San Francisco Newsletter: May 2021
Welcome to the May issue of our monthly newsletter for SEIU 1021 members in San Francisco. You can read our April issue here, or keep reading below to see recaps of the big fights our members have taken on in the last month.
If you have a workplace issue you or your colleagues are dealing with and you’d like help and support from our union, don’t forget that in addition to reaching out to your steward or labor representative, you can also contact the SEIU 1021 Member Resource Center at 1-877-687-1021.
Click one of the headlines below to read more about what our union has been up to.
Members at SF General’s Behavioral Health Center are showing their union pride and their unity by “purpling up” every Wednesday
Workers at the Behavioral Health Center at San Francisco General Hospital are showcasing their union pride at work! Ever since the Save the ARF campaign nearly two years ago, these members come to work wearing purple every Wednesday to demonstrate their unity and commitment to working together as a union.
“We wanted to find a way that we could visibly remind management that SEIU 1021 was present in the workplace because workers like us are the union. Since purple is the color of our union and Wednesday is the day we have the most people physically present at the same time, we thought having everyone come to work wearing purple that day made sense,” says Connie Truong, a union steward and Activity Leader at the Mental Health Rehabilitation Center in the BHC.
“It was hard at first because people would forget and we’d have to remind people, and at times that was sometimes discouraging. We didn’t always have a really strong union presence where I work. Now, doing things like Purple Wednesday has helped us build awareness and excitement about our union. People are proud and excited to showcase our unity. I’ll go to different floors and folks are giving each other high fives and fist bumps to celebrate the fact that we’re all wearing our purple. The only way we can change the culture at work and build our strength and power is to come together and get people active, involved, and excited about our union,” Connie says.
Encouraging people to participate in Purple Wednesday was also a way for her to build relationships with her coworkers as a union steward.
“If I want to change the culture at work and get people excited about and involved in the union, I knew I had to lead by example. Purple Wednesday is part of that, but it also lets me build trust and relationships with my coworkers, which is so important to maintaining our unity. I always make sure that I follow up with members and keep my promises and commitments to coworkers so they can be confident that I have their backs and will stand up to management to fight for their rights. We have to hold management accountable to ensure they follow and honor all contracts. My approach is to develop other leaders and help other members take ownership of the work of our union, and Purple Wednesday is part of that,” Connie said.
Connie added, “I would definitely encourage other SEIU members to do something similar but also don’t give up or get discouraged if it doesn’t catch on right away. It took us some time to get everyone to remember and get involved.”
Thousands of SEIU 1021 members and other Bay Area union workers took to the streets to celebrate International Workers’ Day on May 1
On May 1, people across the globe took to the streets to celebrate International Workers Day and support unions and working people. In Northern California and across the country, May Day celebrations called for the passage of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which will empower workers to exercise our freedom to organize and negotiate for better wages and working conditions.
The event in San Francisco also focused on combatting the triple threat of rising income inequality, racial injustice, and COVID-19, all of which have hit working families the hardest. Many of our members have continued to report to work on the frontlines of this pandemic, risking their health and safety, to care for and support our communities.
“I do hope it changes some of the thinking, the mentality, to say that we’re not just essential through the pandemic. We were essential before, we’re essential through the pandemic and we’ll be essential after,” Joseph Bryant, President of SEIU Local 1021, told CBS San Francisco.
For Brandon Dawkins, the SEIU 1021 SF Area Rep for San Francisco and a member of our unions’ Executive Board, May Day was also a chance to reflect on the state of the labor movement. “It felt great being out with all of the other unions showing solidarity in the labor movement, celebrating International Worker’s Day. At a time where our country is trying to heal from the divisiveness of the last several years, the May Day celebration helped bring working people together to celebrate union labor. It was also an important reminder that the working class needs to have strong unions so that workers can be protected and not taken advantage of by billionaires and corporations who want to exploit us for their own profit. Union workers need to continue to show that we have all of the power when we come together, fight together, and win together.”
After the May Day march, Brandon also shared his thoughts on his own experience as a member and officer in SEIU 1021, saying, “My personal journey as a leader in the labor movement has allowed me to connect with so many other union leaders across this country who share the same struggles as myself and other siblings in this movement. It means more than a lot to me because every day, I wake up and fight, knowing that I am not alone and that we have a responsibility to make the path a little clearer for the next generation of workers in the labor movement. This is also the reason why we must support HR 842, or the PRO Act. This kind of legislation will make it harder for employers to violate labor laws and abuse workers, while helping working-class folks like us have the right to organize, fight against unfair working conditions, and earn the living wages we need.”
You can check out photos from the SF May Day celebration on Facebook.
SFMTA Parking Control Officers win alternative schedules
The SFMTA Parking Control Officer (PCO) Chapter recently concluded their shift bid and, through their meet and confer with management, secured access to some new alternative workweek shifts.
“Having alternative work schedules for PCOs is crucial to not only help address health and safety concerns during the pandemic but having these alternative schedules also help us to better navigate the adverse effects of the pandemic. It makes good sense for a 24-hour operation such as ours and I look forward to working with our employer on additional alternative work schedules,” said Trevor Adams, PCO Chapter President.
