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San Francisco | Labor & Workers

Rally At SF City Hall Protests $600 Million in Corporate Giveaways
by Michael Steinberg ( blackrainpress [at] hotmail.com )
Wednesday Mar 19th, 2014 10:16 PM
Union workers, activists, and community supporters joined together for a noon rally at San Francisco City Hall today to protest corporate giveaways that are displacing working families and causing dire income differences in a contemporary reworking of ‘A Tale of Two Cities.’
Hundreds of city workers, activists and community members gathered under a warm noon sun at San Francisco City Hall Wednesday to demand an end to corporate giveaways and the beginning of public policies that stop the displacement of city workers, and public policies that develop affordable housing, transportation and healthcare and the creation of a living wage for all San Franciscans.

The rally was organized by SEIU LOCAL 21, which represents 13,000 city workers and 56,000 in Northern California.

According to the union’s press release, its city members work as “nurses, MUNI employees, housing advocates, nonprofit workers and public safety workers.”

As noon approached, a sign on City Hall’s steps proclaimed, “Make Healthcare Affordable,’ while a banner from SEIU Nurses let us know “We Take Care of the City: San Francisco General, Laguna Honda & The Community.”

Somebody on a bullhorn called for everyone to assemble on the steps, and started the chant, “S-E-I-U!” Soon the steps were filled with fired up folks, who overflowed over both ends of the steps.

Another chant went up: “When health care is under attack, what do we do?” “Stand up, fight back!” And the same for wages, housing, our community.

Then: “City Hall take a look around, San Francisco is a union town.”

And of course, “Twitter, twitter you’re no good, pay your taxes like you should,” popularized last month when the union marched to Twitter headquarters on Market Street.

The union press release noted, “Just in the last year, tax breaks to Twitter equaled more than $56 million.”

A couple other signs bobbing amidst the crowd sort of summed up what the rally was about besides all the dire statistics: “Give some love to the 99;” and, from, the SEIU SFO workers, “All we want for ourselves is what we want for ALL.”

Union organizer Karen Joubert introduced the first two speakers of the day, Supervisors John Avalos and David Campos.

Avalos said, “SEIU is bringing the heat to City Hall. I can feel it! City janitors, in health care, clerks, security officers have been working with a threat hanging over their head. Instead huge tax breaks have been given to the business sector to grease the wheels for the 1%.

“Workers don’t get the support they need. This expresses how unaffordable the city has become. Everyone needs a shot at saying here.”

Campos added, “”There’s a lot of wealth in San Francisco, leaving behind a lot of us. It’s a tale of two cities. The top 5% makes 60 times what the bottom 20% make. It’s time we put working people at the head of the line.

“It’s not Twitter that made this city, it’s the working people. This is everyone’s city, not just the millionaires.’ ”

An RN from SF General Hospital was next up. She spoke of being “proud of the people of San Francisco,” but not of having to work with “inadequate staffing, limited resources, and inadequate care for people without health insurance.”

“We take care of this city, and the city should take care of us. Today we’re showing the city we can stand together.”

A worker with the SF Housing Authority warned of the privatizing of public housing in the city. ”This means that people of color—most of who are African American and Latina mothers—will be forced out of San Francisco.”

An activist from ACCE (Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment) working in housing spoke of one bedroom apartment rents rising 27% over the past year and Ellis eviction going up 30%. “Now foreclosure evictions are hitting the south side of the city,” he reported, “to destroy and control,” those neighborhoods.

Several MUNI workers criticized the city for allowing Google buses to abuse the public transit system. “It looked the other way while Google buses used public bus stops, “ one said. “They weren’t ticketed, and it cost the city $5 million. But if we park in a stop we get a $270 ticket. We’re getting ripped. The Google stops have caused rent to go through the roof too.”

The other MUNI worker added, “They say it keeps the workers from having to drive their cars to work, but it causes our displacement to outside the city, and then WE have to drive to work.”

“One union, one fight!” the crowd chanted.

The next speaker spoke of the “$46 million Mid Market Tax Giveaway” to corporate tech companies like Zendesk, Microsoft and Zoosk, while workers are told to tighten their belts and tough it out.

One such worker told of having to ask his 21 year old daughter to get her own health care, and check in with his 16 year old son to see if he could start sleeping on the living room couch. He likened “San Francisco 2014” to “the Robin Hood tale stood on its head,” and said sarcastically, “Mayor of Nottingham, is it in your interest to pay the 1% more, for me to take a pay cut so CEOs can get paid more?”

Next on the chopping block were the health care dynasties. A worker with the city’s health care commission reported that Kaiser made $87 million in profits last year, and Sutter Health had to pay back $46 million in overcharges. Despite that, she said, ” They’re still trying to pass on costs to us.”

Kaiser “raised their rate another $15 million this year, despite a decline in use,” the union press release stated.

Janice Wong,a custodian with the city for many years and member of the Living Wage Coalition, spoke of herself as part of “the working poor.” She has no health care, no sick pay, no pension coming. Why? Because she’s a part time worker.

She called on the city to create more permanent, full time jobs. Currently part timers have to wait many years to go full time. Along the way they are subjected to 6 months of work, then 6 month laid off by the city, in such way that they don’t qualify for unemployment compensation.

“It’s really hard to see all these workers exploited,” she said.

All of the exploitations reported at the rally added up $600 million in giveaway by the city, in revenue it should have received and devoted to meeting the housing, healthcare, and transit and education needs of it citizens. Not to mention paying a living wage of at least $15 an hour to its workers.

SEIU MC for the rally Karen Joubert wrapped up the rally by asserting, “We will come back to receive a check” for all the money the corporations have ripped off, “and there better not be insufficient funds.’

SEIU 1021 will be negotiating a new contract with the City of San Francisco this year. The city claims it’s running with a $100 million deficit.

The next rally will be on April 15, Tax Day, starting at 4 pm, for a rally and march to Twitter HQ, And the 15 stands for a $15/ hour living wage too!