SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Union leaders and city workers Friday urged San Francisco Mayor London Breed not to lay off workers and make cuts to public service to balance a $1.5 billion shortfall in the city’s budget.
Earlier Friday, Breed unveiled her proposed two-year budget. It still needs to be approved by supervisors in the coming months and designates as much as $446.1 million towards the city’s COVID-19 response as the state continues to see a surge in cases.
Breed said whether the city can avoid major cuts and layoffs relies on unions agreeing to delay planned wage increases for city employees over the next two years.
“I don’t think this is too much to ask. Our entire city is suffering now and we all need to do our part to share in that sacrifice,” she said. “If the unions don’t agree to delay their raises, then we will be forced to lay people off. We will be forced to cut city services.”
But, according to workers — represented by unions like the Service Employees International Union Local 1021 and the International Federation of Professional Technicians and Engineers Local 21 — workers have already put off $49 million in scheduled raises and will potentially put off $50 million more in wages next year.
City workers converted into disaster service workers amid the pandemic, working with homeless or at food banks and testing sites, are increasingly working with strained resources, union officials said.
Instead of delaying raises, the workers are asking the city to tap into the more than $1 billion in rainy day funds and existing reserves collected over the last decade to close the budget shortfall, and to provide more support for disaster service workers.
So far, more than 5,000 disaster service workers and San Francisco residents have signed a petition to urge Breed to use the funds and reserves in place of layoffs and service cuts.
“Frontline workers continue to answer the call and we need to keep them working to get through this crisis and support our economic recovery,” Rudy Gonzalez, executive director of the San Francisco Labor Council, said in a statement.
“Cutting services and laying off public workers will cripple our COVID-19 response and slow our recovery in the long run,” IFPTE Local 21 President Gus Vallejo said. “San Francisco is currently in a major COVID-19 surge. In just 10 days this month, we have had 5,000 to 6,000 cases of COVID-19.”
“We need more investment in our public workers and public services, not less,” Vallejo added.
© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.