Records of the Social Services Employees Union (SSEU), an independent public workers union in San Francisco. The union, established
in the mid-1960s and made up of rank and file social workers and social service employees within the San Francisco Department
of Social Services (DSS), was entirely employee-run and governed, and remained unaffiliated with any other official union.
Files consist of administrative records, correspondence, DSS inter-office memorandums and meeting minutes, SSEU Negotiating
Committee and SSEU Executive Committee meeting agendas and minutes, reference material related to welfare work, and various
SSEU-produced newsletters, flyers, and grievance-related materials.
The Social Services Employees Union (SSEU) was an independent public workers union in San Francisco, active from the mid-1960s
through the late 1970s. The union, made up of rank and file social workers and social service employees within the San Francisco
Department of Social Services (DSS), was entirely employee-run and governed, and remained unaffiliated with any other official
The SSEU was founded on July 14, 1966 in response to the low pay and difficult working conditions experienced by many welfare
workers in the DSS and the dissatisfaction they felt with their current union, the Building Service Employees' International
Union, Local 400 (later to become the Service Employees International Union, Local 400). Opposed to strikes and any acts of
insubordination that would lead to a member's dismissal, the SSEU used collective action and creative resistance as organizing
tactics to bring attention to issues they felt were frequently ignored by management.
The SSEU required no mandatory dues or payments; all members were invited to attend Executive Committee meetings and every
SSEU member present was able to cast a vote. People were encouraged to write letters to management, request administrative
hearings, file grievances, and be as vocal as possible on the problems facing city welfare workers. Members represented themselves
and their co-workers in disputes and grievances.
SSEU created a Negotiating Committee and the actions of that committee, along with grievance updates, were reported in newsletters
and bulletins distributed to worker's desks. The Rag Times and Dialog, SSEU newsletters, published unedited and uncensored, quickly became the main forum for workers to voice their opinions and
concerns on issues covering a range of topics, from high caseloads and difficult supervisors, to a shortage of office supplies.
The SSEU, as was the case for many small independent unions, struggled to survive long term. It faced opposition not just
from management, but also from other unions competing to represent the same welfare workers. In 1967, SEIU established Local
535, as a new statewide local for social workers that covered federally-employed welfare workers. SEIU Local 535 took over
the representation of welfare workers from SEIU Local 400 (San Francisco) and, with the power of the national SEIU behind
it, campaigned heavily for exclusive bargaining rights for its members. Although the SSEU continued on through the late 1970s,
the last issue of Dialog was in 1975, and the last official SSEU meeting was in 1976.
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