San Francisco City Workers and Retirees Protest Proposition C


KPFA Weekend News, 09.24.2011



A retired City worker speaks to San Francisco Supervisor and mayoral candidate John Avalos outside the Proposition C campaign kickoff. The Board of Supervisors unanimously supports Proposition C, as does Interium Mayor Ed Lee. Protestors said that Avalos was the only person attending the kickoff who stopped to speak to them. KPFA Weekend News Anchor: Also in San Francisco today, a coalition of city workers, and retirees, gathered outside the African American Cultural Center on Fulton Street to protest the campaign kickoff for Proposition C, a measure on the City’s November ballot that would cut pension and health care benefits for city workers, and retirees, to balance the City budget. The protestors say that Measure C was negotiated between union bureaucrats, highly paid workers, including police and firemen, businessmen, including billionaire investor Warren Hellman, and, the Chamber of Commerce, at the expense of rank and file city workers. They also said that city worker retirees were excluded from negotiations and were thus unable to defend their interests. KPFA’s Ann Garrison has the story.

KPFA/Ann Garrison: Cities all over the U.S. are facing hard decisions about how to either raise new revenues or cut costs in response to worsening recession, increased concentration of tax sheltered wealth, and, the cost of perpetual war. The most hotly contested measures on the San Francisco ballot this November are Propositions C and D, both of which propose cuts to escalating pension costs for city workers. Observers and activists have said that what San Francisco voters decide will have a ripple effect on other city and county decisions about how to sustain the public sector.

Kay Walker of SEIU 1021 Westside Retirees was a social worker employed by the City of San Francisco for over 20 years before retiring. Today she joined a coalition of city workers and city worker retirees to protest the campaign kickoff to pass Measure C:

Kay Walker: We are all against Measure C and that includes many groups that are quite diverse, including the RECCSF Retirees, 4000 in number, and SEIU 1021 West Bay Chapter, and the Gray Panthers, Peace and Freedom, and many other groups because it hits the retirees and the lower paid employees of the City and County the hardest. 
KPFA: Measure C changes the composition of the Board empowered to decide what health benefits city workers and retirees will and will not receive, and Walker says that this is a pernicious proposal.

Kay Walker Kay Walker: That's correct. This affects everyone that either works for the City right now or is retired. The governance right now is member friendly; the Board is composed of elected members from both groups, and this changes it to favor the City, so they can make all the decisions. We've gone to many meetings over the past years; those decisions usually raise the costs for city employees and retirees, and this will especially hit people that have one dependent, who are retired, and people who are employed that have one or two dependents.
This is unfair; we think the City can balance the budget in other ways, and not use us as low hanging fruit. And that's a quote unquote, for people who have been part of the consensus coalition, so called. 
This is not a City family as they state. It is a disaster.  
KPFA:  Walker said that the protest was high-spirited and well-attended. 
Kay Walker: We had retirees, Gray Panthers, city employees, Peace and Freedom Party members, and we kept on going for a long time. The side that was opposed to our position didn't have a real response to what we were doing. I think they were taken by surprise to see so many people out there. Also, we passed out a lot of leaflets. Many were in great detail in a way that was never presented to union members or the public. We did our homework and I wish they'd listen to us.Many protestors held signs urging NO votes on both Proposition C and Proposition D, a competing pension reform measure. Kay Walker stands in the center, wearing a purple jacket.

KPFA: For Pacifica, KPFA Radio, I’m Ann Garrison.

(Note: The coalition that gathered to protest Proposition C's campaign kickoff also oppose Proposition D, a competing pension reform measure, which they also consider an attack on working people. They say the City should instead find a way to tax corporations and wealth.  

Proposition D proposes pension cuts, or--worded another way--increased city worker contributions, and reduced city contributions, but not for any workers making under $50,000 a year.  During the second week of September, however, interim San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee struck a special deal, with the unanimous approval of the Board of Supervisors, which would largely shield police and firemen, and guarantee their scheduled pay raises, even though most earn salaries well above the $50,000 cut-off rate.  Public Defender and mayoral candidate Jeff Adachi, who put Proposition D on the ballot, reacted angrily, calling it a “back-door attempt to circumvent the democratic rights of San Francisco voters.”) 
For more information on the labor rank and file response to both Proposition C and Proposition D, the pension reform measure competing with C, listen to KPFA Weekend News, 09.18.2011, San Francisco Rank and File Labor Divided on Pension Reform.  For a report on this protest written by the protestors themselves, see Indybay: No On Prop C and D Picket.)  

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