SEIU troubled by city spending

By Greg Zeman

A purple ocean of Service Employees International Union Local 1021 members and supporters flooded the steps of City Hall on March 25 to protest cuts to public services.

Roughly 1,000 demonstrators gathered at Hallidie Plaza and marched up Market Street to City Hall. According to Local 1021 spokesperson Steve Stallone, the protest was, “one aspect in a larger campaign.”

San Francisco is facing a deficit of roughly $576 million for the next fiscal year. Departments like Health and Human Services, with $35 million in federal stimulus earmarked for its use, are experiencing cuts and layoffs. SEIU has laid off roughly 75 of it’s own employees in response to the financial crunch.

The union is concerned with what they see as inefficient use of stimulus money by the city.

“It isn’t clear that they are going to use that money to cutback on the cutbacks,” Stallone said. “We’re still trying to lobby and put pressure on the board.”

Actions such as the march on City Hall are part of SEIU’s push for alternatives to cuts. Stallone said the mayor’s strategy of 25% cuts for all city departments overlooks another option.

“We are trying to push for a special election to put it up to a vote by the people; to put more money into the budget,” Stallone said. Unanimous supervisor approval would reduce the necessity of a tax increase from two-thirds to just over 50%.

A special election scheduled for June 2 was canceled because Board President David Chiu brokered an agreement between labor and business leaders.

“We lost the opportunity to have the special election we were trying to have in June so we could know money was coming in for the next fiscal year,” Stallone said.

“[We are] going out into the community and talking about it; going door to door telling people to support putting the measure on a special election ballot,” Stallone said about 1021’s ongoing efforts. “By doing it this way, we’re trying to create a grassroots groundswell.”

Stallone is cautiously optimistic about the future of a special election, “The mayor is at least being more receptive to something on the November ballot. It’s a little late, but better than nothing.”

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