"What does it take to get the mayor's attention in this town?" was the question on their purple lips Thursday night (it was cold) after several dozen SEIU 1021 members and staff occupied Mayor Gavin Newsom's office, while hundreds more cheered them on inside and outside City Hall. It was a two-pronged tactic of escalating the San Francisco campaign through civil disobedience on top of public rallies. The action was to highlight the solutions 1021 has been proposing over the mayor's latest attempt to decimate public services.
What's at stake: The $7 million to prevent more than 500 layoffs, pay-cutting reclassifications and job displacements that could be covered from the city's $25 million reserve. Mayor Newsom has said he won't spend the money even if the Board of Supervisors approves it. In addition, San Francisco stands to receive $34 million over two years through AB 1383, a bill that would increase MediCal reimbursements, drawing federal matching funds with it.
Through SEIU 1021's work with the Board, they've mustered seven of the eight votes needed to get the money and save schools, vital public health and social services. A recent Bay Guardian analysis shows that SEIU 1021 members have taken the biggest hits from Newsom's budget cuts. Over the past three years, 82 percent of all city layoffs have hit SEIU 1021 members while few management positions have been cut.
Watch a clip here, with more details about the action after the break.
How the caper went down: Like a scheme from Ocean's 11, SEIU 1021 had a 14-foot puppet and a crowd of hundreds to draw public attention--while inside the halls of power, a joint member-staff task force prepared to occupy the mayor's office at any cost.
After changing into purple nursing scrubs in a conference room near the supervisors' second floor offices, members seized advantage of an opened door to charge through the hallway past Newsom's budget director's office and into the wood-paneled lobby of Da Mayor's office itself. That's where they stayed for more than two hours, chanting and discussing and demanding to see the mayor, who never showed. Outside, hundreds of SEIU 1021 members and supporters rallied outside, holding signs reading "I Am a Woman" and dancing to Bob Marley's anthemic "Get Up, Stand Up!"
After negotiating their release from the mayor's office (they were locked in), members were greeted with wild cheers by most of the outside supporters.
On the budget cuts & layoffs: "They're only classifications that are predominantly women and minorities, and many of us feel like that's not an accident," is what Brenda Barros, an SEIU 1021 member leader at SF General Hospital, told KTVU of the budget cuts. "It's like they feel like we're an easy target, and so we're fighting to say we're not an easy target." Local TV covered it live here. The group will be back on Thursday, to kick things up to the next level.