Tuesday was a historic day in San Diego County. We saw the culmination of 10 months of work when the new Board of Supervisors voted to approve COVID-19 Paid Leave and to re-start bargaining about Hazard Pay. As your SEIU Local 221 President, I could not be more proud of the long line of union members who turned out to speak. All of our organizing paid off as the County took its first big steps toward compensating workers for the risks they take in the course of serving the public.
Tuesday was notable for another reason: I announced to our SEIU Local 221 Executive Board that I am planning to retire at the end of my Presidential term in August. It’s been an incredible journey. After serving four years in the Army, I started my first Union Job as a Code Enforcement officer at UCSD in 1987, which kicked off 34 years of service as a union member where I have served in multiple capacities, all of them with a goal of fighting for my members’ and strengthening the Labor Movement.
I am so proud of the accomplishments we’ve achieved during my nine years as President. We fought through two difficult contract fights, where we squeezed important advances for our members from a hostile board. We were a local leader in the Fight for 15 campaign and stood with Governor Brown when the $15 an hour bill was signed. We started the Invest in San Diego Families coalition, where our union united with community partners to shine a light on the failures of the County. Finally, in November a decade of preparation and hard work came to fruition when we won a majority at the Board of Supervisors.
The Board of Supervisors actions on Tuesday marked a new high point in our ongoing struggle for social and economic justice. In spite of the incredible challenge of confronting the COVID-19 pandemic for all of us, we have moved the ball forward on Hazard Pay and won a comprehensive compensation study, which will be conducted this year. We have also racked up impressive wins this past year alone for our members at other employers, including cities, schools and Head Start programs. These include across the board raises, equity adjustments, health and safety standards, COVID-19 leave, hazard pay and much more.
Now, as we embark on the journey of 2021, we are preparing to continue our push for better wages, hours and working conditions. And of course, at the center of all of this is the County of San Diego, one of the largest employers in the county and historically one of the biggest barriers to change. With a new worker-friendly Board of Supervisors seated and the wind of organizing at our backs, I’m confident that we will win strong contracts at our bargaining tables in 2021 and beyond.
With many accomplishments behind us and important work ahead, I concluded that this is the moment for me to pass the torch to the next generation. I have tremendous confidence in our union leadership that is poised to build on the foundation we have laid and deliver more wins to our membership and working families. For me, it’s time to slow my pace a little bit and spend more time with my family.
Many of my friends and allies have asked me what my parting message will be as I get ready to retire. I’ve thought a lot about this, and my answer is “don’t stop organizing, not even for a second.” Everything we have been able to win has been through the organized power of union members like you and me. The future will be bright if we build the future we want using our collective power.
SEIU Local 221 President
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