SAN FRANCISCO — Chanting “Staff it up or we’ll shut it down!” over 500 city workers held a spirited lunchtime rally Feb. 16 outside City Hall here. The central demand was for city officials to hire more workers.
Eight unions organize street cleaners, bus drivers, airport cleaners and workers at public hospitals and clinics, libraries and museums, in City Hall, and at the water system and other facilities.
“Decades of disinvestment have left crucial public services dangerously understaffed,” the union says. “Across the City, there are over 3,800 job positions that are unfilled, forcing workers to do more with less.” The crisis has been deepened during the pandemic, when applications for city help increased.
“Over the last couple years, we’ve been deemed essential workers,” Service Employees International Union Local 1021 President Joseph Byrant told the protesters. “You know what? We’ve been essential workers since way before that. This city doesn’t run without the workers here!”
In addition to the SEIU, other unions involved in the action included Firefighters, Electrical Workers, Transit Workers, Stationary Engineers, Teamsters, Laborers and Construction Trades.
San Francisco, with more billionaires per capita than any city on earth, the unions say, has a budget surplus of $108 million and over $1 billion in reserves.
Instead of bargaining with the unions, city officials propose to extend the existing union contracts. In addition to “staffing up,” the workers are demanding wage increases, improvements in benefits to keep workers and their families in good health, and safe workplaces.