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"Who Can Imagine" SEIU790 Hires PR Firm Involved In Outsourcing Jobs?

by Patrick Monette-Shaw pmonette-shaw@earthlink.net

WHO CAN IMAGINE San Francisco SEIU 790 member dues being paid to a PR firm involved in a ballot measure that will make it easier for the City to outsource jobs?

The ballot measure seeks a change to the City Charter which will affect all City Unions, except the Police, Firefighters, and Sheriff's unions.

Why is it that SEIU Local 790 members pay such abnormally high union dues ... only to have their Union continue hiring a public relations firm that works against SEIU member?s interests? (SEIU members pay 1.8% of base salary each pay period, while the City's Management Executive Association charges its members a flat-rate fee of $25 per pay period regardless of income level, and other City unions, including Local 21, charge their members less than 1% of base pay for dues.)

Just last Spring, SEIU Local 790 had its PR firm (Barnes Mosher Whitehurst Lauter & Partners) ? which is either on a retainer to Local 790, or who get regular new business from Local 790 ? get involved in the No-on-Prop.-D campaign against a grass-roots effort to protect patients and staff at Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco, which employs over 1,000 SEIU employees. The Union turned against its dues paying members by opposing Prop. D, and utilized the services of Barnes Mosher Whitehurst Lauter & Partners in order to do so.

A key principal in Barnes Mosher Whitehurst Lauter & Partners (BMWL) is one Mark Mosher, whom SEIU 790's Executive Director, Josie Mooney, introduced me to at 790's Union Hall at 1390 Market Street last February, long before the June 6, 2006 election. Mosher directed the No-on-Prop.-D spin control on behalf of the Mayor and other opponents of Prop. D, including SEIU 790 and SEIU's UHW-West.

Even before Mosher became engaged on SEIU's behalf on the No-on-D effort, Michael Sullivan submitted a letter on November 30, 2005 to the City's Elections Department proposing a change to the City Charter for placement on the November 2006 ballot. Sullivan asked the City to call Mosher at BMWL?s office phone number "as soon as the City Attorney submits the title and summary ...". Sullivan ? as the proponent of this ballot measure ? did not indicate in his letter why Mosher is involved, or what work Mosher will be performing for this ballot initiative. But obviously a proponent like Sullivan would not have the summary and title sent to an opponent, so an educated guess is that Mosher is not an opponent, but a supporter, consultant, or hired PR hack who needed to be kept in the loop immediately after the City Attorney's office issued a title and summary for Sullivan.

Notably, SEIU 790 has not notified any of its San Francisco members that this measure will be on the November 2006 ballot, and SEIU has done nothing to try to stop it. During recent negotiations for the SEIU 790 Nurses contract, and separately for the ?miscellaneous? employees covered by the SEIU Tri-Local "Citywide" contract, bargaining team members were never told by SEIU 790 staff that the measure Sullivan submitted on November 30, 2005 had been approved when the City Attorney?s office issued its title and summary of the measure on December 16, 2005. Nine months have elapsed, and SIEU has not even begun an educational campaign to alert its members that this measure will be on the November 2006 ballot just three months from now.

Local 790 members who are disturbed by the SEIU Internationals attempts to erode our benefits will be closely monitoring Mosher's involvement in this ballot measure.

Sullivan?s proposed ballot measure seeks to make it easier for the City to contract out work to nonprofits, since Sullivan had titled his initiative "Contracting With Qualified Nonprofit Organizations." Notably the City Attorney?s office has changed the title of the initiative, most likely to make it less obvious that it is the non-profit sector who is behind the measure in order to receive lucrative contracts with the City.

This is a bald attempt to drastically reduce the size of City government, but it is a shell game of cost-shifting from the City's payroll to budgeted line items for "professional services contracts." It is a direct erosion of City employee benefits, because non-profits will be able to submit bids that provide no health care coverage, budgeted pay raises, or retirement package expenses for employees of the nonprofit, making it very easy for the nonprofit organization to demonstrate that their costs will be much lower than the 10% threshold to be awarded a contract.

There are multiple problems with this legislation, because as usual, the proposed language is written vaguely for the City's advantage:

1. Although there is a provision that unions will be able to submit written information analyzing the cost-savings of a proposed contract, there is no explicit provision for involvement of the unions during the actual competitive bidding process or before a request for bids is issued. Unions will be permitted only to submit analyses prior to the issuance of a contract, which is too late in the process.

2. There is no provision for oversight of whether a contract awarded to a non-profit agency will be monitored to ensure services rendered by a nonprofit are really of a "similar quality" to services provided by City employees who will be displaced. The quality of services provided to San Francisco residents could plummet, with no oversight of monitoring service quality.

3. Unlike another City Charter so-called "Civil Service Reform" measure that will also be on the November ballot that specifically provides for implementation of a second change on a separate issue at the end of currently-negotiated contracts, the contracting out to nonprofit organizations legislation will apparently take affect ten days after the Board of Supervisors accepts the results of the November 7 election, given the absence of language in the measure about any date of implementation. If the contracting-out Charter change is approved by the voters, it could lead to the City calling for an immediate "economic re-opener" of the SEIU Citywide Tri-Local contract in order to change language in the current language prohibiting contracting out of SEIU jobs.

