More than 1,000 city employees gathered at City Hall April 18 for a protest that ended in 23 arrests.
The protest comes as the SEIU Local 1021 contract negotiations with the city’s employee relations division are underway. According to Larry Bradshaw, Local 1021 vice president, the city’s proposal may result in pay cuts and health care cost increases for city workers.
“Here’s your negotiations update. The city and county wants you to take another 2 ½ percent pay cut this year and next year. The courts want their court-workers to take a five percent pay cut indefinitely,” Bradshaw, who works as a paramedic, told the crowd.
He also claimed that: “If you have Kaiser, under the city’s proposal you’re going to pay six times more than you’re paying currently. If you have Blue Shield, you’re going to pay twice as much. If you’re on the city plan—I’m not making this up—you’re going to pay one hundred times more than what you’re paying right now.”
Workers at the rally ranged from hall janitors to General Hospital nurses to Department of Emergency Management dispatchers donning shirts reading, “we run 911!”
Workers from the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Local 21 also attended to show solidarity.
Sups Avalos, Mar, Kim, Chiu, Campos and Olague offered their support at the rally.
Around 6:30, the group left city hall and marched down Polk St. City workers then stretched caution tape across Market at Van Ness, in front of a Bank of America branch, and 23 sat down on the street. After a police warning, they were arrested for obstructing the sidewalk.
“We’re sitting to protest the greed of the city. The man is getting raises. The district attorney and the city attorney are getting raises. And they want us to take more pay cuts and furloughs,” said Arlette Smith, a protective services social worker, ten minutes before she was arrested.
The union wants to take these pay cuts off the table.
SEIU Local 1021 spokesperson Carlos Rivera also noted, “we’re sitting by Bank of America because banks and corporations don’t pay their fair share.”
The union is calling into question a tax settlement from 2001, in which a court ruled in favor of several corporations that sued the city over a hybrid payroll and gross receipts tax structure. The union characterizes the resulting loss of about $25 million per year in tax revenue as a loophole.
“The payroll tax is only paid by ten percent of San Francisco businesses, yet they’re asking city workers and non profit workers to continue to shoulder these massive budget deficits year after year,” said SEIU spokesperson Anna Bakalis.
Bakalis said that the SEIU is focusing on reinstating a gross receipts tax after researching alternative solutions for the city budget, if the pay cut and health care increases do not go though.
“We want to be able offer some solutions,” she told the Guardian. “We want to help them fix the budget.”
The union plans to return to city hall for further demonstration April 30 "if they have not taken those pay cuts and health care cuts off the table,” according to Bradshaw.