Tenderloin Housing Clinic workers gathered outside Department of Homelessness and Supportive Services offices. Photo by Will Jarrett.

Some 300 workers from the Tenderloin Housing Clinic are on strike today, demanding an increase in wages.

“No contract, no peace,” the crowd shouted outside the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Services offices along Turk Street this morning. After eight months of contract negotiations, many said they felt “pushed” to strike because of a lack of clarity around pay raises.

The Tenderloin Housing Clinic is a property management nonprofit that maintains approximately 2,000 affordable units throughout 24 buildings in the city, mainly for formerly homeless tenants. It maintains five in the Mission, including San Francisco’s largest SRO, Mission Hotel. The nonprofit received more than $33 million in city funding last fiscal year to provide housing for some of the city’s hardest-up denizens, and to provide services such as case management.

Currently, job listings on the clinic’s website put the hourly pay for desk clerks and janitors at $17.34 (around $36,067 annually), and $20.92 for (around $43,514 annually) case workers. Minimum wage in San Francisco is $16.99 (around $33,980 annually).

Andria Blackmon, a case worker for the nonprofit, said that she wanted a return to the wages seen from July, 2020, to March, 2021, when every employee got an extra $5 per hour in Covid-19 hazard pay. Blackmon, who has had four supervisors during her two-and-a-half years in the job, said that an increase would help ensure good services for tenants, improve workers’ quality of life, and reduce turnover.

“We’re really struggling. You know, we’re borrowing money from each other, we’re giving each other rides,” said Blackmon. “We just seem to always end up short.”

Andria Blackmon at the Tenderloin Housing Clinic rally. Photo by Will Jarrett.

Emmanuel White, a desk clerk, said that wages were currently too low, considering how hard it is to deal with problematic tenants and given the qualifications workers brought to their roles.

“You’ve got a case manager making $20 an hour, with a degree, but you’ve got people at McDonald’s making maybe $18 an hour with no degree,” said White. “Yeah, that just don’t seem right.”

According to Indeed.com, the typical salary for a case manager in San Francisco is $25.43 per hour, significantly higher than the nonprofit’s case workers.

Emmanuel White protesting outside the Housing Authority offices. Photo by Will Jarrett.

The lion’s share of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic’s funding comes from the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. Randy Shaw, founder and executive director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, said that he agrees that his workers should have an across-the-board pay raise, but that raises are dependent on the funding received from the department.

“This has all come down to what the department decides,” said Shaw. He added that the $5 per hour wage increase had not been discussed at prior negotiations, but that he had advocated for the supportive housing department to nail down their proposed wage rises as soon as possible, and to make them as high as possible.

The latest proposals would see desk clerks paid $19 to $21 per hour, janitors paid $20 to $22 per hour, and case workers paid somewhere between $25 and $28 per hour. The new ranges for some jobs, such as those involved in transitional housing, have not yet been clarified, leading to worries that some workers might be left behind in negotiations.

Evan Oravec, a community organizer for the Tenderloin Housing Clinic and SEIU 1021 chapter president, said that anything less than locking in the upper limits of these ranges would be “disrespectful and show that they’re not taking this problem seriously.”

Evan Oravec speaks to the crowd. Photo by Will Jarrett.

“The system, with our pay as low as it is, is falling apart,” said Oravec. “With inflation as high as it is, you’re seeing high turnover rates, high job vacancy rates, burnout. It’s very common for workers to have multiple jobs, and to commute from as far out as Antioch or Sacramento.”

“We voted to strike in May, and we were really hoping that that would send a signal to the city and the Tenderloin Housing Clinic that we need real change,” he added. “But unfortunately, we’ve reached this point.”

In May, workers voted 99 percent to authorize their SEIU 1021-affiliated bargaining team to call for a strike if progress was not made.

Some workers at today’s rally felt that the Tenderloin Housing Clinic management had not advocated strongly enough for wage increases. Blackmon noted that despite Shaw saying they should work together to get more money from the city, he had been absent from the Budget Committee hearing attended by the union: “It just seemed like empty words.”

In a press release, SEIU 1021 spokesman Andrew Baker said that the Tenderloin Housing Clinic management put forward “a number of proposals aimed at undermining their employees’ union rather than addressing workplace issues” at the start of negotiations. Those proposals, since dropped, would have meant less union involvement in disciplinary matters and would have made “insubordination” an immediately fireable offense.

After rallying at Turk Street, workers marched on to City Hall. Many seemed cautiously optimistic that higher wages will be secured by the union, but worried that a slight rise might not have much of an impact.

“I think that the reality that people in this building sometimes miss,” said District 5 Supervisor (and ex-Tenderloin Housing Clinic tenant defense lawyer) Dean Preston, motioning towards City Hall, “is that you are one paycheck away from being in the same position as the clients and the people you are fighting every day to help.”

“That’s unconscionable.”

District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston speaking to the Tenderloin Housing Clinic workers.
Striking workers on the steps of City Hall. Photo by Will Jarrett.

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DATA REPORTER. Will was born in the UK and studied English at Oxford University. After a few years in publishing, he absconded to the USA where he studied data journalism in New York. Will has strong views on healthcare, the environment, and the Oxford comma.

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    The Crown hotel 528 Valencia st st 16 I’m is in room 205 the landlord is sleeping with you tonight sleeping with the tenants Renee and not have been doing yet because that is wrong when need to do something assp please please

  2. Randy Shaw, Raquel Fox et al. – the missionaries. They came to do good and they did very, very well. (as both live in muti-million $ homes, all is well)

  3. Being a case worker in this situation is a hard job and requires some skills and education. It should pay at least a somewhat livable wage! $25/hour is the least we can do here.

  4. Is it wise to encumber the Tenderloin Housing Clinic with more contracts to fill when they can’t manage their current staff? It is time to talk to the residents about the conditions in the supportive housing about how they are being supported to determine which of the many contractors is doing the best job. If service personnel are upset how well are they performing their jobs? We should ask the tenants they are charged with supporting. They know more than anyone else how well the supportive systems work.

  5. How unconscionable are the use of funds to expand Tenderloin Housing Clinic capital projects when they cannot meet the demands of their employees now? Who is prioritizing their budget? In inflationary times what is more important than supporting one’s employees?

  6. Folks follow the money. Their budget last fiscal year was $33 million dollars. How do they get away with paying employees a few pennies over San Francisco minimum wage? Get a private accountanting firm to do an audit of their books to see where it is all going. These employees would make more money staying home. Why go to work and risk getting accosted while someone has their ass in cream.
    Mismanagement of tax payer funds. Follow the money.

  7. Fire a few consultants and stop paying indicted former city employees and redirect the funds to these people!

  8. The SF Housing Authority is located at 1815 Egbert Avenue which is in the Bayview District. Where the protestors were protesting was the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Services which is ran by the City. I am all for better wages, working conditions and having SEIU going after Randy Shaw but the protestors also blocked access to the Senior and Disabled folks who live in the apartments above where the offices are located. I know since I live above the offices and was blocked this afternoon while leaving the building to go grocery shopping.

    1. I am trying to imagine a group of workers who have less leverage than SRO janitors and I cannot come up with one.

      I think Randy will be feeling very relaxed about this in his multi-million dollar East Bay mansion.