By Rebecca Bowe
Video by Sarah Phelan
SEIU Local 1021 paid a visit to Mayor Gavin Newsom at his City Hall office yesterday, but his doors remained closed and locked. It won’t be the last time Newsom will hear from them, however. The union is launching an aggressive campaign to “dog the mayor,” organizer Robert Halaand told the Guardian, to pressure him to uphold the city’s commitment to comparable worth.
In 1986, San Franciscans approved Proposition H to enshrine the principal of comparable worth -- ensuring pay equity for jobs that are held predominantly by women and people of color in an effort to combat institutional sexism and racial discrimination. Since certified nursing assistants (CNAs) and unit clerks employed in San Francisco’s public hospitals fit that description, their pay was gradually increased in the years following the passage of Prop. H.
However, budget cuts made in recent months resulted in those hospital employees getting cut and simultaneously reclassified into lower-paying positions. From SEIU’s perspective, the downgrades signify a form of discrimination and the reversal of a hard-won gain for women and people of color in San Francisco.
“These cuts are in direct violation of comparable worth,” SEIU member Theresa Rutherford told us. “It’s not a budget issue -- it’s a civil rights issue.”
Despite SEIU members pounding on the mayor’s door, chanting “Let us in!!” and singing “We Shall Not be Moved” outside the mayor’s office, no one inside ventured out to ask what all the commotion was about. At one point, a City Hall security guard was overheard telling one of the rally organizers, “The mayor’s not here.”
This likely will not be the last encounter, as union members plan to follow Newsom on the campaign trail. “If he goes to L.A., we’ll follow him there,” Halaand vowed, as SEIU members sat in a semicircle surrounding the stately double doors. “He is going to know our name. He will never forget our faces. We won’t give up till he capitulates.”