CalRecycle Workers Fight for Respect, Protection, and Pay

Article published on may 26, 2023

SEIU Local 1000 members, who do the critical, behind the scenes work to keep our state running, are motivated by a love of our state, its people, and our communities. But after we take care of the communities and customers who need us, who helps take care of us?

According to a 2023 study by the UC Berkeley Labor Center, the state pays more than 68,000 state employees represented by Local 1000 wages so low that they can’t afford to support a family of two in California.  And more than a third do not earn enough to support a family of four even with a working partner who earns the same salary.

Workers at CalRecycle met with DLC 785 leadership to discuss some of the issues they’re facing in their workplaces, what needs to be done to make a change, and the impacts that will come from a 30% raise as we have asked for in bargaining.

“Getting that raise would be a huge help in being able to pay our bills. With two small children and working full time, it’s hard to make ends meet, so having that raise would make a difference for us,” said union member Amy Yhnell.

These concerns are not just impacting workers. Low wages are driving state employees away from the work they love for jobs that pay more.  Since the state’s wages are not competitive, it’s almost impossible to replace those workers. Understaffing continues to devastate the services and benefits Californians need and deserve.  

“Right now, it’s a struggle financially for state workers to be able to make ends meet. My son has a medical condition and we can’t afford Kaiser anymore. It’s frustrating that as hard as we work as state workers, we aren’t able to afford health coverage and have the plan we want to have. We’re working second jobs and barely able to afford our bills. There’s a lot of single moms who need a little more breathing room financially,” said union member Kelly Cavileer.

DLC 785 President Jonah Paul helped organize members in his DLC to share their thoughts on what a raise would mean to them on posters as part of the campaign for our raise:

“It would allow my family to meet obligations, go back to school, and continue recovery from Covid and a Covid-related heart attack. Pay us for the work we do, not what you feel we deserve.”

Although many of us were working through COVID restrictions in the workplace, millions were impacted by the pandemic at home, leading to costly medical care and complications. Others see the ways that the cost of living has changed over time and want to see their pay reflect that:

“It will help me take care of my family financially. It will give us more stability and would be a huge blessing. We could go on vacation, save up to buy a house. We will be able to afford our utilities! The cost of living is extremely high.”