Tenderloin Housing Clinic workers strike, demand living wage

Some 300 workers from the Net Housing Clinic are on strike today to demand a wage increase.

‘No deal, no peace,’ shouted the crowd outside the offices of the Department of Homelessness and Support Services along Turk Street this morning. After eight months of contract negotiations, many said they felt “pressured” to strike due to a lack of clarity over pay rises.

The Tenderloin Housing Clinic is a nonprofit property management organization that manages approximately 2,000 affordable housing units in 24 buildings across the city, primarily for former homeless tenants. He maintains five in the mission, including the largest SRO in San Francisco, Hotel des Missions. The nonprofit received more than $33 million in city funding last year to provide housing for some of the city’s most difficult residents and to provide services such as case management.

Currently, Jobs on the clinic’s website, the hourly wage for office clerks and janitors was $17.34 (about $36,067 per year) and $20.92 for social workers (about $43,514 per year) . The minimum wage in San Francisco is $16.99 (about $33,980 per year).

Andria Blackmon, a social worker for the nonprofit, said she wanted a return to salaries seen from July 2020 to March 2021, when each employee received an additional $5 per hour in Covid-19 risk pay. . Blackmon, who had four supervisors in her two-and-a-half years on the job, said a raise would help ensure good tenant services, improve workers’ quality of life and reduce turnover.

“We are really struggling. You know, we borrow money from each other, we ride each other,” Blackmon said. “We just always seem to end up short.”

Andria Blackmon at the Tenderloin Housing Clinic gathering. Photo by Will Jarrett.

Emmanuel White, an office worker, said salaries were currently too low, given the difficulty of dealing with problematic tenants and given the qualifications workers brought to their jobs.

“You have a case manager making $20 an hour, with a degree, but you have people at McDonald’s making maybe $18 an hour without a degree,” White said. “Yeah, that doesn’t seem fair.”

According Indeed.comthe typical salary for a case manager in San Francisco is $25.43 an hour, significantly more than that of the association’s caseworkers.

Emmanuel White protesting outside the Housing Authority offices. Photo by Will Jarrett.

The lion’s share of funding for the Tenderloin Housing Clinic comes from the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. Randy Shaw, founder and executive director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, said he agrees his workers should get an overall pay raise, but those raises depend on funding received from the department.

“It all depends on what the department decides,” Shaw said. He added that the $5-per-hour wage increase had not been discussed in previous negotiations, but that he had advocated for the Supportive Housing Department to fix its proposed wage increases as soon as possible and make them as high as possible.

The latest proposals would see office clerks paid $19 to $21 an hour, janitors paid $20 to $22 an hour and social workers paid between $25 and $28 an hour. New ranges for some jobs, such as those involved in transitional housing, have yet to be clarified, raising concerns that some workers could be left behind in negotiations.

Evan Oravec, community organizer at the Tenderloin Housing Clinic and SEIU 1021 chapter president, said anything less than locking down the upper limits of these ranges would be “disrespectful and shows that they don’t take this issue seriously.”

Evan Oravec speaks to the crowd. Photo by Will Jarrett.

“The system, with our salary as low as it is, is collapsing,” Oravec said. “With inflation this high, you see high turnover rates, high vacancy rates, burnout. It is very common for workers to have multiple jobs and commute from as far away as Antioch or Sacramento.

“We voted to strike in May, and we really hoped that would send a signal to the city and the Tenderloin Housing Clinic that we needed real change,” he added. “But unfortunately we have reached this point.”

In May, workers voted 99% to allow their SEIU 1021-affiliated bargaining team to call a strike if no progress was made.

Some workers at today’s rally felt that management at the Tenderloin Housing Clinic had not advocated enough for pay rises. Blackmon noted that although Shaw said they should work together to get more money from the city, he was absent from the budget committee hearing attended by the union: “It felt like empty words of meaning.”

In a press release, SEIU 1021 spokesman Andrew Baker said that management at the Tenderloin Housing Clinic had put forward “a number of proposals aimed at undermining their employees’ union rather than addressing the issues by workplace” at the start of negotiations. These proposals, since dropped, would have meant less union involvement in disciplinary cases and would have made “insubordination” an immediately dismissable offence.

After gathering at Turk Street, the workers marched to City Hall. Many seemed cautiously optimistic that the union would secure higher wages, but feared that a slight increase would not have much impact.

“I think the reality that people in this building sometimes miss,” said Dean Preston, District 5 Supervisor (and former tenant defense attorney for the Tenderloin Housing Clinic), waving at City Hall , “is that you are one paycheck away from being in the same position as the customers and people you fight for every day.

“It is unacceptable.”

District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston speaking to workers at the Tenderloin Housing Clinic.
Striking workers on the steps of City Hall. Photo by Will Jarrett.

Michael A. Bynum