SEIU Organizer on Doomed Campaign: 'What Else Could We Do?'

Categories: Labor, Politics
The other day we wondered just what the SEIU was thinking in running a large, highly visible, public campaign to stave off layoffs -- when the one and only person who could prevent them, Mayor Gavin Newsom, was already quite firm in his position. And he and the SEIU -- well, they're not seeing eye to eye.

SEIU organizer Robert Haaland wasn't able to get back to us right away -- he was leading a troupe of laid-off workers to offer testimonials to Newsom (ah, well, Newsom's adviser Mike Farrah). But get back to us he did, and he concurred with some of our suppositions.

In a way, the SEIU's highly public campaign was a bit like a baseball manager running on the field to argue a close play at first. There's no way that call is getting reversed. But the incident may alter the way the game is called from that point on. Getting back to politics, the SEIU convinced eight supervisors -- and, ostensibly, a number of city residents -- that laying off union workers is detrimental to the Healthy San Francisco program. Time will tell if the union has succeeded in planting that seed in city residents' minds. But when more layoffs come down the pike -- and they will -- it may give the SEIU a bit of legislative leverage.

But as for saving the current workers' jobs -- this seemed to be doomed from the start. No public campaign was going to move Newsom to spend city money to save SEIU jobs.

"Maybe it was a fool's hope," admitted Haaland. "But what else could we do? Just roll over?"

Sure, Haaland said Newsom's representatives told him to his face they wouldn't spend any city money to save SEIU jobs -- no matter what, even if the city struck the Powerball lottery. And, yes, Newsom's rancor at the SEIU seems to be matched only by his rancor for the press. And -- boy how many ways can we put this? Newsom wasn't going to spend the money!

"Moving this legislation was like moving a boulder up a mountain. And certainly no one thought we'd get where we got with eight votes," said Haaland. "I was repeatedly told we wouldnt' get eight votes. And then we did. Maybe it's fair to say we'd never move the mayor. It doesn't mean we don't try."

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