I am a worker at the Department of Mental Health in Los Angeles County, and I’m a member of SEIU Local 721. The annual budget of the Los Angeles Department of Mental Health, the largest mental health service in America, is $3 billion. As one of the workers deployed by the county during the pandemic to work with people with severe disabilities at pop-up shelters in recreation centers, I am voting to strike, and it’s important for all other members of my union local to do the same.
A majority vote of yes for the strike would mean that our union’s bargaining committee can call a strike if the LA County Board of Supervisors refuses to meet union demands in the continuing negotiations. Strike is our most powerful weapon. It’s a refusal to work until our demands are met, insisting that we have the right to protect ourselves, feed our families, be respected, and improve our working conditions to provide a better service to the community. It’s absurd that many of us are working for low-income homeless folks, and we qualify for those same services because our pay is so low.
Our working conditions were extremely affected by the Covid surge. My coworkers and I often saw dead bodies in tents when we visited homeless encampments. This was a common theme that we discussed at our homeless outreach meetings. My coworkers quit because of stress, burnout, or other issues, including intimidation from managers. I was one of 11 coworkers. Now I am the only person in Service Area 4. This includes Hollywood, Mid City and Koreatown. It also includes Skid Row. most pervasive poverty Los Angeles. Skid Row has the largest number of residents. communities of unhoused people In the country. I am the only one currently serving this area.
Many workers have been pushed beyond their limits. Many of my coworkers erected a billboard that featured photos, obituaries, mementos, and mementos from those who had died at LA County USC Hospital. The wall was home to at least 40 people, the majority of whom were Black and Brown. Outside our union hall itself is a “Forever Essential Wall of Remembrance.” But the mayor’s idea of honoring Our work is primarily clapping, lighting candles, waving flashlights, and waving phones. But if Black lives “matter” to them, why are they undermining our ability to survive? They offer a 3.5 percent wage rise, while inflation is 8.5%! It’s a pay cut. If they do not respect us, then why are they expecting us to do the same job with fewer workers? If they are respectful of our union, why would they want to hire nonunion workers? It’s disrespect! We workers demand that every workplace be unionized. SEIU should play a major role in organizing the unorganized. We will resist any attempt to privatize union jobs.
Los Angeles is famous for its extreme inequality. Large unhoused camps are adjacent to luxurious buildings and wealthy neighborhoods. California as a whole is still being built. has more billionaires More than any other U.S. state. Both political parties claimed they were supporting the workers during the pandemic. Their actions prove the contrary.
We, 55,000 LA County workers, are planning to strike because our salaries are stagnant and our bills are increasing astronomically. SEIU 721 members vote yes!
We are planning to strike to fight for union job opportunities and against attempts to subcontract public-sector jobs with nonunion businesses.
We are ready to strike to protect ourselves and our mental health from a pandemic. Skyrocketing workloads cause stress in our lives and work.
We are the workers who provide support for people who are homeless, with severe mental illness, or who use drugs. We are social workers as well as nurses. We are the Frontline. We will continue to help the people we serve. We care about the clients and our work. But we won’t be martyrs running ourselves into the ground from exhaustion. We won’t allow more people to die because of the exhausting and unsafe working conditions. We won’t allow the LA County Board of Supervisors to use the loss of county workers as a way to undermine our union. Workers and communities must take control
We are voting YES for Strike to end the intimidation tactics used to intimidate workers from exercising rights. Workers wearing union shirts were barred from entering the building where they worked for the first week of the strike vote. They were checked by workers and union representatives before they went to work. We are building a stronger union that can take on any harassment at work by voting YES.
Voting YES is the first step. With this powerful weapon at our disposal, we will also discuss as an entire member the possibility of a tentative agreement. There will be ample time for open discussion. Negotiating and winning will be on terms of rank and fil. All of us together.
We are not the only ones. Workers all over the country are fighting for their rights and striking for unionization. This is evident in the history of Amazon in Staten Island as well as Starbucks across the country.
My fellow SEIU 721 members, it’s time for us to defend ourselves and our communities by voting yes to a strike! This is our chance.
Reasons to vote yes for a strike
1. Inflation causes meager pay increases.
The union slogan is “Protect Us, Respect Us, Pay Us,” and the main demand is a pay increase. For all the city’s description of us as “heroes” and talk about the city’s “appreciation” of our work, what is happening at the bargaining table is the complete opposite. The initial offer from the LA County Board of Supervisors was for a 2 % pay increase. However, after our protests, they increased their offer to 3 %. These offers are equivalent to a decrease in pay, considering that the national inflation has risen 8.5 percent. The county’s proposal amounts to a heavy pay decrease and is a slap in the face to those who risk our lives every day. We must fight for raises to not only keep up with inflation, but also to increase our salaries.
Many of us work as frontline workers. We are counselors, social workers, counselors, and homeless-outreach workers. We are unarmed and pose no threat to the people we serve every day. This is in contrast to the LA County sheriffs who are violent and highly paid. federal investigation for their homicidal behavior and “deputy gangs” that kill with impunity, The sheriffs terrorize the very people we try to protect, making our work that much harder. These are the people who murdered Andres Guardardo, but despite the fact that the LA County Sheriff’s Department closed 2021 with a $22.2 million surplusTheir budget is the same. The typical Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Sheriff yearly salary is $92,624These salaries are far more than those of unionized healthcare workers and the salaries for non-unionized workers in our field is even lower.
During the worst American pandemic, we served the most disadvantaged communities. The bosses are full if thank-yous but not much else. Our clients have died and our coworkers have passed away, yet we continue to work. They refuse to pay us living wages.
2. Dramatic understaffing, and constant burnout.
Many of those who died in the pandemic were social workers and nurses, who were dealing with a disaster that had disproportionately affected people of color. We are understaffed because of this and the overwork. We are doing the work for our coworkers with less money. They need to train more workers, hire more people and bring them under union contracts so that all workers can organize for better living and better service.
In the 2022–23 budget proposal, LA County is restoring only 500 of the positions that it eliminated in 2020–21. The Los Angeles Times reported that “the plan for 2022–23 … calls for 500 new positions. The county, with a total proposed workforce of 111,551, has 1,500 fewer jobs than in the 2019–20 fiscal year, the last budget adopted before the pandemic. The 2020–21 budget eliminated more than 2,580 positions.”
3. A halt to privatization attempts
Local 721 created the LA LGBT Center, one of the few union-organized nonprofits. I participated in that strike vote back in those days.
We must continue in this spirit by organizing the workers in these “independent agencies” and bring them into our own union by bringing these jobs under public oversight, which will also facilitate the unionization of the workers. This is something that our union understands. Our union knows how important this is. union website explains that “on top of sky-high prices for everyday necessities, we’re also facing serious threats from LA County management to privatize our good union jobs.”
4. Solidarity with the wave that is sweeping the U.S.A.
We will strike as part of Generation U’s larger struggle for better wages and the right of workers to organize throughout the country. As workers at Amazon and Starbucks realize that unionizing results in worker protection and higher wages, these workplace struggles are intensifying.
Existing union members need to support this struggle by echoing it within our own unions. We also need to increase our membership to reach the non-unionized. We must also join these workers in solidarity and march for their rights.
It is time for union workers now to take action and fight for our rights. All workers will benefit if we win all of our demands. The first step is VOTING YES!
We are ready! Ready to Fight! Ready to Strike! Ready to Win See you at the picket lines!