Susan Chan: Champion for Schools and for Local 21 at the San Francisco Unified School District


Susan Chan works at the San Francisco Unified School District, where she purchases instruction materials like textbooks for our schools. Without careful management of these resources, our classrooms wouldn’t have the supplies they need for educating young people in our city. Susan is also a union leader in her chapter and takes keeping our union strong through high membership numbers very seriously. She says that the SFUSD chapter needs to stand up for itself because the school district keeps losing workers to the City and County of San Francisco, where wages are higher, and workers often wear fewer hats. Having a chapter with high membership numbers is the best way to build strength and show the employer that workers must be respected. “We are a small group. If all of us don’t come together, we won’t have the power in our negotiations. When we appear in front of the Board, they can’t just see a few of us, they need to see all of us standing together,” says Susan. She points to victories the chapter has had, including a major win in getting multiple positions converted from exempt to permanent civil service jobs with full protections.


The SFUSD chapter has a 95% membership rate, but nothing less than 100% will satisfy Susan. She schedules New Employee Orientations (NEOs) with each new employee of her chapter to talk to them about the union and answer any questions they have. She tells them, “We are here for you. You are not alone when you are part of a union. We will make sure you get all your rights.” Then she asks new employees to become members and to stand with their co-workers. If a new member is unsure, she schedules as many follow ups as it takes. Susan says that most new employees join our union when they realize that all their co-workers are members too.


Advice for members who are stepping up to make sure their own chapters are strong? Susan says that you should talk to every new employee as soon as possible and not be hesitant to follow up multiple times. She also says that if you are nervous starting out, take someone with you for your first conversations! The advantage of being part of a union is that you always have support.


Kudos to Susan and the SFUSD chapter for all their hard work!