Mar 27, 2024 - News

San Francisco workers consider strike

workers hold up signs

San Francisco Human Services Agency workers rallying last week for better staffing. Photo: Courtesy of SEIU Local 1021

City workers, who are in labor negotiations with the city, say they are not ruling out a strike.

Why it matters: Members of a coalition of unions that represents more than 25,000 San Francisco city workers say a strike may be necessary to ensure city departments are properly staffed and workers are supported.

  • These workers are responsible for a variety of city operations, including health care, 911 dispatch and social work.

What they're saying: "Any potential strike really is a last resort to protect public services," Bianca Polovina, president of International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) Local 21, told Axios.

  • Polovina and city employees argue that San Francisco relies too heavily on contractors for essential city services and should instead prioritize staffing city departments with full-time employees.
  • If the city was staffed appropriately, "we would not need to contract out as much as we do," Polovina said.

Context: San Francisco had a nearly 14% vacancy rate for permanent city jobs from July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023, according to a civil grand jury report.

  • Currently, about 3,200 full-time positions in the city are vacant, representing a 9% vacancy rate, according to Jack Hebb, a spokesperson for the Department of Human Resources.
  • That number has resulted in workers "pretty much doing two to three different jobs," Alejandra Calderon, who's worked for the city's Human Services Agency for almost 13 years, told Axios.
  • "It's just not sustainable," said Calderon, who's part of Service Employees International Union 1021. "We are all really, completely burned out."

Of note: Polovina said the city has already rejected IFPTE's staffing proposal, which sought a commitment from San Francisco to invest in full-time, permanent jobs in city departments.

  • The proposal, reviewed by Axios, sought several agreements from the city — including filling all budgeted vacancies to a targeted vacancy rate of 5% in the public health, public works and homelessness departments, as well as 911 dispatch by Jan. 1, 2025.

The other side: Hebb would not confirm or deny whether the city rejected IFPTE's staffing proposal, telling Axios via email that the city doesn't comment on ongoing negotiations.

Between the lines: San Francisco is facing a looming budget deficit over the next few years, and Mayor London Breed in December ordered mid-year budget cuts totaling $75 million and instructed departments to plan for 10% cuts in each of the next two years, the San Francisco Examiner reports.

What to watch: Many unions began negotiations with the city in January ahead of their current contracts expiring on June 30.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the city's current vacancy rate for permanent full-time jobs.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios San Francisco.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More San Francisco stories

No stories could be found

San Franciscopostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios San Francisco.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more