SVR Commends SFMTA Decision to Include Labor Harmony for Commuter Shuttle Operators

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                Contact: Dianna Zamora Marroquin
November 17, 2015                                                                             408.606-2060

Today, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) voted to include labor harmony for workers employed by commuter shuttle operators in the city’s shuttle program. The commuter shuttle program, which allows private commuter shuttles use of public Muni stops, focuses on buses serving Silicon Valley’s high tech industry, including Apple, Google, Facebook, and others.

“Today’s vote to include labor harmony in the commuter shuttle program means that companies should commit to allowing drivers to organize without fear of retaliation,” said Ben Field, Executive Officer of the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council. “Labor harmony ensures that the drivers are treated with respect and the transportation system remains stable for thousands of daily commuters.”

The SFMTA will now consider the extent to which a company can ensure labor harmony in its operations when considering participants of the program. Under the labor harmony provision, non-compliance could lead to the revocation of a commuter shuttle company’s operating license.

“By voting to include labor harmony, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) showed that it cares about the treatment of the city’s shuttle bus drivers,” said Derecka Mehrens, Executive Director of Working Partnerships, USA.  “As the middle class continues to disappear and income inequality is at an all-time high SFMTA has demonstrated that they are dedicated to creating quality jobs that allow workers to fight for better wages, benefits and workplace conditions without fear of retaliation.”

Silicon Valley Rising (SVR), which was co-founded by the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council and Working Partnerships, USA, is a coordinated campaign driven by an unprecedented coalition of labor, faith leaders, community-based organizations and workers. SVR aspires to a new vision for Silicon Valley where all workers, their families and communities are valued.


Rene Santiago and Bob Brownstein: Set the bar high for Blue Mountain deal for Daughters’ hospitals

By Rene Santiago and Bob Brownstein
Special to the Mercury News

This week the attorney general will host public hearings on the latest proposed transaction for the troubled Daughters of Charity Health System. While the terms of the deal with New York hedge fund BlueMountain Capital differ from those of the thwarted Prime offer, the importance of protecting low-income patients from a possibly uncaring private firm remains a public interest and a community priority.

Absent conditions imposed by the state attorney general, there is no guarantee that the charitable elements of the original DCHS mission will be sustained. BlueMountain is an entity driven by the pursuit of profits. Under the proposed agreement, the DCHS hospitals, including San Jose’s O’Connor Hospital and Gilroy’s Saint Louise Regional Hospital, will initially be run as nonprofits under a separate management firm. But BlueMountain retains the option to buy the system and convert it into a for-profit operation as soon as three years after the deal is signed.

Without conditions imposed by the attorney general, will BlueMountain continue to serve Medi-Cal patients? Reducing the number of Medi-Cal providers places a significant burden on the remaining portions of the safety net, particularly as the number of Medi-Cal patients increases under the Affordable Care Act.

Attorney General Kamala Harris imposed a set of stringent conditions on the proposed Prime deal designed to protect the public interest and benefit safety-net constituencies. After reviewing the details of the current offer from BlueMountain, we believe the bar for that deal should also be set high. Specifically:

The terms of conditions must persist beyond BlueMountain’s option to buy. The BlueMountain proposal presents unusual complexities that warrant a term longer than the 10 years imposed on Prime. For example, if the term of conditions is 10 years, what happens if BlueMountain exercises its option 10 years and one day after the deal is closed? A for-profit firm would have replaced a nonprofit with no period of conditions to follow.

Protect low-income constituencies. The DCHS had a strong record of providing services to the poor, and the attorney general’s conditions should require that commitment with conditions that mandate:

  • The same level of charity care and community benefits as were provided under the DCHS;
  • A 24-hour emergency room with sufficient backup staff to serve the needs of low-income patients;
  • Contractual agreements with the Medi-Cal managed-care plans in the county (the Santa Clara Family Health Plan, Blue Cross, and the Valley Health Plan) under terms comparable to those negotiated by those plans with other similarly situated hospitals.

Establish effective local governance. The attorney general proposed a local review board in the conditions imposed on Prime — including a member appointed by the county board of supervisors and a member representing the community clinics. Similar conditions should be imposed on the BlueMountain proposal.

Provide protections for the safety net if the deal collapses. If BlueMountain decides not to exercise its option and simply walk away, the county should have a right of first refusal to purchase O’Connor and Saint Louise. The community should not have to endure another lengthy period without knowing whether critical health care facilities will be available.