This victory comes as part of a broader Chapter effort to secure expanded health precautions to keep PCOs safe during the pandemic. PCOs check in and out of a shared congregate workspace at the beginning and end of their shifts. Reducing the amount of staff scheduled at the same time means limiting the number of people who are gathering in that shared space at any one time, thus allowing workers to reduce their possible exposure to COVID-19.
Tenderloin Housing Clinic members are on a roll and just won a huge retro pay agreement
Last month, we shared how members at the Tenderloin Housing Clinic (THC) marched on their bosses to secure future hazard pay of $5 an hour as they continue to directly serve clients amidst the pandemic.
At that time, although they were able to press management into bringing back the hazard pay moving forward, whether or not workers would receive retroactive pay for the time management cut the additional pay was still an open question. Management had said they could not provide retro pay, but THC members weren’t going to give up.
These members knew that acting as a strong, united front was going to be key to securing victory. They circulated a petition calling on management to do the right thing and provide the retro pay, and were able to collect 160 signatures—and they won close to $1 million in back pay for the period when management had eliminated their hazard pay. All current and former employees in HSH-funded positions will now receive $5 in retro pay for every hour worked between July 1, 2020 and March 6, 2021.
“We won because we came together and stayed strong. We came to meetings, we signed petitions, we met with Supervisor Haney, we marched into 126 Hyde. We earned this money risking our lives day in and day out and we finally have an acknowledgment of that risk,” the THC union stewards said to their coworkers in an email after securing this huge victory. “Let’s celebrate this win and look ahead to our contract negotiations. If we maintain this energy, we will win a better contract.”
Nonprofit workers across SF speak up for fair wages and funding
On April 28, dozens of workers from HR360, Larkin Street Youth Services, Tenderloin Housing Clinic, Baker Places, and other nonprofits around San Francisco spoke out at a Budget Committee hearing. We called for increased nonprofit funding and the creation of a framework for pay parity between nonprofit workers and SEIU 1021 members in the public sector. Achieving parity in pay between private and public sector workers doing similar work would remove the City’s financial incentive to privatize more of this work.
Low pay and low morale within nonprofits doing business with the City are leading to high turnover. People frequently leave for higher-paying jobs elsewhere, and our communities lose skilled, dedicated, and knowledgeable workers who serve some of our most vulnerable residents and tackle some of our city’s most visible issues.
“Working at a nonprofit is beautiful and at the same time a challenge. We are underpaid and carry a full load of tasks and stress. This often leads coworkers to leave the companies to go to higher-paid jobs, including civil service jobs with the city. This high turnover has a real impact on the quality of care we provide to our clients. We often are forced to turn away Spanish-speaking clients due to lack of bilingual staff, which is especially heartbreaking,” Adriana Nunez, an Intake Coordinator at HR360, told members of the committee.
For members like Adriana, their work is also deeply personal. She went on to tell the committee, “I know firsthand how vital these programs are for people. I grew up seeing my siblings struggle with addiction and finding them help. Like many of us, I work in this field because I want to give back, but we need your help. That’s why I’m here today asking the City of San Francisco to fully fund the Cost of Doing Business (CODB) and Minimum Compensation Ordinance (MCO) to help us attract and retain talented, dedicated staff to care for some of our city’s most vulnerable populations.”
By not fully funding the Cost of Doing Business allocation or addressing wage compaction and pay equity within nonprofits, the City inadvertently contributes to these problems. Together, we’re hopeful we can work towards solutions.
Larkin Street Youth Services members win a strong new contract
Congratulations to Larkin Street Youth Services members, who voted overwhelmingly to ratify their new contract, with 99% voting yes.
This new agreement contains some of the strongest wage increases workers have secured in recent years—everyone will get a 3% retroactive raise dating back to November 1, 2020 while also looking forward to a 4% raise in November of 2021, to be followed by a 4.5% increase in November of 2022.
Members also secured an increase in their 403b retirement employer contribution match and increased flexibility in their healthcare provider options. Members also won a boost in their longevity bonuses, additional language to strengthen the power of members to negotiate stronger salaries in the event of a promotion, and language providing for a higher wage premium for members.
San Francisco’s temporary workers fight for permanent status
San Francisco likes to think of itself as a progressive, pro-worker city but for too long, it has abused temp workers by depriving them of stability, benefits, certain workplace rights, and more.
This shamefully creates two tiers of City and County workers where some workers enjoy more guarantees than others despite doing the same work. In some cases, workers can spend years—even more than a decade—languishing as a “temporary” worker while awaiting a permanent position with all of the rights and protections they deserve. Support SF’s TEX workers and their fight for a path to permanent status by signing their petition.
Congratulations to new HSH Chapter officers!
Congratulations to our recently-elected Chapter officers at the SF Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH):
President: Janay Washington
Secretary: Martha Benioff
Treasurer: Grace Gin
Chapter elections are a great opportunity to elect the people you think will best lead our union or to run for a leadership position yourself. If you have Chapter elections coming up soon, make sure that your contact information is up to date to avoid any delays in receiving your ballot by contacting the Member Resource Center from Monday through Friday between 8 am and 6 pm at 1-877-687-1021.