“We’re all here trying to make the world a better place.” Interview with Frances Hsieh

We sat down with Frances Hsieh (she/her), Vice President of Legislative and Political Action for Local 21, and asked her to share a little bit about the work that she does, along with her community involvement for our Union Pride Campaign launch.
The Union Pride Campaign is an effort intended to share some of the amazing work that our Local 21 members do every day. We are highlighting members from several Local 21 jurisdictions, along with a variety of different classifications and many of our members who continued to work tirelessly serving the public during the global pandemic.


What is your job title and how long have you been a member of Local 21?

Frances Hsieh: I am a Legislative Aide for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and I’ve been a member of Local 21 for my entire career for the City and County of San Francisco. This is my 17th year.

How does your work impact the public?

FH: I serve in a legislative policy capacity. We set the policy direction for the residents and help define who we want to be as a city, along with the values that we hold. A part of the work that I do involves pushing forth innovative laws, but it also includes improving existing laws like the Family-Friendly Ordinance, which allows people to request time off as needed.

My boss is elected at the local level and we are that first point of contact for most residents in the city. The district that I work for includes the Richmond District – we get calls from residents asking for resources when they need to trim a dying tree branch, to calls about a broken street light. We get inquiries about how folks can access city services, get a vaccine, and even questions about where to get vaccinated and tested.

How did your work in other Local 21 jobs in the City impact the public?

FH: Prior to this role, I worked in the Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs. My job was to help enforce the City’s Language Access Ordinance, which is the law that requires things to be printed in different languages for people with limited levels of English-proficiency or if they come into a public office or a public hearing and need a language interpreter.

There is a commonality for most jobs in the public sector, especially those that Local 21 members serve in. We’re all here trying to make the world a better place.

How does your family/upbringing impact your values?

FH: I was born and raised in San Francisco. I love this city and I think if you look around, there are a lot more people that have stayed for life for similar reasons. There are a lot of native San Franciscans that decry about how much the city has changed and what it used to be. But I don’t see it that way, I think it is a dynamic place that welcomes refugees and people of all walks of life, which is exactly why I love it.

I have different reasons why I love San Francisco compared to my parents who came here for more opportunity. It is an urban center that means different things to different people. I’ve raised my family here and I want my own kids to have that love for the city and what it represents and what it can be. I think that’s why so many people born and raised here go into public service. A couple years ago, my father passed away. His name was Francisco – I was named after him, as Frances. The city made such an impression on him that he chose that English name for himself when he came here as an adult and I only learned that during the eulogy. My parents passed on a love for this city and what it represents, and that is exactly what I want to pass down.

Do you volunteer with other organizations in addition to L21?

FH: I’m active with a local-level democratic club, as well as the CA Democratic Party, as well as the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club. I’m involved with the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA). I’m involved in a lot of the spaces where I feel like I can identify with others, in addition to labor. I’m also involved with an organization called Friends of Communities for Health Injustice, and they fight for environmental justice, affordable housing, and workers’ rights. So many of these organizations overlap either with my personal identity or things that I just really care about so it’s not really “work” – these are things that I really care about. Becoming active in Local 21 was just an extension of that.

Is there anything that surprised you about being a part of a union?

FH: I think what some people may not realize is that a union really represents the diversity that we have. People often think that a union represents one thing – this monolith of people called “labor,” but the workers are the union – the richness and diversity of it. We can make it whatever we want it to be and it shouldn’t just stop at our worksites, but every place that we’re at.

How can being in a union help workers during this unprecedented time?

FH: With COVID-19 broadening the disparities that already exist and shedding a light on the already-existing problems in regards to healthcare –  people who are members of unions saw where all those rights that we fought for really came into fruition. That’s only one piece…COVID-19 also showed us that there are disparities not only in healthcare, but also in housing, racial equity, and more. I was really proud of how our union stood up in solidarity in spaces that were exacerbated by the pandemic – in movements like Black Lives Matter, Stop AAPI Hate – the union was a safe place where we could do that.

Why are you proud to be a member of IFPTE Local 21?

FH: I’m constantly amazed by my fellow members. The work that we do and the work that we’ve done throughout the pandemic has been a great example of who we are. We have people who have been working everyday, nights, weekends – keeping our clinics open. We have members who ensure that people who do not have access to healthcare do, our health and safety people are out there inspecting workplaces and keeping communities safe, and we have healthcare workers and others helping keep the shelter-in-place hotels up and running, and so much more. A lot of this work is not work that they signed up to do when they first got hired, but the adaptability and commitment of our members is what makes me proud.

I am so proud to be a part of a union that is made up of committed individuals who constantly step up to serve the public.