Santa Clara County remains committed to protecting our most vulnerable populations. While the Daughters of Charity Health System will soon pass into local history, an active community determined to support safety-net institutions must ensure that its mission of compassion and service to the least among us endures.

René Santiago is deputy county executive for Santa Clara County. Bob Brownstein is director of policy and research at Working Partnerships, USA. They wrote this for this newspaper.




For Immediate Release
Friday, October 9, 2015

Dianna Zamora Marroquin,(SBLC) 408-606-2061,
Mayra Flores De Marcotte, (SJSV Chamber) 408-314-7021,

SAN JOSÉ, CALIF., October 9, 2015 – At its meeting today, the Santa Clara County Housing Task Force unanimously passed a resolution (found here) declaring the problem of homelessness to be a crisis, and calling on cities within Santa Clara County to pursue several specific strategies to fund affordable housing.  The unanimous vote is a striking achievement given the diverse organizations represented on the Task Force.  Both of the Task Force Co-Chairs—Matt Mahood, President and CEO of the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce, and Ben Field, Executive Officer of the South Bay Labor Council—joined together to support the resolution.

“The problem of homelessness has reached crisis proportions,” said Mahood.  “People are living in our creeks, along our freeways, and on our sidewalks.  This is a problem not just for homeless individuals, but for our entire community.”

Field added: “The high cost of housing is a tremendous financial burden for working people in Silicon Valley and is the main barrier to homeless individuals seeking permanent housing.  Today’s resolution calls on local government leaders to take a number of specific, concrete actions to address this problem.”

The resolution listed potential strategies to fund affordable housing development, including development of surplus public land, zoning incentives, impact fees, a revenue ballot measure, and inclusionary zoning.  It called on all cities within the County to evaluate and consider these strategies.

Many of the funding proposals included in the resolution were based on work done by Housing Trust Silicon Valley.  Kevin Zwick, Chief Executive Officer of the Housing Trust, sits on the Housing Task Force and voted in favor of the resolution.  “Funding for affordable housing development declined significantly after the dissolution of redevelopment agencies in California,” Zwick said.  “Identifying new local funding sources is critical to providing enough affordable homes to meet demand.”

The resolution also highlights the costs of homelessness to public agencies.  It points to the 2015 Home Not Found study (found here) which estimated that the cost of providing services to homeless residents, including services in the health care and criminal justice systems, averaged $520 million per year over the six-year study period, or $3.1 billion over the entire period.  By providing permanent affordable housing and moving the homeless off the streets, these costs can be dramatically reduced.

By calling on all cities within the County to pursue affordable housing funding, the resolution highlights the need for coordinated regional action on the problem.  Jason Baker, who serves as the Vice-Mayor of the City of Campbell and as the President of the Cities Association of Santa Clara County, represents the Cities Association on the Housing Task Force.  “Our hope is that all cities within the County will adopt this resolution and commit to pursuing additional affordable housing funding,” Baker said.  “The Cities Association is an excellent forum for us to promote a coordinated approach to this issue.”

The resolution was drafted by San Jose City Councilmember Donald Rocha, who was appointed by San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo to represent San Jose on the Housing Task Force.  Rocha commented: “Homelessness is a crisis both because of the great hardship our homeless residents suffer and because of the quality of life impacts it has on all of us who live in the County.  We need to take urgent action.”


About the Santa Clara County Housing Task Force

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors created the Housing Task Force in February of 2015 at the recommendation of Supervisor Dave Cortese. Its purpose is to identify solutions to the immediate housing needs of homeless families and individuals across Santa Clara County.

About the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce
The San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce is a nonprofit business association representing nearly 1,500 employers and 250,000 employees throughout the greater Silicon Valley. Its mission is to create a strong local economy, provide premier business connections and visibility, represent the interests of business to government, promote the community and initiate political and community action.

About the South Bay Labor Council
The South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council represents 94 unions and over 100,000 union members in Santa Clara and San Benito counties. For over 50 years the Labor Council has championed the cause of working families in the South Bay.





Union Night with the San Jose Barracuda

Join the Barracuda for Opening Night of their Inaugural Season at the SAP Center in San Jose with this Special Offer for all union members. This exclusive offer includes a discounted ticket to the game and a Barracuda hat.

