Will Mayor Ed Lee Cave to Labor Over 'Bumping' Rights?

Categories: Politics

One bump sometimes leads to another
On Monday afternoon, labor organizers planned to pack a City Hall hearing room to protest Mayor Ed Lee's plans to eliminate the controversial practice of "bumping," which allows city workers who are laid off in one city department to displace lower-seniority workers in another.

Ending the practice, which is written into many city labor contracts, was a priority of former Mayor Gavin Newsom, who complained that it disrupted city services when people were parachuted into jobs they might not be qualified for.

But Lee just might cave and continue to allow the controversial practice. Sources say his office has backed down from banning it after word that labor unions would protest at a Civil Service Commission hearing this afternoon.

Newsom's proposal, a union flier warned, would "make a mockery of the few civil service rights we have left, and put all workers in jeopardy for widespread privatization. All the City's unions are opposing this outrageous reform proposal."
San Francisco's civil service rules say employees who are laid off to close budget gaps can automatically displace another city employee with less seniority in a similar job. Bumping has become a hot-button issue over the last three years owing to ongoing budget cuts and layoffs.

Those who have supported bumping rights say it's a hard-earned labor benefit that ensures the city can retain experienced workers with valuable skills.

But critics say it creates chaos and inefficiency. Once one employee is bumped, it can create a domino effect where numerous more are transfered into new positions.

In 2009, the San Francisco Unified School District sued the city over bumping, saying it had a negative impact on schools. In some cases, schools were getting underqualified clerical workers from other departments who had no experience with the city's education system.

"When people come to work for the District, they have specific interests and skills, as far as working with schools and educational related things," said Gentle Blythe, spokeswoman with SFUSD. "When you have bumping, it can sometimes create a situation where someone comes in without that kind of experience or interest."

A San Francisco judge threw out the SFUSD complaint last month, but Blythe said the school district is considering an appeal. Meanwhile, bumping critics were encouraged by a Dec. 10 memo from the mayor's human resource director, Micki Callahan, who ordered the department to prepare to scrap the policy.

Over the weekend, city labor unions urged their members to pack today's hearing. Although the proposal to eliminate bumping was up for discussion, the momentum among labor unions at City Hall seems to be shifting the narrative.

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