Local 21 Oakland members were all over the news earlier this month from a historic 7-day strike lasting from December 5-11. This was the longest strike in recent Local 21 history.
Local 21 was in sympathy strike with SEIU 1021, who was also at the bargaining table with the City of Oakland. SEIU 1021 and Local 21 represent about 3,000 Oakland city workers. SEIU 1021 called the strike over the City’s multiple Unfair Labor Practices.
Local 21 and SEIU 1021 had been working for 6 months with an expired contract. When we went on sympathy strike, the City of Oakland had offered Local 21 members 2% the first year, and 2% the second year. The City’s original starting offer was 0% raises.
Before the strike even started, former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown had offered his services to informally mediate the situation. On Monday, December 4, it was proposed that the City and Labor accept his offer to mediate the dispute and try to avoid the strike. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf declined the offer. Rumor has it that Mayor Schaaf was embarrassed that another former Mayor would have to come to Oakland and clean up her mess.
On the first day of the strike, instead of coming to the table, Mayor Libby Schaaf hosted a $1,600 a plate fundraiser to kick off her re-election campaign. On the second day of the strike, she smeared city employees as greedy and irresponsible while lying about how much money was available in the Oakland Budget. On the third day of the strike, she had told the media that to give Oakland workers what they deserve, she’d have to “eliminate 188 people.” By the fourth day, she was threatening to replace workers who were out on strike.
Despite all the Mayor’s union-busting tactics and threats, Local 21 members stayed strong through all 7 days.
And her actions didn’t go unnoted; on the second day of the strike, the Alameda Labor Council sent a scathing letter to Mayor Libby Schaaf expressing support for the striking Oakland workers, while letting her know that the anti-union activity she is engaging in has lost her any favor she had with them.
The letter read:
“If this is your political belief- that good government means you squeeze all you can from your workforce at the cheapest price- you don’t deserve consideration for any kind of support from our Labor Council. We have a long memory; the losses to our union members if you succeed with your attempt to short them will impact them every year of service going forward. They won’t forget and neither will we.”
On the third day, the California Labor council sent also sent Mayor Libby Schaaf a letter:
“At a time when anti-union forces are seeking to weaken the labor movement at every turn, I can assure you that we will not tolerate this kind of anti-worker bias in our own backyard. Your continued refusal to treat the City of Oakland’s workers with respect is completely unacceptable. We support elected officials who stand up for working people. We devote tremendous energy and resources to defeating those who don’t.”
We are extraordinarily proud of all Local 21 members who walked the picket lines, refused to cross the lines, and organized their coworkers. The pressure members built through the strike forced the City to move on several key issues, including wages. You can read more details about the strike here.
Members really shone through the seven-day strike; Ali Schwarz missed her daughter’s birthday to be on the picket line, and with the help of Nicole Ferrera, placed an op-ed in the East Bay Express offering an Oakland striker’s side of the story.
Members like Cookie Robles-Wong, Sylvia San Miguel, Calvin Hao, Waliana Dieu, Renee Sykes, Laura Takeshita, Kenny Ip, Helena Wong, Jasmine Chan and others, became bona- fide spokespersons and spoke eloquently about our cause to the media.
Mike Munson brought his smoker and home-made BBQ that he fed to his fellow strikers out of his pick-up truck during the strike.
Members like Gerald Bradley missed out on stand-by pay during the holidays, while countless others spent long hours on the picket line chanting, only seeing loved ones and family for a few short hours before showing up the next day as early as 5:30am to keep the picket line going strong.
Andrea Turner passed out from dehydration after her third day on the picket line; she was carried away in a stretcher chanting “Fight the power!” and came back to the picket line the very next day.
Tony Daquipa, our music captain, led other musically inclined members in keeping the picket lines lively with percussion and lively beats.
Bargaining Team members met late into the night and during the weekend to make decisions in reaction to fast-paced developments.
Local 21 members Simon Russell, Emilio Meno, and Rafael Mandelman participated in a civil disobedience action and risked arrest; an hour before they sat on the intersection of 14th and Broadway, they were in a Local 21 van with Local 21 staff ferociously scribbling phone numbers on their arms to call if they landed in jail.
It was a tough seven days, but Local 21 members have proven ourselves to be stronger than we ever thought, more resilient than we’ve ever been, and more united than the Mayor of Oakland ever thought we could be.