WHEN: October 9th, 2015 at 7:30 pm

WHERE: SAP Center at San Jose

To reserve your seats today please contact Andrew O’Connor at 408-977-4749 or


Don Edwards, Defender of Civil Liberties

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                        Contact: Dianna Zamora Marroquin
September 2, 2014                                                                                      408.606.2061

America Mourns Loss of Civil Liberties Champion

The passing of former Congressman Don Edwards, a beloved friend and champion of equality, will leave a void in the lives of all who knew him.  Don dedicated his life to defending the rights of his fellow Americans both during his time as an intelligence officer in the Navy and throughout his tenure in Congress.

Don was a crusader for civil liberties and a true example of what one man with a steadfast moral compass can accomplish. He was a giant in the civil rights movement, fighting tirelessly for fundamental human rights, freedom from discrimination, and the fair treatment of women.  As the Chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil Liberties and Civil Rights for 23 years, he was not an unfamiliar face in the South. He spend countless hours marching, speaking and organizing to defend the Constitutional rights of all Americans. He was a key player in passing the historic Voting Rights Act of 1965, which opened the doors for many ostracized segments of the population to vote.

“I have often thought about Mr. Edwards and the example he set for me,” said Ben Field, Executive Officer of the South Bay Labor Council, who worked for Edwards from 1986-1988. “He helped win major progressive victories, yet his example often shined through routine events. Mr. Edwards was attentive, respectful, and gracious.  He had the ability to change the tone of a conversation, something that few politicians can manage. I will miss Mr. Edwards, but I will not forget all the lessons, big and small, that he taught me.”

Edwards, who has undeniably changed the course of American history, once said, “When I came to Congress, we didn’t have any civil rights to speak of that were worth anything.”  Today, we remember a man whose fierce desire to fight for justice and equality gave many people who were once marginalized, hope and opportunity.



Silicon Valley Leaders are Called to Disrupt Inequality

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                             Contact: Dianna Zamora Marroquin
September 22, 2015                                                                       408.606-2060

SANTA CLARA – Pope Francis is traveling the world to bring his message on income inequality, workers’ rights, migrant rights and overall economic justice.  Community, faith and labor groups are honoring Pope Francis’s arrival to the United States with a call to disrupt inequality.

Today,  Silicon Valley Rising, UNITE HERE and SEIU-USWW came together to demonstrate their support for the workers at the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara and Citrix who are fighting for quality jobs and fair treatment at the workplace. For seven years employees at the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara have been fighting for a fair process to organize. Citrix contracts their Security Officers from Universal Protection Service (UPS). UPS is one of the largest security contractors in the country, yet they provide low paying, part-time jobs that make economic instability a daily concern for their workers.

“It is shameful that multi-million dollar companies like Hyatt and UPS pay their employees poverty wages and deny them a voice on the job,” said Ben Field, Executive Officer of the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council. “Income inequality is a serious and growing problem for families in Silicon Valley and the action by Silicon Valley Rising, UNITE HERE and SEIU-USWW shows hard working individuals that we will continue to fight on their behalf for economic justice.”

“UPS continues to move me from site to site. Because my pay fluctuates between $12 and $15 an hour, I have trouble paying rent from month to month. My children and I are currently sharing one bedroom in an apartment with another family,” said Anai Garcia, Security Officer with Universal Protection Service (UPS).

“Suppressing workers’ voices disproportionately hurts Latinos, African Americans and women, most of whom make up the security guards, janitors and food service workers being denied their fundamental workplace rights,” said Derecka Mehrens, Executive Director of Working Partnerships USA. “Further marginalizing these groups creates a larger rift in the vast economic segregation these workers face.”

“The faith community takes its role in the fight against income inequality seriously. As people of faith, we are morally obligated to help those who are vulnerable, oppressed and voiceless,” said Father Jon Pedigo. “Hyatt and UPS should consider the impact that such low wages have on their workers’ families. It is unconscionable to deny those families just compensation.”

Silicon Valley Rising (SVR) is an unprecedented group of faith, labor and community leaders, led by the South Bay Labor Council and Working Partnerships USA, which has made corporate responsibility a priority. SVR and its partners have been at the forefront of highlighting this issue, gaining support from both the public and elected officials.



San Jose Calls for Minimum Wage Study to Raise the Wage to $15

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                   Contact: Maria Noel Fernandez
September 15, 2015                                                                             408-506-5875

SAN JOSE- Today, the San Jose City Council voted to approve a study on the impact an increased minimum wage to at least $15 would have on the City and formally expressed their commitment to be a part of the regional minimum wage effort.  In addition, the Council approved a memo introduced by Councilmembers Kalra, Peralez, Rocha, and T. Nguyen to include full consideration of the potential positive effects of raising the wage, ensure the adoption of a minimum wage increase with no exemptions remain a viable option, and include language that specifically states that there is no predetermined policy outcome in advance of the completion of the study.

“As the regional effort to increase the minimum wage continues to gain momentum, we are pleased that San Jose is addressing the issue and taking much-needed steps to raise the floor for its low wage workers. An accurate and comprehensive assessment of the benefits and consequences of a possible increase must be conducted in order to move forward with raising the wage,” said Ben Field, Executive Officer of the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council. “Silicon Valley Rising has been leading the way in increasing the wage throughout our region and today’s action by the City Council gives families in San Jose the hope that they will not be left behind.”

Silicon Valley Rising and its coalition of community, faith and labor leaders have been actively engaged in raising the minimum wage throughout Silicon Valley. Their efforts, and those of their partners, have resulted in Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Santa Clara raising their minimum wage and committing to Silicon Valley Rising’s goal of achieving a regional wage of $15 an hour.

“Today’s vote by the City Council shows that Silicon Valley Rising’s efforts to regionally raise the wage continue to motivate local cities to take care of their low wage workers,” said Derecka Mehrens, Executive Director of Working Partnerships USA. “The study will help us better understand the impacts, both positive and negative, to families being considered for exclusion and give us the information we need to increase the salary of every minimum wage earner in the region.”

“It is critical that we raise the minimum wage for all of the Valley’s workers. With the cost of living continuing to skyrocket, low wage workers are constantly struggling to pay rent, purchase groceries, or buy clothes. San Jose must give its workers the opportunity to earn a salary that lets them live quality lives and support their families,” said Chava Bustamante of Latinos United for A New America.


Sal Ventura: Labor movement is adapting to new realities

By Sal Ventura
Special to the Mercury News

On Labor Day we recognize the contributions organized labor has made to our society. Workplace rights that are considered basic today were fought for and won by unions. The minimum wage, eight-hour workday, prohibitions on child labor exploitation, worker safety protections and the right to organize are just a few of the victories workers achieved through union activism.

Today organized labor continues to fight for working families while at the same time building the middle class and promoting the economic health of our nation.

Yet despite our successes, organized labor faces an existential crisis today.

Union membership has dropped dramatically in many states. As a result, there is no organization left to represent working families and fight for the American dream in large parts of the country.

Even in Silicon Valley, where our labor movement wins significant victories such as the Children’s Health Initiative, the San Jose minimum wage and the living wage in San Jose and Santa Clara County, working families are hurting. One-third of the households in this county do not earn enough to be self-sufficient, and many live below the poverty line.

Organized labor needs to change. If we are going to continue to raise the floor for working families, we must innovate, and that is exactly what we are doing here in Silicon Valley.

Labor needs to adopt new approaches to organizing. We have learned that we must collaborate with like-minded community groups, and so we have joined with a wide range of neighborhood, civil rights and poverty relief activists, and faith leaders to launch a campaign called Silicon Valley Rising.

It has three primary goals:

  • To advance policies that raise wages and benefits for the working poor,
  • To create and preserve affordable housing, and
  • To hold high-tech companies accountable for the treatment of all their employees, including their contract workers.

Already Silicon Valley Rising has seen significant progress. The coalition has won minimum wage increases around the South Bay, persuaded several cities to set a goal of a $15 wage by 2018, and now has secured the San Jose City Council’s commitment to collaborate with us on a $15 wage in San Jose and regionally.

Policies to protect renters, such as a proposed ordinance to ban arbitrary and unfair evictions in San Jose, are a direct result of the work being done by Silicon Valley Rising. In addition, tech companies have responded to our protests against the unfair treatment of their contract workers by dumping low-road contractors and allowing some workers to decide without intimidation whether to join a union.

We in the Silicon Valley labor movement understand that our efforts must benefit all working families in the South Bay, not just union members. And our partners in Silicon Valley Rising recognize that organized labor is critical to a collaborative strategy that benefits the entire community.

Together we are taking the moral high road, calling for a more equitable economy, access to decent housing and corporate responsibility from our high-tech neighbors who are reaping vast profits by doing business here.

Our collaborative organizing approach is a model that can and must be replicated elsewhere. The labor movement needs to adapt to its changing environment if it is to continue to win victories for all workers.

The success of Silicon Valley Rising demonstrates that by uniting our voices and working as one, organized labor and our partners can continue to help working families achieved the American dream.

Sal Ventura is president of the South Bay Labor Council executive board and assistant business manager of IBEW Local 332. He wrote this for this newspaper.