Member Leader Jamie Ormond Helps Lift Local 1000
Jamie Ormond’s work with SEIU 1000 began with the Public Utilities Regulatory Analysts (PURAs) at the California Public Utilities Commission in San Francisco. While the analysts do powerful regulatory work fighting climate change, keeping utility bills affordable, and transitioning California away from carbon-based energy sources, they faced a crisis of their own. “Unfortunately, despite our efforts of global significance, a large number of my colleagues were having trouble paying rent and keeping a roof over our head,” said Jamie. “You can’t regulate if you can’t pay rent. That’s just a fact.”
These cost-of-living issues resulted in many highly trained colleagues departing the agency to take positions in the private sector to stay afloat. The recruitment and retention problem left mountains of work for other colleagues to complete, with no one offering solutions. Caught in this double bind of increasing workload and economic pressure, Jamie and her co-workers sought a solution.
“We found a clause in our contract for a salary differential, so we went about getting it ourselves,” she said. “We presented a salary survey to management, but they did not support our application for a salary differential. For two and a half years, and with the guidance of our SEIU Local 1000 teammates, we continued to demand the attention of our agency to our pressing issue while we continued to manage our mountains of work to protect the public,” she said. “After internal and external meetings, advocacy, writing our own press releases, organizing, direct actions, and the support of the entire SEIU Local 1000 bargaining team, we won a salary adjustment in the 2016 contract that finally allows the members of our classification to do our work without the threat of eviction hanging over us.”
This victory for the PURAs had a huge impact on Jamie’s work. “Our campaign showed me that big change is possible,” she said. “I wanted to find and work with other folks and help them achieve their goals.” Fighting for employees was always going to be a challenge, but one she was willing to take on. “Managers who can’t do what’s necessary must be held accountable,” she said. “Based on my own experiences, I’m aware that members who run into managers who can’t be bothered to support their staff members need support during their most challenging moments.”
Today, Jamie is using that same problem-solving ability to help the Cost Savings Task Force, the program developed through an agreement between the State and Local 1000 to help California weather the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. “This statewide Task Force is comprised of Local 1000 members who know the details about how their departments actually work,” she said. “Beyond just budget numbers, our Task Force members can identify how budget dollars are spent. Bringing context to the budget for our colleagues at the Department of Finance should be welcomed.” As with her earlier experiences with management, this was something that had to be fought for, not taken as a given. “It’s really obvious that we have been ready and prepared to help for a while now,” she said. “If members know of an area in their agency that could be managed differently and may result in budget savings, they should get in touch by calling the Member Resource Center at (866) 471-7348.”
This past year saw an international pandemic, racial injustice on full display, climate driven destructive wildfires, power shut offs, and abrupt changes to working conditions. These state issues will not disappear in this new year. How, what, and when we choose to tackle these issues remains to be determined.
“We need to get to work: create more outlets for our members to impact our 2021 activities, ask for more member input, continue to work with folks who have that fire for change,” said Jamie. “This is not a game. We have huge opportunities to help change how the state of California works.”