San Francisco mayoral hopefuls reject private guards at hospitals 

For three years, the Mayor’s Office and the Department of Public Health have tried to save money by transferring security at two public hospitals to a private security firm. And for three years there has been a fight about it.
But this year, there’s a mayor’s race and endorsements to be earned, and that makes the fight more intense. At least five candidates for mayor are scheduled to appear this morning in front of City Hall to support the city employees affected by the proposed change.

Workers from the Department of Public Health and the Sheriff’s Department provide security at San Francisco General and Laguna Honda hospitals. They ensure the safety of staff, visitors and patients, some of whom need to be held on involuntary psychiatric holds.

The City anticipates that replacing 71 employees with private security guards could save $4 million a year, but those workers say the quality of services would deteriorate without the experience and training of sworn officers.

The replaced workers are expected to be reassigned to other duties and will not be laid off, according to Mayor Ed Lee’s budget director.

Supervisor John Avalos, former Supervisor Bevan Dufty, City Attorney Dennis Herrera, City Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting and state Sen. Leland Yee are all listed as part of today’s rally organized by SEIU 1021, the union representing most city workers, according to a union press release.

While the issue may seem small, union endorsements are a big deal, according to political consultant Jim Ross.
“SEIU 1021 has still not endorsed in this race yet,” Ross said. “There’s that political force out there. The Deputy Sheriffs’ Association also hasn’t endorsed in the mayor’s race yet. There’s a lot of political players who are still looking for those big endorsements.”

One of the candidates who is surely courting those unions but is conspicuously missing from the group scheduled to attend today’s rally is Board President David Chiu. Chiu sits on the Budget Committee that meets today to approve the plan. Supervisors have to approve these security cuts under Proposition J, a 1983 charter amendment that requires approval of privatized services.

“I’m working with my colleagues to resolve the difficult budget decisions we face, including how we provide adequate hospital security,” Chiu said.

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Brent Begin

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