SEIU 1021 withholds support for newly unveiled pension proposal


San Francisco’s largest labor union, Service Employees International Union 1021, is not on board with a proposed charter amendment that would reform the city’s pension system for public employees.

The pension reform proposal was unveiled by a coalition of city officials, labor representatives, and business leaders at a press conference in the mayor’s office in City Hall this morning, May 24. The plan would yield an estimated savings of $800 million to $1 billion in savings over the course of a decade, the bulk of it coming from increased employee contributions to retirement funds of up to six percent for future and current employees. The proposal would raise the retirement ages from 62 to 65, or 55 to 58 for public-safety workers, and impose caps on pensionable salaries for new employees. Mayor Ed Lee described the plan as "a serious, comprehensive plan and one that reflects the consensus." The proposed charter amendment must go through the Board of Supervisors’ Rules Committee and win the approval of the full board before it can be placed on the ballot in November.

Lee emphasized that the pension plan had been crafted with a consensus-building approach over the course of several months, which brought business, labor, and city officials together. Billionaire Warren Hellman delivered comments about the historic nature of the proposal, and Rebecca Rhine from the Municipal Executives Association and Steve Falk from the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce each voiced support for the plan.  Sups. Sean Elsbernd and Board President David Chiu spoke of the collaborative and democratic process that had brought everyone in the city family under one tent.

Well, almost everyone.

“We’re stuck on one issue,” noted SEIU 1021 Vice President Larry Bradshaw. Under the plan, a pay cut would go into effect for three groups of lower-paid workers on the same date that they would be responsible for making new pension contributions, July 1, 2012, he explained. The affected workers include nursing assistants, security guards, and clerical workers, he said. While the mayor’s proposal requiring new pension contributions builds in an exemption for city workers making less than $50,000 per year, many of these SEIU employees would fall just above that cutoff mark, Bradshaw said.

“We’ve got workers that are just about at the $50,000 threshold … so they’re going to be paying about $2,000 a year out of their pocket,” toward new pension contributions, he said. “So the mayor’s plan has these workers, who are our lowest-paid workers, taking this huge pay cut, and then they want us to agree to this increase in contributions. And the scale of these pay cuts are just enormous. For someone who’s making $50,000 a year, to ask them to take $2,000 or $3,000 on top of $12,000 in a pay cut, is impossible.”

The pay cut is a leftover from the administration of former Mayor Gavin Newsom. For certified nursing assistants, the shift would amount to a roughly $12,000 annual pay cut, Bradshaw said. Security guards would face an estimated $5,000 per year cut, and clerical workers could face anywhere from $1,000 to $11,000 per year. Bradshaw estimated that a total of about 570 city employees would be affected. The workers faced getting fired and re-hired at lower-paid classifications in a prior budget year to make up for a revenue shortfall, but the union reached an agreement to stave off the worst pay cuts for those “de-skilled” employees by imposing a one percent across-the-board cut for all members in order to restore the salary cuts.

“This was such a sore point with our membership, the membership would not allow us to turn our backs on these workers, and we couldn’t get the city to restore the pay cuts,” Bradshaw said. “So we voluntarily took a one percent pay cut for every member to make up the loss in pay that these workers suffered.”

This arrangement would no longer be possible under the pension reform proposal, he said, because most union members would be asked to contribute 3.5 to 5 percent toward their pensions. “We’re already paying one percent more, so we’re not going to have that option of asking our members to keep funding these workers who have taken this 20 percent pay cut,” he said. “So the same day this goes into effect, these people take this horrible hit in their pay. And these are primarily women and people of color. Our problem is, we can’t leave these workers behind.”

Until that issue is resolved, the union cannot get on board with the plan, he said. “We’ve been waiting three weeks to meet with the mayor, and we can’t fix the problem if we can’t sit down with the mayor and talk about it,” he said, noting that  union representatives had been able to sit down with mayoral chief of staff Steve Kawa. Restoring the pay cut would have an estimated financial impact of $5 to $6 million.

Bradshaw said SEIU 1021 had hoped to fix the problem in order to be able to get on board and voice their support during the announcement this morning. “We were at the table until 11:30 last night," he said. "We called the mayor, we had Tim Paulson at the [San Francisco Labor Council] text the mayor, we asked the city team to ask the mayor to come in. The mayor was a no show.” The Guardian has placed calls to the mayor’s office seeking comment, but hasn’t yet heard back.

