Flash: Housing Authority Workers Fight Back

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday May 22, 2007

After Berkeley Housing Authority (BHA) workers were skewered in a city attorney report for in competencies such as housing dead people in low-income apartments and obstructing investigations, they fought back at Tuesday’s BHA meeting.  

Line workers spoke out, saying they were being scapegoated for longstanding managerial problems and attacked the city manager’s proposal—approved 5-2-2 by the council—to fix the BHA problems by “cleaning house:” eliminating 13 permanent and eight temporary housing authority jobs. (The BHA is made up of the council and two tenants, but voting on the issue was restricted to the City Council.) 

Mayor Tom Bates and Councilmember Kriss Worthington opposed the measure; Councilmembers Max Anderson and Darryl Moore abstained. 

“When I saw the [newspaper] articles, I fell apart,” Tilda Barnes told the BHA. 

“I take this work seriously,” said Barnes who has worked for the BHA for two and one-half years under three different managers. Workers told the council about computer problems, lack of training and heavy caseloads. 

Service Employees International Union 1021 officials said Wednesday they are seeking legal advice regarding the council action, as it may have violated workers’ contracts. City Attorney Manuela Albuquerque argued at the meeting Tuesday that terminating the jobs is legal, underscoring that the city is offering vacant positions in other departments to all permanent employees. 

The BHA was designated by HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development) in 2002 as a “troubled” agency and is implementing a number of changes in an attempt to reverse the designation and keep the agency in Berkeley. One change to be implemented July 1 is that a new board chosen by the mayor and approved Tuesday night by the council will replace the present City Council plus two tenant configuration.  


See the full story in Friday’s Daily Planet