Pushing California's public workers to come back to the office

Lyanne Melendez Image
Saturday, April 20, 2024
Pushing CA's public workers to come back in-person
California is pushing its 240,000 public workers to come back to the office, but employees aren't happy about.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Governor Gavin Newsom recently told state employees they must come back to work in-person at least two days a week. Until now, 240,000 of them have been working from home full-time. Keep in mind that the stay-at-home order was lifted on June 15, 2021. That was nearly three years ago.

Public servants are supposed to work for the government and for citizens.

But what ABC7 News found is that Oakland seems to be keeping the public out. Keep the public out by keeping some offices locked.

Susan Sanchez, executive assistant to the city council, gave us the answer we were not anticipating.

She blames it, in part, on the long-term anxiety left behind by COVID.

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"That made people not want to be in close proximity, in a closed environment. I think that there are so many sicknesses beyond COVID like the respiratory problems and so forth that everybody is nervous," explained Sanchez who has been working there for 23 years.

The mayor's office remains locked, so does the city clerk's office.

"They're still meeting with their constituents, they're still having community meetings - it's just they're not always in the office," added Sanchez.

In Oakland, any city employee that wants to work from home part of the time must apply for a hybrid telecommuting agreement.

Oakland currently has about 1,200 employees signed up. That's 25% of their entire workforce working from home twice a week.

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Last week, Councilmember Noel Gallo told us it's hard to run a city like Oakland when the "business-as-usual" model no longer exists.

"I'd like to see everyone return to work because right now I have businesses that say Mr. Gallo, I've been waiting for my permit for six months," he told us.

When we stopped at the counter at the Oakland Department of Transportation, the clerk told us they had just recently expanded to a four-day week schedule to serve the public.

Looking at other major cities in the Bay Area, San Jose has 1,231 employees with a flexible workplace agreement, that's just over 15% of their workforce.

It's fair to say that the surrounding small businesses have been negatively impacted.

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San Francisco's non-essential workers have a three-day minimum in person requirement.

When Governor Newsom announced that 240,000 state workers had to return to the office at least two days a week, it angered union employees from SEIU local 1000.

"It has reduced our impact on our environment, our carbon footprint has gone down, it had increased our productivity, it increase our employee retention, it also increased the ability to have a better work-life balance," insisted Irene Green of SEIU local 1000.

But no one is happier to see state workers return to in-person duties than Sacramento's Mayor Darrell Steinberg who has heard plenty from small businesses.

"That there aren't enough customers. I mean, that has been the issue for downtown Sacramento since the pandemic. We are redefining our downtown because it's never going to come back to five days a week," said Steinberg

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