About 500 of the lowest paid City workers will lose their jobs in six weeks – even though their union (SEIU 1021) voted during the budget crisis to give up paid holidays, hoping it could help stop layoffs. But part of the deal was that Mayor Gavin Newsom would work with labor and other stakeholders to “develop and support” revenue measures for the November 3rd ballot. None of this happened, because Newsom failed to hammer out a winning coalition for voter approval – which shouldn’t be a surprise. He was AWOL in February when there was talk of revenue measures. The Mayor has a Monday deadline to submit another $8.5 million in budget cuts – made necessary by the state budget crisis, and progressives should fear the worse. The Charter allows him to make unilateral cuts, but because the Board of Supervisors put some of this year’s budget on reserve there will be some wiggle room. But Gavin won’t be in San Francisco on October 5th when he’s supposed to introduce more cuts – he will be in Los Angeles for a campaign appearance with Bill Clinton, who has endorsed Newsom’s run for Governor.
When members of SEIU Local 1021 – which represents most City employees – voted in June
to a $38 million “give-back” in their contract, it seemed like they had just bought themselves a stay of execution. The workers agreed to give up paid holidays, if it meant that the 500 pink slips that the Mayor’s budget had proposed would be postponed. These threatened positions included nurses and clericals – predominantly women and people of color. They are some of the lowest paid City employees, about to lose their jobs in a recession.
At the time, the deal was that the City – led by Mayor Newsom – would work with the unions, business, non-profits and community groups to cobble together revenue measures for the November 3rd ballot. If the voters approved those measures, the City would meet with the union during the week after the Election – and talk about canceling the layoffs.
Without any revenue measures, these 500 workers will now lose their jobs on November 15th. Granted, passing these revenue measures was never guaranteed. San Francisco’s fiscal straitjacket
imposed by right-wing state policies require all taxes to be voted on by the public – and in most cases by a two-thirds majority. In a fractious city like San Francisco, it is almost impossible to get two-thirds to agree on anything, and the rare successful campaigns – such as last year’s parcel tax for schools – required a broad coalition and no opposition.
But state law does allow for revenue measures to pass by a simple majority – if and only if the Board of Supervisors unanimously votes to declare a “state of emergency.” That wasn’t going to happen, because the three Supervisors appointed by Newsom – Carmen Chu, Sean Elsbernd and Michela Alioto-Pier – were against it. SEIU believes that the Mayor did not act in good faith negotiating with them, because he never put real pressure on the 3 Supervisors to support letting a majority of San Franciscans pass tax measures.
After polling by the San Francisco Labor Council showed that voters were lukewarm to raising revenue, it became clear that the two-thirds threshold was impossible.
It’s clear that Newsom never made a serious effort at pushing politically viable revenue options – or approached his allies in big business to support fair tax increases. Nor was I really surprised. When there was talk in February of a June election to raise revenue, the Mayor was nowhere to be seen
. In fact, he has only to date proposed one “revenue” solution – selling out evicted tenants
by fast-tracking condo conversions. With the number of San Francisco’s vulnerable tenants, it would be – to quote General Westmoreland – destroying the village to save it.
A group of SEIU members stormed the Mayor’s Office on Monday, to protest Newsom’s lack of effort in passing revenue measures – which they argue is proof that he negotiated in bad faith. Moreover, because the employees being targeted for layoffs are primarily people predominantly people of color the City may in fact be in violation of Proposition H – which passed in 1986, and provides equal pay for equal work for City employees.
Meanwhile, the state budget has left San Francisco with some choices
, and it will all come to head next week. According to the City Controller, San Francisco will lose another $26.5 million from Sacramento. The Mayor had set aside $18 million in the budget to absorb such cuts, but that means we now must make $8.5 million in cuts. And according to the deal passed in July
, the Mayor must submit his cuts to the Supervisors on Monday, October 5th – i.e., 21 days after the Controller finished its report on the state budget impacts.
If history is any guide, Newsom is likely to propose even more cuts to health and human services. But the Supervisors passed the budget
with $45 million on reserves precisely to leverage any possible cuts. $12 million of that money is from the Police Department, and another $6.5 million is from the Fire Department. If the Mayor follows up on more cuts to social programs, the Board will at least have some leverage.
How will the Mayor propose his $8.5 million in budget cuts next week? If his schedule is any indication, it will be done quietly. Yesterday, Newsom for Governor sent out a press release
that announced his plans on October 5th. Former President Bill Clinton will headline a fundraiser for him in Los Angeles.
Shouldn’t he be in San Francisco when we need to make tough choices on the budget?