Union divisions

SEIU Local 1021 fights with employers — and its own employees — over salary and benefit cuts

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SEIU Local 1021 opposed givebacks by city workers in last year's contract negotiations.
SF EXAMINER FILE PHOTO BY JOSEPH SCHELL

steve@sfbg.com

Service Employees International Union Local 1021 strenuously resists the wage and benefit givebacks regularly demanded in recent years by employers, including the city of San Francisco, which is now trying to slash the salaries for more than 40 city job classifications.

At the same time, Local 1021 is asking its own employees for benefit givebacks during new contract negotiations, a move that their own union is blasting as hypocritical.

That has squeezed Local 1021 President Roxanne Sanchez and her leadership team into a difficult position. They must fend off a revolt from staff that is turning vitriolic, without offending members who are in some cases worse off than the SEIU employees who represent them — all without weakening the union's position at the bargaining tables with employers that relentlessly work to undermine the labor movement.

And they have to do it in the middle of an internal union election that they need to win to stay in power.

"The irony here is SEIU works assiduously to avoid takeaways in their contracts with employers and here they want givebacks from their own sweatshop-type working conditions," says Libby Sayre, area director for Communications Workers of America Local 9404, which has represented SEIU Local 1021 employees since an internal reorganization in 2007. "It's time for them to put some of their union principles into play."

Local 1021 is proposing to increase how much employees pay for one of their health plans, eliminate the 401(k) pension match, and change some work rules, while keeping salaries where they've been stuck for many years. Employees say the givebacks total $416,000, and they're coming even as the union maintains healthy reserves of about $11 million (the union says that level is now closer to $9 million).

"These are proposals they wouldn't accept from an employer and they're trying to impose them on their own employees," Sayre told us. "It's not justifiable. It's not like this is a union in collapse."

Yet Sanchez and her team, including Political Director Chris Daly, say the internal revolt led by a small number of disgruntled employees misrepresents how good the workers actually have it, particularly compared to members who have endured severe layoffs and salary and benefit cuts in recent years. Employees have another generous pension on top of the 401(k) (paying 2.5 percent of final salary per year worked), employer-paid health benefits (costs would go up for the PacificCare plan, but not Kaiser), normal step salary increases, and bonuses in lieu of raises in each of the last two years.

"Our staff has not given up anything," Sanchez said. "They saw us cut the board's budget by several hundred thousand dollars before we asked for anything."

She said that with dues revenue falling along with membership numbers, and pension and health care costs rising steeply, the union can't afford to keep dipping into its reserve funds, as it has in each of the last two years.

"We're asking them to give modestly to their health care costs, and that we don't pay for that second pension," Sanchez said. "We are not balancing the budget on their backs, like what gets done with us."

While both Daly and Sanchez admit the local has healthy reserve funds for its budget level, they say that's necessary for the union to project strength, whether it be threatening a strike at the bargaining table or taking on ballot measures that would cripple the labor movement, such as last year's Prop. 32, which the local dug into its reserve funds to fight.

"If we didn't have healthy reserves, we'd be coming at them for more [givebacks] and doing layoffs," Sanchez said.

Comments

Welcome to the world of being an employer, with limited resources and big pension liabilities. What cruel irony

Posted by Richmondman on Feb. 12, 2013 @ 7:43 pm

How arrogant it is for her to suggest that it is a small group of disgruntled employees. Over 66% of the staff for the union were willing to sign a petition calling out the union's cuts to our members.
What she also conveniently avoids is that the union completely cut retiree health for staff AND staff doesn't get overtime.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 12, 2013 @ 11:47 pm

A union of union organizers could only get 2/3 of its members to oppose their own cuts? So either the staff union is no good or the proposed cuts are entirely reasonable!

Posted by Guest on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 10:40 am

I doubt only 2/3 of the staff oppose cuts.

That is like saying that, less than half of the 1021 membership (54,000) had a say in voting for the current E-Board.......oh wait, I dont want to open up Pandora's box......

Posted by Guest on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 7:01 pm

It is a cruel irony that a labor leader would describe organized workers a small number of disgruntled workers when over 2/3rds of our membership signed a petition against all of the cuts they are threatening.
What she also conveniently avoids is that 1021 took away our retiree healthcare.
She also doesn't mention that we don't get overtime.
Our sick leave accrual was reduced and paid holidays were reduced.

If we were treated with respect and dignity, these things wouldn't rankle so much, but as she said, we are just a "small number of disgruntled workers."

Posted by 1021 staff on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 12:02 am

Ha Ha ha, real spirit of Mother Jones and John Lewis and there, Union organizers wanting overtime.....puuuleeeese! I guess 75-85 thousand per year with a pension and health benefits aren't enough, poor things...

Posted by Guest on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 8:13 pm

Interesting that this article does not even mention the words "RETIREE MEDICAL" because SEIU 1021 have none of that while campaigning for these benefits for members.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 9:56 am

Oh yeah, what is the new slogan of SEIU Local 1021 coming from the top - "No Concessions!".

Posted by Guest on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 10:16 am

The real irony here is that the staff made their own bed. If they fought as hard for the members' contracts as they are now for their own, the union wouldn't be in this position.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 10:34 am

Hilarious, since members voted their on their own contracts.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 2:22 pm

Member run, right?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 3:09 pm

The real irony here is that if the staff fights for their own contract, they are seen as disloyal to the labor movement, and the member leadership targets them and calls them a small number of disgruntled workers..

Posted by 1021 staff on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 10:46 am

By fighting for your contract, do you mean accusing one of the most progressive unions in the area of "sweatshop-type working conditions?"

