San Francisco Mayor orders City to Collect More Data on Discriminatory Practices

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City workers organize outside of City Hall with their union for a Press Conference before the hearing

The same day San Francisco City employees spoke out about discrimination in a four-hour Board of Supervisors Hearing, Mayor London Breed signed an executive directive updating the city’s standards for “recruiting and retaining a qualified and diverse workforce.”

The hearing was requested by Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 1021 following the city’s recent self-audit, which revealed that although African Americans make up only 15 percent of the city’s workforce, 36 percent of all employees fired are African Americans.

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“Over the last 40 years in San Francisco, we’ve seen a decline of African American workers within the city and county, who is the largest employer in San Francisco,” said SEIU 1021 Regional Vice President Joseph Bryant. “And you have to ask the question, why is that?”

In a presentation at the start of the hearing, Human Resources Director Micki Callahan said the city’s workforce was still diverse. But, she added, the audit “also shows that we have problems that we need to address.”

After dozens of current and former city and county workers testified about racism and discrimination on the job, Supervisor Sandra Fewer said the hearing was “disturbing,” Supervisor Jane Kim said it was “deeply painful,” and Supervisor Sally Brown said it was “a siren going off.”

But many of their questions cannot be answered until the city can provide more data that shows the disparities between racial groups, said Fewer.

Mayor Breed’s directive calls on the city to start collecting data on their disciplinary action of employees. It also requires the city to expand harassment training, hire two full-time employees to focus on diversity in recruitment, and convene employees and union representatives to discuss ways the city can improve diversity and equity.

Human Resources Chief of Policy Susan Gard said collecting data would take the city time — and might not be doable within the next five years.

“I don’t know how long it is going to take,” said Gard. “It’s not just like flipping a switch, right?”

PeopleSoft, the Oracle software system that the city’s human resources department uses, has three built-in pages designed to report disciplinary action. But Gard said, “there are various reasons why we haven’t utilized them.” While the city has a central HR department, some of the bigger city departments, like the Department of Public Health, have their own HR and their own way of reporting discipline, said Gard.

In order to provide the data that the Mayor is asking for, each department would have to change the way they have been reporting discipline. “It is a technical barrier,” said Guard.

PeopleSoft Tele Sales Business Development Representative Dottie Flores said all of the company’s software customers have “the option of acquiring support for the product, so they would have technical assistance.”

Mayor Breed’s office declined to comment on the city’s specific plans to accomplish the directive’s data gathering goals.

Written by

Science and Health Reporter at the Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism

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