Oakland City Workers, Community Organizations Protest to Expose Severe Understaffing

Bernie Sanders Lends Support to City Workers, Says 600 Vacancies Not Acceptable 

For immediate distribution
Sept. 24, 2019

Contact: Jennifer Li

Oakland, CA – On Wednesday, September 25, hundreds of Oakland city workers, and community leaders will hold an informational picket and rally to demand that the City Administration address alarming staff vacancy rates in city departments and take action to improve the retention of city staff in the face of starved city services. 

This month, Senator Bernie Sanders, 2020 U.S. Presidential Candidate, in a tweet offered his support behind the City of Oakland Workers fight to fill hundreds of vacant city positions: “I stand with the 3,000 SEIU 1021 and IFPTE 21 public servants fighting to provide quality city services to the residents of Oakland. It’s unacceptable that 600 positions are currently unfilled.”

IFPTE Local 21 and SEIU 1021, the labor unions that represent more than 3,000 City of Oakland workers, and community leaders will expose the severe understaffing affecting Oakland residents at a noon event at 14th and Broadway in downtown Oakland. 

The event marks the almost nine months into the 2019 collective bargaining fight between the City of Oakland and nearly 3,000 of its employees represented by SEIU 1021 and IFPTE Local 21—including engineers, librarians, planners, transportation and public works staff, street paving and cleaning crews, 911 dispatchers, neighborhood service coordinators, housing services staff, and Head Start program coordinators. Both unions’ contract expired on June 30, 2019 after City Administration failed to reach an agreement.

 Who:  Hundreds of City Workers represented by SEIU 1021 and IFPTE Local 21, Oakland Education Association, East Bay Housing Organizations, ACCE, UNITE HERE Local 2850, Alameda Labor Council, East Oakland Collective, Causa Justa/Just Cause, EBASE, Oakland Rising, Oakland Tenants Union, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists

When: Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019, 12pm-1pm

Where:  14th St. and Broadway in Downtown Oakland


After months of aggressive union-busting tactics from the Oakland City Administration, and years of understaffing, Oakland city workers are at a boiling point. The Mayor and City Administration have not shown a willingness to reach a fair contract that addresses city workers’ core issues: the high cost of living in the Bay Area, chronic understaffing that endangers vital city services, and the protection of key benefits and civil service rights.

The Oakland City Administration failed to reach an agreement before June 30, and Oakland city workers are currently working with an expired contract. Both IFPTE Local 21 and SEIU 1021 have filed Unfair Labor Practice charges against the City Administration for sending retaliatory emails threatening layoffs, and for prematurely declaring impasse in the middle of bargaining.

“We are ready to sit down with the City and reach a fair agreement that improves public services anytime,” said Felipe Cuevas, City of Oakland heavy equipment mechanic and SEIU 1021 Oakland Chapter President. “The only thing getting in the way is the City being unwilling.”

Oakland is facing a crisis. Our communities are being starved of city services.

“We’re severely understaffed, and have more than 600 vacant positions. That’s 600 people who are not filling Oakland’s potholes, preventing residents from getting evicted, paving streets, or helping our homeless population. We’re doing the work of 2 to 3 people, sometimes 4 or 5. And we’re underpaid. But we stay because we love Oakland,” said Cuevas.

“Civil service rules were created so our city isn’t riddled with nepotism, favoritism, and discrimination. They provide the basis for a professional, diverse workforce by ensuring hiring and promotions are based on merit rather than who you know.  But this City Administration, they’re trying to gentrify not just our neighborhoods, but also our city’s workforce by trying to weaken these important civil service protections.” said Anthony Reese, a City of Oakland real estate agent and Oakland Vice-President of IFPTE 21.

At a time when we are facing a housing and homelessness crisis, per the City’s most recent staffing report from April 2019, our Housing and Community Development Department is nearly 23% understaffed. Our streets need fixing, and our Transportation Department is 24% understaffed. Our roads are riddled with potholes, and our Public Works Department is almost 19% understaffed. (Semi-Annual Staffing Report, City of Oakland, April 22, 2019)

Oakland city workers are constantly doing the jobs of 2 or 3 people, and their colleagues are constantly leaving for other jurisdictions, where the workload is more reasonable and the pay is better. These jurisdictions go beyond San Francisco; smaller jurisdictions like San Leandro, Concord, and Berkeley typically pay better than the City of Oakland.


SEIU 1021 represents over 60,000 employees in local governments, schools, non-profit agencies, health care programs and special districts throughout Northern California, including more than 2,000 City of Oakland workers.

IFPTE Local 21 represents more than 10,000 public workers in the Bay Area, including nearly 1,000 employees of the City of Oakland. Local 21 represents professional and technical employees such as architects, engineers, scientists, and planners.