Sewage oozed through ceilings and dripped down walls at the San Francisco Hall of Justice on January 3rd, forcing employees to vacate the building while trying to save files and other belongings. The mess formed puddles in the hallways and the smell permeated throughout the 3 floors that were affected by the problem.
This is not the first time employees have had to deal with fecal matter on the job. Workers have complained about the same problem for many years, and while some steps have been taken to address the issue, they have clearly not been successful. In addition to other sewage incidents over the years, the building has rodent problems and is considered seismically unsafe. Yet there are no plans to move employees and inmates to a safer facility.
Local 21, along with MAA and MEA, filed OSHA complaints after the incident and there is an ongoing investigation in the works. While the long-term goal is obviously to get the employees in the Hall relocated, there are a number of factors involved in achieving that goal and it will take time.
In the short term, the unions are attempting to put pressure on the Department of Real Estate to move forward with the cleanup of the current incident. It is our understanding a contractor was chosen and a bid was provided, yet no work has begun. We want the Department of Real Estate to develop a procedure to deal with incidents like this. The procedure should involve an initial assessment in a timely manner, and based on that assessment, an outside vendor should be engaged to address the problem whenever it is beyond the capacity of the Department’s janitorial team.
Local 21 is currently in the process of organizing a multi-union meeting to discuss and develop further plans to address the health and safety issues at the Hall both in the short term and long term. We would like to bring more attention to the issue in the following months, so that the proper steps are taken to provide a reasonable and safe space for employees.