Asked what he thought the outcome might be, Bradshaw said, “We think this situation cries out for justice. We think there are lots of ways to solve this problem, and we keep putting ideas on the table that are rejected by the mayor’s office. We’re hopeful. But, until we sit down with the mayor, it’s kind of a big question mark.”

SEIU 1021 represents around 17,000 city workers, making it the largest and one of the most politically powerful labor unions in the city.

Pattie Tamura attended the press conference on behalf of SEIU 1021, but stopped short of voicing support for the proposal when reporters questioned whether the union was on board with the plan, saying only that negotiations were ongoing. Bradshaw said they sent a representative as a sign of respect for the collaborative process that had been spearheaded by coalition leaders, particularly Warren Hellman.


...when the City's largest union is not on board? Call me crazy- that's not a consensus.

Just more b.s. from our City officials.

Posted by Guest on May. 24, 2011 @ 9:01 pm

Screw the unions. They are the reason we're in this to begin with

Posted by Guest on May. 24, 2011 @ 10:03 pm

Ms. Bowe,

How can you do a story on SF Pension Reform without even mentioning the Adachi 'Son of B' which is fully formed and on its way to the ballot?

The union/political hack plan is not only not complete, but also computed with 'kick the can down the road' faulty algorithms. Unfortunately, it's a short road and within just a couple of years be costing the unions thousands of jobs. Unless they can talk the Board that's been busy giving billionaires and their corporations tax breaks to suddenly turn around and go after the rich. To the tune of 800 million a year within 36 months.

Giants finally lost.

Lee's comments to the effect that Adachi isn't a part of the 'City family' were particularly flatulent coming from a guy who's never gotten a single vote and aimed at a guy who got 199,000 votes from the Public just 6 months ago.


Posted by Guest h. brown on May. 25, 2011 @ 1:11 am

Hi h.,

I spoke with Mr. Adachi at length yesterday and we'll have more to report on this issue, so don't worry, we haven't forgotten about "Son of a B." This post was really just meant to highlight this one aspect of the issue. Thanks for reading.


Posted by rebecca on May. 25, 2011 @ 9:42 am

Mayor Lee said the plan will save "$59 million in 2012", while pension costs will rise by $460 million, according to the controller's office.

This plan is nothing but a whitewash by Nathan Ballard (hired hack of the SEIU, and a right-wing consultant for Union Carbide).

We need REAL pension reform, or we will have to keep cutting city services, and face looming bankruptcy.

Posted by Barton on May. 25, 2011 @ 6:25 am

"We’ve got workers that are just about at the $50,000 threshold … so they’re going to be paying about $2,000 a year out of their pocket."

Those of us who are self-employed (no company, or public-sector crutch to lean on) pay $400 a month for health care insurance. We have to save money for our own retirement. We cannot retire at age 58 and get a good pension guaranteed for life. We will not have cheap healthcare until we qualify for Medicare at age 66. Our spouses/family are not covered by anything.

Meanwhile, the SEIU and its retirees are dipping into the General Fund and taking about 10% of all city monies to cover their healthcare/retirement, soon to rise to 25%, according to the Controller's Office.

Library hours, summer school, street cleaning, services at SF General, and the safety net for the poor get cut year after year so we can meet your pension obligations. We are tired of carrying you on our shoulders.

Join the real world. Start paying your own way!

Posted by Barton on May. 25, 2011 @ 6:39 am

So because you're getting dumped on by your bosses in the private sector, we should lower everybody to the same miserable existence that you're living.

When we've finished trashing healthcare and pensions for public sector workers, you still won't have health care and decent pensions, but hey, at least you'll feel better about it because everyone else will be miserable too.

Well, everyone except the top 1%. But I guess they're special.

Posted by Greg on May. 26, 2011 @ 7:48 am

As someone who works with the people who were deskilled and took the pay cuts for the rest of the employees, remember this only happened to them. At the time if you think back our main objection to the deskilling was that it seemed as though someone at city hall found the classifications with the most people of color and did it to them. It should be noted that no classification that was predominantly white took any cuts as a matter of fact while these mostly women of color took the cuts classifications that were predominatly white got huge raises. Everyone tries to convince the workers of the city of color that they were not targated but the facts are the facts. I am sure that the city thought because of who these poeple were somehow nobody would care. But as one who has been at the forefront of this battle they need to know that people like me will never let this die until the injustice is reversed.