4. There is no provision in the Charter Amendment to periodically review whether the costs to the City of contracting with a non-profit remains less than the cost of the work being performed by City employees.

The City Attorney's title and summary reads:



Except where provided in the Charter, all employees for he City and County are appointed through competitive civil service selection, appointment, and removal procedures. If the Controller and the Board of Supervisors approve positions where the work or service can be practically performed under private contract at a lesser cost than similar work performed by employees of the City and County, and such work is not required to be performed by employees of the City and County, those positions may be filled by persons not subject to the civil service process.

The proposed charter amendment would provide an additional method of contracting for professional services when those services could be provided at a lesser cost than similar work provided by the City. The proposed amendment would authorize a City department to seek bids from nonprofit organizations for the purpose of determining whether work or services of similar quality could be provided under contract at a lesser cost than performed by City employees. If after receipt of the bids, the Controller certified that work of similar quality could be performed by a nonprofit organization at a savings of at least ten percent, the department could elect to contract for such work through a competitive bidding process. The Controller would be required to establish qualification criteria for nonprofits to be considered for such contracts.

The proposed measure would rewquyire a department to notify the Board of Supervisors of a decision under this Charter section to contract for work. If the Board of Supervisors overruled the decision by a three fourths vote within 45 days, the department could not contract for the work. The section would not apply to work required to be performed by uniformed members of the Police, Fire, or Sheriff?s Department.


SEIU Local 790 members should demand an explanation from their Executive Director, Josie Mooney, as to why her bloated organization has done nothing to date to educate members about this impending change. After all, the Executive Committee of Local 21 (International Federation of Professional and Technical Employees) fired itss Executive Director, David Novogrodsky on July 25, 2006 over a half-million dollar budget deficit for FY 2005-2006, and a 75% turnover of Local 21's staff; between March 2005 and June 2006, 15 of the 21 support staff at Local 21 had resigned or been fired by Novogrodsky, who failed to provide an explanation of the staff turnover to Local 21's Executive Committee.

SEIU Local 790's Executive Board should carefully consider whether terminating the contracts with both Josie Mooney and LaWanna Preston are in order for their failure to educate our members about the contracting out of our work. If Local 21 can fire its Executive Director over mere budget and staffing irregularities, SEIU 790's Executive Board could just as easily terminate Mooney and Preston?s contracts, provided 790's Executive Board were truly alarmed about the potential outsourcing of their jobs. However, Preston and Mooney have not kept SEIU 790's Executive Board fully informed about this ballot measure initiative, so the Executive Board is asleep at the wheel and completely uniformed about what will likely transpire, and soon.

Mayor Newsom campaigned on a platform to drastically reduce the size of City government, and he will be able to claim he has done this if wholesale outsourcing of our jobs to the nonprofit sector occurs in the cost shifting of moving City employees to the nonprofit sector under "professional services" contracts.

As far as that goes, 790 members should carefully consider whom SEIU will endorse and whom individual members will eventually vote for in the five Board of Supervisor?s seats in the November 2006 election, because the current Board is already stacked with the eight votes the Mayor needs to stop a three-fourths vote of the Board to prevent outsourcing jobs. In particular, Local 790 members should not support Bevan Dufty's re-election campaign in District 8, nor Doug Chan's campaign in District 4 to replace outgoing incumbent Fiona Ma, since both men have received Mayor Newsom's endorsement and neither man can be counted on to stop efforts to outsource our jobs.

Those most threatened and at immediate grave risk by this ballot measure are SEIU 790 and SEIU UHW members employed at Laguna Honda Hospital, since the Mayor's Transition Team issued a report prior to Gavin Newsom?s election that the LHH new facilities at LHH under its replacement project currently underway will result in the facility opening staffed not with City employees, but non-profit employees.

Two years after Mayor Newsom's initial election, management at Laguna Honda are beginning an aggressive educational effort to re-train SEIU employees to be able to work in community-based non-profit facilities.

Just like with just-in-time reordering of supplies in order to reduce warehousing costs, the City is now placing a just-in-time ballot measure on the November 2006 ballot that will provide the just in time vehicle to outsource Laguna Honda jobs to the very non-profit organizations who were promised by the Mayor's transition team that the new LLHH replacement facility would open staffed by non-profit employees.

Laguna Honda?s SEIU 790 members who supported and voted for Mayor Newsom might now be wondering why they cast their vote for the very person who has played a huge role in the very Civil Service reforms that has placed this initiative measure to outsource their jobs to the non-profit sector onto the November ballot.

But as more and more City jobs are outsourced to non-profit organizations via this ballot measure, it will not be just Laguna Honda employees ? nor just SEIU members, as other unions will soon follow suit ? losing their jobs. Other City departments and facilities face the same budget axe, with SEIU's help, if voters approve this Charter change.

If you have questions, try asking Mark Mosher.

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