Does CWA provide its staff with fully funded healthcare and 2 pensions?!?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 12:05 pm

Given that the San Francisco Bay Area average employee wage is $7.25 hourly, 16-48% amounts to $8.41-$10.73 hourly. This amounts to subsistence wages. Since unions operate under the same inequality fundamentals as the more widespread neoliberal platform, the human struggle to survive with episodic “violent adaptation” will continue and eventually worsen. The union structure will crumble, as the neoliberals intend.

Posted by Awayneramsey on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 12:50 pm

You misread that section. Those percentages are a comparison to the same jobs in other cities and counties. The salaries here start at around $65,000 for the jobs at issue.

Posted by steven on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 1:04 pm

Answer very carefully.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 1:43 pm

You can see the jobs, their salaries, and how it compares to local jurisdictions here: http://sfdhr.org/modules/showdocument.aspx?documentid=16854

Posted by steven on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 2:42 pm

@Clarification: Oh contrar, et seq: "... a study comparing local salaries [in San Francisco proper] with eight other jurisdictions, finding that positions such as social workers, clerks, secretaries, custodians, and nursing assistants were between 16 and 48 percent above the Bay Area average."

Although average pay rates in San Francisco are more than other SF Bay Area cities and I shall not belabor the point to answer the questions "why." My mathematical hypothetical merely provides an example of how this is so and that the salary numbers I chose are not price-gouging. E.g. at $8.41 hourly a single individual is at 160% of poverty ($17,492.80 vs $17,892) whereas a single individual is at 200% of poverty (or $22,318.40 vs $22,340). These are not $100,000 annual salaries!

No misunderstanding on my part. Maybe over-analyzing on yours.

Posted by Awayneramsey on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 10:15 am

Given that the San Francisco Bay Area average employee wage is $7.25 hourly, 16-48% amounts to $8.41-$10.73 hourly. This amounts to subsistence wages. Since unions operate under the same inequality fundamentals as the more widespread neoliberal platform, the human struggle to survive with episodic “violent adaptation” will continue and eventually worsen. The union structure will crumble, as the neoliberals intend.

Posted by Awayneramsey on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 12:51 pm

"City family" workers get full healthcare for themselves and spouses for life if they were employeed by the city for 5 years. "City family" workers regularly retire under 60 with pensions that guarantee 8.5% returns annually...and SF residents are upset because 55% of the general fund is funneled into paying "City family" salaries, benefits, and family benefits, and pensions.

And here we have internal "City family" in-fighting about these very same issues:

Yet Sanchez and her team, including Political Director Chris Daly, say the internal revolt led by a small number of disgruntled employees misrepresents how good the workers actually have it....generous pension on top of the 401(k) (paying 2.5 percent of final salary per year worked), employer-paid health benefits (costs would go up for the PacificCare plan, but not Kaiser), normal step salary increases, and bonuses in lieu of raises in each of the last two years.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 3:37 pm

Why are employees who have led the SEIU to a decade of give backs with no apparent plan to turn the tide and bring the fight to corporations and their government still on the job?

What is the incentive of paid organizers to organize if they don't lose their jobs for achieving the accomplishment of managing the rate of surrender of the economic circumstances of their membership?

They're all friends at the end of the day and that counts more than anything else.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 8:49 pm

I love, love love that Roxanne and Chris Daly who makes more than 100,000 a year is talking about a few disgruntled employees. What has Chris Daly lost???? Nothing, he got a promotion to 2nd in command, even while we already have a 2nd in command (um...Pete) who also makes more than 100,000. Let's not talk about Larry Bradshaw, who is a member that is paid more than 100,000 and is a board member working full time at the union. I love how these top earners talk about what the members lost because that is surely not represented in their salaries. Oh the hypocrisy of labor. Let's not even talk about movement fights where unions spend millions upon millions fighting each other! It's laughable!

Posted by Guest on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 7:00 am

Let's be honest. The current "administration" is a joke. They rule the union the same way the Dalys ran Chicago. They constantly violate the rights of workers and pit workers, members and member leaders against one another. Let's not even talk about phony "plans" no matter the number of months or years, if members aren't involved in the shaping (which we were not), and i mean genuine input, not artificial plans devised in manager meetings without members and without staff all geared towards making it APPEAR like input. Up North we call that a sack of...! And that's what Roxanne and all her "follow the "leader" chronies are! Promises, promises, promises and we have not seen anything real or substantial take place here! They sound like some managers i know!

Posted by Guest on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 7:11 am

Many have suggested that SEIU is a cult.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 11:28 am

go through "self-criticism" sessions every Friday where they have to talk about the "value judgements" they've placed on others since the previous week. They all sit there in a room lorded over by galactic emperors Gabs and Daly, who examine them suspiciously for signs of bourgeois behavior.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 12:10 pm

Mao, more than ever.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 12:28 pm

have never died in the halls of SEIU.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 1:08 pm

I am a former SEIU 1021 employee. I can say with some authority that SEIU is the worst and most hypocritical employer. They treat there employees like garbage, they encourage member distrust of staff, they don't understand that the hours that organizers put into this organization makes their pay vs hourly rate very low. The hours, weekends, holidays an organizer puts in also takes a hugs toll on there family life and health. It is almost impossible to be an organizer and start a family. You would never see you children. When I started I was working 14 hours a day, including weekends. The pay doesn't seem that much when you think of it that way. Shame on SEIU for playing the game of corporate unionism. Also, the leaders of CWA such as Milie and Lois are corrupt. They will only take on the fights that affect them or their friends. Forget having the little guys back.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 12:22 pm