City workers rally for higher wages amid contract negotiations

More than a thousand San Francisco city employees and nonprofit workers contracted by the city — fed up with low wages — rallied outside of City Hall Thursday amid union contract negotiations.

The workers, represented by Service Employees International Union Local 1021, are in negotiations with the city and are urging city leaders to support their demands for pay raises as many struggle to survive in the Bay Area, one of the nation’s most expensive regions.

“Our patients and our clients need stability and support. They need us to be there for them. We do all we can, but too often it seems the odds are stacked against us, against our success and the success of patients and clients. We’re overworked, undervalued and underpaid,” said Naj Daniels with the city-funded nonprofit Community Housing Partnership, which helps provide services and housing opportunities for current and formerly homeless people.

“We spend fours hours to get to work, we come home to work another job so that we can make ends meet or to avoid being homeless ourselves,” Daniels said.

SEIU 1021 is the city’s largest union and represents nearly 16,000 employees in San Francisco — more than half of the city’s workforce. Those employees include registered nurses, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency traffic officers, librarians, social workers, supportive housing advocates, court clerks and other public service workers.

“We want to be treated fairly, we want to be given good raises, we want to be respected as workers,” said Theresa Rutherford, vice president of representation of SEIU 1021 and also a Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation Center employee.

“We’re saying bargain in good faith, we’re saying bargain as real people who are aware of the challenges of working in the Bay Area, of the challenges of living in the Bay Area,” Rutherford said. “Everyone one of us, as citizens and workers, are going through that.”

Union members are planning a second rally in two weeks on March 7 outside of 1 S. Van Ness Avenue, which houses multiple city offices, including the SFMTA.

As for any negotiation developments between now and March 7, Rutherford said, “It’s bargaining, I won’t predict anything. We hope that common sense and honesty will work for the city because that’s all we’re asking for. Fair wages, treat us with respect. We’re the people who move the city and keep the city going, so just do the right thing.”

-Daniel Montes, Bay City News

Picture 1 of 15

Hector Cardenas with SEIU Local 1021 leads a chant as hundreds of City employees represented by unions SEIU Local 1021 and IFPTE Local 21 rally on the steps of City Hall as negotiations begin on a new contract with The City on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

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