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South San Francisco city workers win big after voting to strike

Photo By: City of South San Francisco
By AFSCME Staff ·

In the end, AFSCME members who keep the city of South San Francisco running did not have to go on strike to get a fair contract. Just the threat of one was enough to bring city officials to negotiate one of the best public sector contracts in the Bay Area.

More than 100 members have a new contract with the city, with 96% of members voting to ratify the agreement last month. Following the city council’s approval of the contract, the pay raises included in the new contract began showing up in the workers’ pay checks issued Nov. 4.

Facing rising inflation in one of the country’s most expensive areas, members of AFSCME Local 829 (Council 57) were frustrated with the city’s initial refusal to raise wages. According to the city’s own surveys, city employees in South San Francisco were making 12% less on average than their counterparts in other nearby Bay Area cities.

More than 95% of members signed commitments back in August to go on strike if necessary. AFSCME members run a number of essential city services, including libraries, 911 call centers, preschools, and other facilities.

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Photo By: City of South San Francisco

The new contract secures needed pay raises for city employees, with wages increasing 11% to 15% over two years. It provides additional improvements, including firing only for just cause, progressive discipline policies and non-discrimination protections, as well as professional development stipends, incentive pay for skills-based certifications, and night shift differential pay, among others.

Collectively, the wage and benefit increases represent one of the largest investments ever in the employees who keep South San Francisco running, according to the city’s press announcement.

“With the rise of inflation, a livable wage has become a necessity. Many of us can’t afford to live in the city where we work,” said Kristin Pierotti, an AFSCME-represented preschool teacher. “This historic pay increase will help South City retain and attract the best preschool teachers, 911 dispatchers and other essential workers we all rely on to make South City a great place to live.”

AFSCME’s contract victory comes after Local 829 negotiated a major win on COVID and hazard pay in June, which secured a one-time payment of $4,800 for members – the second-highest amount of premium pay negotiated on the San Francisco Peninsula, paid in part through American Rescue Plan funds.

By exercising their collective strength, AFSCME members helped elevate pay and benefits for members of other unions as well. After AFSCME members reached an agreement with the city, the city retroactively raised both cost-of-living adjustments and premium pay totals for the other unions that had previously settled their contracts.

AFSCME members’ political engagement and outreach, in addition to their vote to strike, was also critical to getting the support of Mayor Mark Nagales and Councilmembers Eddie Flores and James Coleman.

“Without the support of Mayor Nagales and Councilmembers Flores and Coleman, AFSCME’s strike may not have been averted and would have negatively impacted South City residents,” said Rod Palmquist, Local 829’s lead negotiator. “AFSCME is especially grateful for their support.”

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