SEIU 1021

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 Sonoma County is no exception. Chapter leaders in Sonoma, however, have recognized how discrimination and inequity can dictate who does and does not have access to remove 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 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 with the Office of Equity Director, Alegria de la Cruz, and are grateful to have her support on this issue, but we have so far been disappointed with management’s 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 recently voted #-#-# to pass 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. We are also circulating a petition in support of that resolution’s demands amongst the Sonoma County membership. If you are a Sonoma County employee or resident, please take a moment to sign in support.