(OAKLAND) To protest 2,611 vacant positions – nearly 25% of the entire County workforce – more than 100 Alameda County workers marched on the County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, March 14 at noon. The long-standing vacancy crisis and increased demands for public services is causing dangerous backlogs in critical departments including Children and Family Services, Aging and Adult Services, Welfare Benefits Administration, Child Support Services, Healthcare Service, Mental Health Services, and WIC (Women, Infants and Children).
The County workers have a simple demand to bring to the Board: “Staff up Alameda County!” They point to the County’s increasing population of people experiencing homelessness, which more than doubled between 2011 and 2022, according to the County’s own point-in-time count (from 4,178 in 2011 to 9,747 in 2022 (from Presentation to Alameda County Board of Supervisors Health Committee by Colleen Chawla, HCSA Director on Sept 12, 2022, item 1d), to increasing Medi-Cal enrollment, along with growing CalFresh and CalWORKS caseloads. Meanwhile, as the needs grow, the workforce is losing ground, with 2,611 vacant positions at last count and a Countywide vacancy rate that increased 49.9% from June 2020 to August 2022.
Pamela Boyle, an Auditor-Appraiser III with the County, said, “Five years ago, I took a pay cut to come work for the County in the Appraiser’s office. Our job is to assess property, and what that does is provide tax revenues for the people of Alameda County. Revenue for schools, parks, streetlights, social services, and food programs. We’ve been understaffed for three years. My team alone lost three of its most experienced auditors in the past year. What does that mean for the County, and for the services not being provided? Fewer child welfare visits. Fewer medical welfare visits. Less money for food security programs and summer camp programs. We need the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to get involved!”
Cynthia Landry, a longtime social worker for the County, told the Board, “I’m a Social Worker III for Alameda County Social Services, where I’m a frontline social worker, working with some of our County’s most vulnerable populations: the unhoused homeless adults and families, the general assistance safety-net population, who may have potential barriers to employment due to chronic homelessness, substance abuse, or physical health issues. I also work with our domestic violence victims to ensure their safety with safety planning and housing. I’m here today to call on the Board of Supervisors. We have a staffing crisis in this county. It’s impacting me, my co-workers, and the populations we serve. We need the Board of Supervisors to get involved and solve the recruitment and retention problems in Alameda County. Our community needs services badly.”
Bridget Mooney, a Vector Control Biologist, read from a letter signed by workers and community allies, saying, “The work County workers do for our community is vital and irreplaceable, and we have all seen the tragic cost of this understaffing crisis. The community members and County workers who have signed this letter are unanimous in calling on the County Board of Supervisors to listen to the community, address their needs, and solve this staffing crisis.”
Edward Vieira-Ducey, President of the Alameda County Prosecutors, represented by IBT 856, said, “We’re here united before you to ask you to properly staff Alameda County and to properly give fair wages to all its employees. I know each of you individually support the jobs we do. You all are dedicated public servants. I know you want to recognize the jobs we do. We walked in here underneath a banner outside that reads ‘Heroes work here.’ I have to tell you that the message at the bargaining table sure doesn’t feel like you care about the jobs that we all do. Please consider properly staffing Alameda County, because we’re going to start having, not more with less, which is what we have, but less with less.”
In a statement, Jane Brown, the President of the IFPTE Local 21 Alameda County Public Defenders Chapter, said, “Alameda County employees do the most with the least and continue to serve our most vulnerable. Alameda County employees are undisputedly a cut above the rest. It’s time for Alameda County to recognize this and fight for its employees the way we fight for the communities we serve!”
The action took place as billboards and bus ads appeared throughout Alameda County, calling attention to the staffing crisis and directing people to staffupalamedacounty.org.
The workers have been bargaining with the County for several months, and have taken constant actions, including multiple rallies across the county, including most recently on Presidents’ Day, Feb. 13, where hundreds of County workers and community members rallied at Lake Merritt before marching to the county administration building.
Images can be used with credit to SEIU Local 1021: