Workers rally against Newsom's layoff scheme

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SEIU workers rally at San Francisco General Hospital.
Jobert Poblete

By Jobert Poblete

Dozens of workers at San Francisco General Hospital rallied March 25 to protest layoffs there and throughout the city as ordered by Mayor Gavin Newsom. More than 17,000 city workers received layoff notices in the last few weeks, including hundreds at the hospital. The protest was organized by SEIU Local 1021, which represents around 12,000 city employees, 9,000 of whom have received pink slips. 

Many of these workers are expected to be re-hired as part-time employees, working 37.5 hours a week or less. The move is expected to shave $50 million from a more than $500 million budget deficit. The Mayor’s Office is calling this a “reorganization” that will minimize the impact on services and maintain employment. But the plan, which was proposed by Newsom last month without first consulting with the city’s unions, has met fierce resistance from employees and their labor representatives and is now the subject of negotiations between the mayor and 41 city employee unions.

SEIU acknowledged the city's fiscal troubles but is upset about what it calls a unilateral change in its members' wages and benefits. “Essentially what they're doing is unilaterally cutting wages and benefits without negotiating it,” SEIU organizer Gabriel Haaland told us. “It's not a question of whether we're willing to sacrifice, but that choice has been taken away.”

Hospital workers, carrying signs that read “Patient Care is Not Part Time,” also raised concerns about the layoff-rehire scheme's potential effects on the quality of services at the hospital. “It can't work in the emergency room and it can't work in the rest of the hospital,” said Ed Kinchley, a social worker who works in the hospital's emergency room.

Shari Zinn, an X-ray technician in the hospital, said her department already runs below minimum staffing levels, forcing patients to wait two to four hours for X-rays. Since X-ray technicians are hard to retain, she is not being laid off, but clerks and aids in her department are. “If there isn't a clerk or aid,” Zinn said, “then an X-ray tech has to stop what they're doing. Fewer patients can be served.”

Hospital officials would not comment on the layoffs.

At the rally, speakers called on the city to come up with revenue measures and other ways to balance the budget. “The city has really pushed us too far,” Sin Yee Poon, SEIU's chief elected officer, told the assembled workers. “They're balancing they're budget on us, just us.”

Comments

The City and County of San Francisco has a $6.6 billion budget. We don't need any more revenue (i.e., tax) measures. We have to live within our means. There are too many employees, too much money going to salaries, benefifts, entitlements, etc. Cuts need to have happen, just like they're happening in the private sector.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 26, 2010 @ 2:29 pm

And a $6B budget should be much more effective.

It's easy to shed workers; it's harder to govern and do the strategic assessment needed: How can the City DIVERSIFY its revenue so it can sustain services?

Why are there bailouts for special projects? Why are there special tax deals for certain industries whether SF benefits or not?

Contracted services and goods to tax-preferred industries need to be taxed too. The tax system needs to be more stable and productive.

Public employees have good benefits-- because of their unions. Mass unemployment, loss of health coverage, and a race to the bottom is no answer.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 26, 2010 @ 4:33 pm

... bury our heads in the sand, and not actually worry about how things will happen in reality and just keep bitching and spending and bitching and spending and leave it to smoe one else to fix the fucking mess we create. But we ned to keep getting elected so we will keep bitching and spending, it a vicious circle. LOL.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 26, 2010 @ 4:51 pm

Rallies, protests, etc., won't do shit. The only weapon that brings positive results in this kind of scenario is the strike weapon or the threat of having a strike. But the city workers are legally barred from doing that so what's the point? They are as impotent as a 100 year-old-man without Viagra.

Posted by Matt Stewart on Mar. 26, 2010 @ 9:24 pm

90% of city workers wouldn't strike even if it were legal. In this economic climate? Are you kidding? We are well paid; well above the private sector. Our benefits are superb. SEIU could call a strike and almost everyone would ignore it. We have mortgages, rent and bills just like everyone else. What really needs to be looked at is the $490 million that SF spends on thousands of non-profits every year. SF provides services that are not required by state or federal law. The truth is we simply can't afford to provide them anymore. There is a structural deficit that is not going to go away. That $500 million shortfall this year is ONE HALF of all the discretionary spending in the city. All the rest of the budget is locked in to federal or state mandates, or other mandates that the voters have approved. I realize that many "progressives" will be outraged that we can't simply "tax the rich" and continue to provide endless services to everyone, but we can't. And we never will be able to again. Party's over.

Posted by Guest Scott on Mar. 29, 2010 @ 8:34 am

Average annual wages for San Francisco workers are $90,000, according to the Chron. They can retire with FULL health benefits paid for by the city for life after only 5 years of service.

Time to cut wages and pension benefits. Future pension obligations will take money directly from our park services, healthcare, and other needs of our city.

Posted by Guest Tom on Apr. 02, 2010 @ 11:26 am

thank you for the lay off notices

Posted by Guest on Apr. 05, 2010 @ 4:35 am

what a joke. to think you could just sit somewhere forever without being let go

Posted by Guest on Apr. 05, 2010 @ 4:36 am