SEIU holds protest to increase the availability of union jobs in Bakersfield

Issy Barrientos, Reporter

The Bakersfield chapter of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) held a protest rally with Child Care and other unions on Feb. 26 to demonstrate their want for union jobs in the community.

Veronica Vasquez, a shop steward and the chapter president of the Kern County SEIU, was a speaker at the event. She has been a shop steward for five years and chapter president for 10 months. Vasquez’s job as a shop steward means that it is her job to represent those in her chapter, while her job as president means she educates and advocates for the workers and she holds meetings with other officers to discuss their agenda for the month. Vasquez has been part of a union in Bakersfield for 11 years but 15 overall, even during her internship she was unionized. As a union member she did not have to worry about protection, contract negotiations or retaliation unlike her non-union counterparts.

At the rally there were members from three or four different unions. Rob England, a political organizer, said that there were about 100-120 people at this event.

England said that the case they were protesting, Janus vs. AFSCME, was about dividing the co-workers from each other and that is about limiting the power of working families. AFSCME stands for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which is the largest union in the United States. England said that “all a union is, is a group of a group of workers working together.” He later added that unions are the checks and balances to special interest groups. They are the counterbalance because they give a voice to the workers.

Throughout the years, specials interest groups have waged campaigns to help defund unions. One of these ways is to stop the payment of union dues. Without the union payments it is harder for unions to gather resources to help workers. The court case will allow workers to get the benefits of being in a union without having to pay for it, if the court favors Janus which means that resources will be scarce.

An example of this is Right to Work (RTW) which is a set of policies that illegalizes the ability for union workers to negotiate for new contracts by paying for it according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). Wisconsin is a state that has such policies according to England. RTW in Wisconsin passed in 2015. He claims that after they went to affect the quality of working standards went down and subsequently the quality of service. It is a “regression in quality of life,” said England. He noted that on average a union worker earns better wages than their non-union counterpart. EPI compared the household income between Wisconsin, before it was RTW, and the average RTW state. The household income for the state was $55,000 to $50,000. The EPI report showed that across the board pre-RTW Wisconsin was out performing RTW states. After it passed, CNN Money in 2017 reported that teachers alone saw a 21 percent decrease in benefits.

“Ultimately, what it comes down to is that we are all workers,” said England.