock. After all this happened, I looked around my community and I thought to myself ‘Who are we and how do we feel about what is happening and what we all just saw? Why aren’t we talking about it?’ Granted, only 48 hours passed, but that is a long time for no one to say anything. So I start to look towards my professional contacts who are now judges, attorneys, doctors, and in positions of leadership and I presented the questions asking what they saw or how they felt about all of this? As I received responses, I realized we had a situation here. I decided it was a good time as a community to look at who we are and to be really clear about it. No matter where you are within the structure of society, we have to be conscious of our bias and ask if we are holding ourselves accountable?” said Troyle.
Taking her inspiration beyond the letters she penned to friends, neighbors, and colleagues, Troyle went public calling on the Board of Supervisors to add her presentation and proposal for a Public Safety Advisory Board (PSAB) to the agenda. The proposal was approved, and people began researching how the committee would carry out its work. Troyle met with the chief members of law enforcement including the local Police Department Regional Chiefs and requested information on disciplinary policies, training practices, and data to understand the vulnerable populations in the county and to figure out ways to offer support. In response to Troyle’s work, and with her endorsement, Tammy Moss Chandler, the Director at the Mendocino County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) formed the Racial Equity and Justice Committee (REAJC) to address systemic racism including hiring practices at HHSA.
If you would like to get involved or support racial justice work in Mendocino County, please check out the links and resources below for more information.
Mendocino Black Lives Matter
Learn more about the work being done by Mendo BLM, including their campaign to investigate spending, policies and practices, and jail population and conditions of the Sheriff’s Department, by visiting their website or following them on Facebook.
SURJ Mendocino Coast
SURJ Mendocino Coast is a local chapter of the national organization Showing Up For Racial Justice. To get involved and learn more, send them an email at email@example.com.
SCORE – South Coast Organizing for Radical Equity
SCORE is working to build greater equity, safety, and wellbeing on the Mendocino County South Coast by both leading and lifting up community-driven projects that create tangible results and a positive impact in our region. Learn more by following them on Facebook.
Sonoma County members are fighting for an equitable telework policy as pandemic conditions continue to evolve
As CDC guidelines continue to evolve as the vaccination rate
climbs, many employers are revisiting their telecommuting
policies and the Sonoma County Chapter is no exception. Chapter
leaders in Sonoma, however, have recognized how discrimination
and inequity can dictate who does and does not have access to
remote work options and are taking action.
“Access to telecommuting options is a significant issue among Sonoma County workers. We have a lot of members who are parents or guardians of children or other dependents who require supervision due to school, daycare, and similar closures. These members are often running low or already out of personal leave options or are in a job where remote work is feasible but they’re being denied due to management’s personal opinions on telework. It’s unfair, inequitable, and unacceptable,” said Jana Blunt, SEIU 1021 Sonoma County Chapter President, and Senior Clerk-Recorder-Assessor Specialist.
Since March 2020, SEIU 1021 members have offered to collaborate with Sonoma County’s Human Resources Department to establish a pandemic-specific telework policy that would ensure maximum safety and social distancing but to also help make sure parents and guardians can secure supervision for their children and dependents. During this time, families have been expected to endure unpredictable school and dependent care scheduling until the end of the calendar year without a consistent telecommuting policy. County management has so far dragged their feet and declined to engage with us seriously to find a solution.
The lack of an equitable telecommuting policy has had a clear, negative impact on many workers. Thus far, the County’s Latinx Health Work Group has publicly stated that their interactions with County leadership have been disrespectful and that their suggestions are not taken seriously. At the same time, a recent Request for Information by our union has shown that two-thirds of employees who have voluntarily resigned from the County since the pandemic began were female. SEIU 1021 members across the County continue to raise concerns about this issue without leadership.
“We have been working and meeting with management, but we have so far been disappointed with their response. Their engagement on this issue has lacked a sense of urgency and often felt superficial or even disrespectful,” Jana said. “The truth is, this pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on the ability of women, people of color, non-supervisory line staff, and single parents to access telework opportunities. If Sonoma County management and our Board of Supervisors is serious about furthering the cause of equity throughout their workforce, this is their opportunity. We hope to be able to work with them on this critical issue.”
The SEIU 1021 Sonoma County Chapter leadership is working on a resolution demanding that the Board of Supervisors work with our county’s unions to create a fair and equitable telecommuting policy, particularly for parents and guardians. Keep your eyes peeled for updates in the coming days!
