San Francisco police arrested 24 people Thursday evening during a protest outside of City Hall, attended by thousands of city workers amid contract negotiations with their employer.
The more than two-thousand city workers, backed by the Service Employees International Union 1021 and the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Local 21 among other unions, marched from City Hall to the nearby headquarters of ride sharing company Uber.
According to the workers, by keeping as many as 15 percent of city workers as temporary employees and failing to pay what they say are fair wages, the city is mirroring how ride-sharing companies like Uber use 'gig' workers -- workers who don't typically receive protections afforded to full-time employees.
Additionally, the city employees said big businesses like Uber, which are given tax breaks, don't pay enough taxes, further driving income inequality in the city.
"People need fair wages, people need benefits and we absolutely need big business in the city to pay its fair share in taxes," said Jennifer Esteen, a nurse at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and a SEIU 1021 member. "Right now we've got Uber and Lyft with their IPOs (Initial Public Offerings) and we've got huge valuations... and we still have homeless people, tent encampments and people who can't afford to live in this city, who work here every single day. Like myself, I've worked here for ten years and can't afford to live in this city," she said. "I just want to see this city continue to prosper.
"We all want the same thing: to be able to provide services for the people who live here in this city and people who visit this city and we just want to earn a living while we're doing it," she said.
Delivering a message to Mayor London Breed, Department of Public Health employee and SEIU 1021 member Michelle Pollard said, "We want the mayor to see that we're all out here, that we're in unison and solidarity with other unions, we have a lot of support, not just from union and labor but the community as well."
Pollard, involved in the contract negotiations, said currently the city and the unions are in the arbitration process.
"We've passed several proposals across the table for fair wages, to eliminate temporary workers and make them permanent and to stop discriminating against city workers and we're waiting to hear back," she said.
Last week, during a hearing at the supervisor's Government Audit and Oversight Committee, it was revealed that as much as 15 percent of the city's workforce is made up of temporary employees. Because of their status, union members said, those employees could be subjected to layoffs without warning and may be dissuaded from speaking out against harassment, discrimination and other types of misconduct.
After marching to Uber's headquarters during Thursday's protest, the large group returned to City Hall, blocking Market and Polk streets in the process.
Once at City Hall, 24 of the protesters participated in an act of civil disobedience to draw to attention to their cause by sitting in the middle of Polk Street, just outside of City Hall and refusing to move.
Officers arrested all the protesters and reportedly transferred them to the Police Department's Northern Station for processing. It was not immediately clear if the protesters were cited and released.