SF supervisors try to save threatened jobs

November 24, 2009 7:50:51 PM PST
San Francisco's Board of Supervisors has decided to give a holiday reprieve to workers scheduled to be laid off but it may not do any good.

The supervisors voted 8-3 to spend $1.8 million to save the threatened workers jobs for the next couple of months, but Mayor Gavin Newsom is under no obligation to go along with the board's actions -- he says the city cannot afford it.

Protests are likely to become a common sight with the city facing difficult economic times now and in the future.

Wednesday, students from San Francisco Community School came to City Hall to protest cost cutting plans that will bump school secretaries out of their jobs and replace them with city workers with more seniority.

"If you say 'school secretary' it doesn't sound like much, but if you actually think about what she's doing every day, I'd say she's filling about five jobs," student Harlo Pippenger said.

Their secretary will likely lose her job to a clerical worker in the department of public health, who in turn will be taking a pay cut.

"I feel terrible about anybody losing their jobs but ultimately there is enough money to keep everybody working or there isn't enough money," San Francisco Health Director Mitch Katz said.

Several supervisors support taking money set aside for operating expenses in the health department and using that to save jobs, especially since those who will be impacted -- school secretaries, clerical workers, nursing assistants and others -- are disproportionately women and minorities.

Hundreds of SEIU members and their supporters demonstrated last night, some blocking traffic on Market Street.

"I haven't heard once from the strongest advocates a demand of no layoffs, what I have heard is, 'Let's see equity,'" Supervisor Chris Daly said.

Newsom ran into the student protest as he left the office. He points out the supervisors just passed the city budget in July and could have addressed the issue then.

"It's just demagoguery now, it's just pandering and it makes me sad because real people are being misled that somehow we're going to solve this for them when we can't," he said.

The city controller estimates the city faces a $522 million deficit next year and is currently $53 million in the red, meaning layoffs are inevitable.

"Even if all 11 of us vote for this, the mayor is not going to spend this money; you are giving these employees false hope, that is more than cruel and unusual punishment," Supervisor Sean Elsbernd said.

Several of the supervisors want to spend $7 million to save the jobs but they have decided to put off that part of the package until December. They are hoping that somehow money will become available.


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