Inside the mayor’s office with SEIU Local 1021

Pub date November 13, 2009
WriterRebecca Bowe
SectionPolitics Blog

By Rebecca Bowe

Yesterday, around 4 p.m., 22 union members rushed into the mayor’s office (the plush reception area on the other side of those stately double doors) and demanded to meet with Mayor Gavin Newsom. Immediately blocked by security from continuing all the way to the mayor, they vowed to wait — and remained there for about two hours. The protesters were there as representatives or supporters of SEIU Local 1021, which has launched a months-long fight against Newsom in the wake of layoffs and deep salary cuts in the Department of Public Health inflicted by city budget cuts.

In the City Hall corridor just outside the mayor’s office, scores of other SEIU members gathered in support of those inside the reception area. Chants, cheers, and the refrain from Bob Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up” could be heard from outside. The SEIU members inside, meanwhile, circled up and prepared to be arrested. Meanwhile, the clerks working in the reception area continued diligently working away at their desks. (Each of the mayoral staffers declined to comment. At one point, mayoral spokesman Nathan Ballard walked through the room, and the union members hollered at him to please ask the mayor to show some leadership. “Will do,” he said with a smile, and disappeared behind a door.)

The mayor never showed. Nor did any clash take place between the union members and the plainclothes security officers who were coolly guarding the doors leading out to the corridor and back to the mayor’s actual office. The union members stayed until approximately 6:15 p.m., chanting, singing, delivering impromptu speeches, and resolving that they would keep up the fight. Here’s what it was like in there.

They finally negotiated an exit with the security officers, and joined the others outside the doors.

Then, they flooded into the street outside City Hall with the other workers and proceeded to circle around the intersection of Polk and McAllister. Sup. Chris Daly joined them and thanked them for their work, vowing to do what he could to restore the cuts.

At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, supervisors voted seven to four to dip into the General Fund reserve to restore the jobs of certified nursing assistants and unit clerks in the city’s Department of Public Health.

But after it was announced that the ordinance had passed on first reading, and the SEIU workers who’d packed the Board Chambers let out a celebratory whoop, some one pointed out that eight votes were needed for approval. The measure had actually failed — and the disappointment in the room was palpable.