As Labor Day turns 125, we should reflect on what working families can do together – including creating a national holiday to honor the hard work of ordinary people. We are at a turning point in our nation, union approval is nearing a 50 year high. Almost half of all nonunion members say they would join a union if they could. People are realizing that many of the problems that we are now facing, including income inequality and the U.S. pay gap for women and black and brown workers, are made worse by declining union membership.
In San Diego County, our work is paying off. We won a San Diego County budget that expands staff by 441 and increases investment in mental health, public health and child welfare. We did this as part of a coalition of community groups called the Invest in San Diego Families coalition, which is continuing its work to push the County to add staffing and set reasonable caseloads.
Your union has been working for 10 years to create a County that works for everyone. Starting in 2010 you won term limits for Supervisors, which is now paying off with more responsive Supervisors. You won Measure D in 2018 – now important County positions, including Supervisor, are decided in November when more people vote. You elected Nathan Fletcher in 2018 – the first voice for working people on the Board of Supervisors. Nationally, we will work to support Unions For All, which will make it easier to organize on the job, lifting up our communities. All of these efforts to fight for working families, will require Member Political Organizer volunteers and COPE contributions.
You won a LiveWell bus – to increase community outreach and move toward more staffing. You won a temporary asylum shelter to support all families and protect the health of all San Diego County residents. You defeated a Health and Human Services jeans ban that would have made it harder to do our jobs and alienated those that we serve.
It is all leading up to the next contract negotiations, when we can push for more, including adequate staffing to ensure better services and competitive salaries and retirement to retain experienced public servants. In 2020 we will work to elect champions for working people on the Board of Supervisors in Districts 1, 2 and 3. A majority of Supervisors who are support working families would be more likely to approve an equity study and bring San Diego wages up to other Counties’ level. We also need to work to create a membership supermajority, which will give us more power in negotiations with management.
This work is all worth it because of the difference it makes in our days, in our lives, in our communities. Elva Garcia, a five-year employee of San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency, wrote about her transformation from a nonmember to a union steward that, “was driven by the realization that leadership at my office had to evolve. I knew more people like me had to step up, otherwise nothing was going to change. By working together with my fellow stewards and increasing participation in our union, we created a positive working relationship with our management team. Now, managers are receptive to input and promptly resolve issues. Going to the office is enjoyable again.”
SEIU Local 221 President
PS – Hear SEIU Local 221 members reflect on Labor Day here, here, and here. Hear members describe what being an SEIU Local 221 member means by clicking here.
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