Local 21 Unanimously Votes to Hire New Executive Director Debra Grabelle at Special Delegate Assembly

Plus: Real Talk on How Well Local 21 is Doing in the Janus v. AFSCME Fight!

On Saturday, March 24, 2018, more than 100 Local 21 Delegates from across Local 21 gathered for a special Delegate Assembly to vote on the new Executive Director for Local 21. Click here for photos from the Delegate Assembly.

There wasn’t a single dissenting vote on Saturday as leaders from almost every chapter in the union voted to confirm the Executive Committee’s recommendation to hire Debra Grabelle as the new Local 21 Executive Director.  Debra, with more than 25 years of union experience, starts her employment on Monday, April 2, 2018 (see below for more information about Debra).  All the Local 21 officers, members, and staff are excited to work with her, and are extending her a warm welcome.  She will shadow outgoing Executive Director Bob Muscat for a month and fully assume the Executive Director position on May 1, 2018. 

Ms. Grabelle addressed the assembly with a heartfelt speech. She touched on many issues, elaborating on the need to make sure our member base is secure and covered by strong contracts, the power of having a clear and hopeful vision of the future, and how important it is for the labor movement to engage with larger issues that impact our communities. In these political times, it is necessary to connect the interests of workers with those of the public.

Delegates also got an update on the important Janus v. AFSCME fight. Local 21’s Research Department did a presentation on the billionaires behind the attacks on public workers and our pensions, how low union membership affects workers and our pay and benefits, and highlighted some of the threats we were able to fight off at the bargaining table. 

Then the discussion moved on to some real talk about where Local 21 is on our campaign to protect ourselves against the impending Janus v. AFSCME case. For a refresher what Janus v. AFSCME will mean for Local 21 members, visit our Janus webpage here.

Local 21 is at about 40% of where we should be in our Cards and Conversations campaign for March. If we want to be on track to have a strong majority of committed dues-paying members when Janus v. AFSCME hits, we need to start talking to our coworkers, getting them to understand the importance of our union, and collecting more Gold Cards.

CCSF Transportation Planner Danielle Harris spoke to fellow Delegates and asked whether our numbers were good enough to fight off the next pension attack. “I understand that everyone is busy; we have work, we have to put food on the table, and everything else that happens in life. But if we don’t collectively understand our reality, we are all going to be hurt. This was the moment to stand up and pitch in by becoming a Volunteer Organizer.  This is OUR union. It’s up to US to make sure that we understand what happening, and it’s up to US to keep our union strong.”

Ted Lam, a Maintenance Superintendent from East Bay Municipal Utility District, provided tips to Delegates on how to have more effective conversations about the Gold Card and recommitting to our union.  He advised fellow Volunteer Organizers (VOTs) to find influencers and friends in the office and mobilize them to help with these conversations about our union, to practice good listening to engage with our coworkers, and to make it a fun community building opportunity. Getting to know colleagues can be rewarding; scheduling after-hours events and relaxing with fellow union members can both be fun and a great way to connect about the importance of supporting our union.

Interested in becoming a Volunteer Organizing Team member and helping to get our numbers strong? Contact Evan McLaughlin at  emclaughlin@ifpte21.org     

Worried about Janus v. AFSCME? Do your part to keep our union strong and make sure you sign a Gold Card today!


Debra has been a leader in the California labor movement for the past 25 years. Most recently she served as the Northern California Director for Collective Bargaining for the California Nurses Association. In this capacity, she oversaw CNA's collective bargaining program for 50,000 nurses at the University of California, Kaiser Permanente, Sutter Health, and over a dozen public hospitals.  She developed CNA’s comprehensive program to prepare 20,000 public sector nurses in California for “right to work.”  The centerpiece of the program was a successful leadership recruitment and training program that resulted in significant increase in union leaders and membership. In 2014, Debra led the successful negotiations for 17,000 Kaiser Permanente nurses which resulted in significant economic gains and the retention of their pension plan. To achieve this victory, Kaiser nurses went on strike for the first time in 15 years.

In 2007, Debra served as the Chief Negotiator for AFSCME 3299 and led bargaining for 18,000 patient care and service workers at the University of California. After a historic contract campaign, AFSCME members achieved a statewide minimum wage of $15/hour, the first-ever step pay system, and improvements to their health and retirement benefits.

Ms. Grabelle was also a member of IFPTE Local 21 when she worked at the City and County of San Francisco as a Contract Compliance Officer.  She is committed to continuing to build and strengthen IFPTE Local 21, working with our elected leaders and staff to advocate for our membership and protect vital public services for our communities.