Posted by Brenda Barros on May. 25, 2011 @ 6:41 am

I find it highly unlikely that anyone was deskilled because of race or gender. It that was the case, than the union should take the city to court, as it would be illegal. More likely, these jobs had pay scales that were out of line with private sector/market pay, and so were reclassified to more appropriate wage levels. While it is unfortunate that anyone take a pay cut, SF taxpayers should not be on the hook for outsized pay PLUS retirement and health care benefits that no one receives in the private sector and which are entirely unfunded.

Face the facts, public employees - either there will be massive layoffs, or pay and benefit rates need to be aligned with what the city can afford. The path we are on is unsustainable.

Posted by Guest on May. 25, 2011 @ 5:24 pm

Those in the private sector, who have fallen behind, should take note that their wages, hours and working conditions have declined as the private sector has become more and more non-union.


Posted by Guest T. Ryan on May. 25, 2011 @ 10:44 am

The plan is a joke - City employees negotiating with City employees over how much of the massive pension tab they should stick to taxpayers. No one should have expected much.

Posted by Guest on May. 25, 2011 @ 12:41 pm

Do Not Trust SEIU 1021 !!!!!!!!
They made backroom deals with Rec and Park to eliminate hundreds
of Rec Park Directors in gutting the Dept to a shell of its self
They lie to the public, the membership and are only concerned with
making money for the Union officers.
Compared to the Hotel Union in SF. They are pitiful.

-- A former REC Park playground/park direc tor

Posted by Guest A Concerned S.F. Native and city worker on May. 26, 2011 @ 1:44 am

Is the fact that you happened to be born here supposed to be something that bolsters your argument?

Maybe if you added more exclamation marks people would take you more seriously. With only eight exclamation marks, I'm still not convinced that you feel strongly enough about this issue.

Posted by Greg on May. 26, 2011 @ 7:52 am

City Retiree our not happy because of the propose to the make up of the Health Service Board and the proposes change to the formula in the supplemental cola.
The City and the union would not allowed the retirees at the table. shame on the City and the Unions.

Posted by Guest Richard on May. 26, 2011 @ 6:18 am

SEIU just lost 1000 members to NUHW at Cal Pacific Medical Center. They are worried that City/Cty SF members might de-certify in favor of NUHW as well. SEIU sold these workers down the river when Newsom/Kava screwed them last budget, now they want to try to partially make up for the slight and abandonment of these workers. Lame Union with lame leaders. If the CCSF workers are smart they'll dump SEIU. SEIU knows that this is nothing but lip service with all the other unions backing it. Wise up CNA's et. al. SEIU is not your friend.

Posted by Guest on May. 26, 2011 @ 9:10 am

Take back the night!

Posted by Chromefields on May. 26, 2011 @ 10:03 am

The more progressive of the two politicians calls for the solution most favored by moderates.

Get ready for some wild reverberations in the mayor's race, folks:

Posted by Arthur Evans on May. 26, 2011 @ 4:13 pm

The numbers don't lie- general fund savings (from the Controller):

2012/13: Adachi $104 million/Lee $56 million

2013/14: Adachi $124 million/Lee $76 million

2014/15: Adachi $143 million/Lee $81 million

Pension Cap: Adachi $140,000/Lee $195,000

No thank you, Mr. Mayor.

Posted by Guest on May. 26, 2011 @ 4:34 pm

Looking at the bigger picture, the government and corporate America are going after pensions and healthcare, social security and medicare as way out of paying taxes or raising taxes on the wealthy corporations and individuals who do not want to pay higer taxes or taxes period ie General Electric. These taxes would take care of the deficits and many other financial problems the USA is facing. Even as we speak the divide between the very rich and what used to be the middle class grows wider. In addition the various wars the US is involved in is costly us dearly both financially and morally.

SF's pension fund is the 2nd best funded in the US and yet a panic has been created here for vairous reasons. One reaons is that our city will now have to start contributing to the pension fund at a higher rate. Even so, these rates are not as high as the national average. What is not know is that even though our pension fund is healthy, SF pensions are among the lowest in the nation.
So now in spite of all of the above workers are asked to start contributing more.

It is also true that the SEIU Retirees (who have a chapter and pay dues) have not been allowed to bargain on their own behalf and are now facing possible takeaways to the supplemental cost of living and negative changes to the SF Health Service System and possible healthcare benefits. It is not legal for the unions to bargain away any retiree benefits but they did so without our presence and consent. As a long time labor activist I feel the SEIU lower paid workers and the retirees are considered "low hanging fruit" and yes there is an element of racism and more than an element of eliteism in all of this. Shame on the Public Employees Committee and shame on my hometown SF.

Posted by Guest Kay on Jun. 04, 2011 @ 3:19 pm

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