The Santa Rosa Junior College team has welcoming new hires into our union down to a science
New hire orientation can be an integral part of starting a new job for an employee. This is where you meet your co-workers, get introductions to the inner workings of an organization, and learn about the perks and benefits of a new position. For new employees at Santa Rosa Jr. College (SRJC), this is where you also get to meet the rockstar representatives from SEIU 1021 who work as part of the welcome team that cultivates relationships with new hires and introduces them to our union.
From the moment a new employee attends orientation, Debra Reidmuller and Marc Rudlin kick off a series of tailored communications ranging from welcoming new members who signed up on the spot, or long-time employees who just joined, to keeping non-members informed on chapter meetings and updates. Debra, who is a Coordinator of Student Academic Records in Admissions and Records at Santa Rosa Junior College and Member Coordinator on the Classified Executive Council for the SRCJ chapter, also makes sure new employees also receive a digital welcome packet with information like 10 tips to pass probation, the Weingarten rights, union brochures, and a contract sheet containing the contact information for all executive committee members.
“It has been nice that the district has worked with us and supported our efforts to welcome new hires into our union. Since COVID in our virtual environment, we’ve been able to lead a 30-minute presentation which has been working really well to recruit new members. In these meetings, the team will talk about our experience with the union and I always talk about growing up in a union household with a father who owned a construction company that was unionized. I share that I grew up knowing that unions were a good thing and I always compare my private sector work vs union work expressing that I feel safer, I have better benefits, and I make more money because I am a union member.” says Debra.
Through their dedicated and meticulous work, the SRJC chapter has had tremendous success building up their membership as a Chapter and keeping their union strong.
Marin Water members remain hard at work to ensure county residents have access to clean water amid worsening drought conditions
As drought conditions set in and spread across Northern
California, SEIU 1021 members at Marin Water are hard at work
protecting their watershed and delivering fresh, clean, potable
water to their community.
These workers recently ratified a two-year contract extension with the water district, which was a huge win. For many years now, union members have successfully been able to extend their agreement with management to make sure the people doing this critical work are able to care for themselves and their loved ones. Members are also focused on using their voice at work to advocate for solutions to address the worsening effects of climate change.
“We’re in the business of maintaining and replacing water infrastructure and equipment so we can make sure that we’re delivering quality water and service to our customers. In all, we’ve got around 240 employees working hard to make sure our 190,000 customers have access to clean potable water,” said Mariette Shin, an Information Systems Analyst III and SEIU 1021 Chapter President at Marin Water. “We’re maintaining, repairing and replacing pipes, tanks, pump stations, valves and all other associated water network equipment, managing our reservoirs, managing local streams and habitats, educating the public on how to avoid water waste, protecting the Mt. Tam Watershed and surrounding area, and so much more. It’s important to all of us that our community knows just how hard we’re working to make sure they have clean, reliable water. As our climate changes, however, it’s producing more widespread drought and fire conditions during much of the year, and we’re faced with new and growing challenges that we have to overcome.”
Marin Water is the oldest water utility in the state of California. About 75% of the water provided by Marin Water is locally sourced from the Mt. Tam watershed, and the remaining 25% or so is typically sourced from Sonoma County. Worsening drought conditions have created the recent implementation of mandatory water conservation measures. However, because about 73% of District revenues come directly from customer water use, the District is concerned about the upcoming significant loss of revenues from conserving water. Without the revenues, the District cannot replace and maintain critical aging infrastructure, and that puts the reliability of their water delivery system at risk. Ultimately, the District and its customers will have to pay more in the future for the delays of today.
“We need resources for essential equipment replacement and infrastructure upgrades, which includes all of our computer and business administration systems. They are all reaching their end-of-life cycle. We recognize that the drought has to be addressed and accounted for somehow but it’s a challenge figuring out the funding piece,” says Mariette. “We don’t want to borrow money that the District and our customers will be on the hook for down the line, but our revenue is dependent on people using water. At the same time, we must encourage folks to limit their use in case the drought conditions worsen. At the end of the day, what we really need is to figure out how to get additional funding for fire risk reduction, emergency response, and maintenance and upkeep for our critical infrastructure while balancing that with conservation efforts.”
Additional measures, such as drought charges and rate increases may be required if the drought conditions worsen, in order to adequately fund the work of the water district.
As union members and frontline experts doing this important work every day, SEIU 1021 members at MMWD have been using their collective voice to advocate for creative and effective solutions. Members have been meeting regularly with our General Manager and Board of Directors to share ideas and concerns and talk about ways they can secure the revenue needed to address climate-related emergencies like water conservation and fire prevention.
“As a district, we realize that the drought has to be addressed proactively. We want to get the word out now so that we don’t find ourselves in a more challenging situation down the road,” says Mariette.