How One SFPUC Workplace Group Supports African American and Minority Colleagues

“The biggest thing for me is the extra push and the motivation to keep going no matter how tough things can be,“ said Rionda Batiste, a Junior Administrative Analyst for the SFPUC’s Wastewater Enterprise

Batiste has been an employee of the SFPUC for close to seven years, starting her career as a Public Service Aide. For the past year, she has been supporting the Wastewater Enterprise’s racial equity initiatives. After the uprising from George Floyd’s murder in May 2020, the Black leadership within the Racial Equity Working Group for the Wastewater Enterprise formed a group called the Black Phoenix Alliance. This was an opportunity for minorities at the SFPUC to come together in solidarity, to provide a safe space to get the support they need both mentally and professionally.

For Batiste, having such a network at work, has been a blessing.

“This group offers a safe space where colleagues can talk about racial issues in the workplace, have sometimes difficult conversations, discuss issues related to employment, advancement opportunities and any other workplace challenges you may be dealing with. This group is here to listen, offer compassion and uplift and give encouragement when needed. It’s also about sharing information and resources.”

Batiste says she has personally been touched by having a group she can bond with and relate to in the pursuit of work-life balance.

“It makes you feel good to know that you are not alone. It’s easy to feel like you are alone. The Black Phoenix Alliance has given me the support I needed when I needed it. Being in the industry that we are in, it can get overwhelming.”

The mother of four is also giving back to her community in District 10, Bayview-Hunters Point, a place where she takes pride being a part of.

“I work closely with the San Francisco Unified School District as a parent volunteer. I think it’s important to educate other parents on issues that are going on that affect their children and their education,” explained Batiste .

Every month, the group brings in different speakers on topics such as deferred compensation, financial planning, and mental health, just to name a few. The group has been meeting via Zoom calls every third Thursday of the month from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. Right now, there are about 15 regular attendees, but the resources and information are shared regularly with the larger minority population within the Wastewater Enterprise . The group hopes to spread the word to encourage other industries and workplaces to offer a safe space to do the same.

“This group is focused on the challenges of African American staff but provides resources and insights for all minorities. Let’s all come together and support one another. We live in a world in which we are clearly minorities. We want our colleagues to have access to the resources they need. Please be open minded to not assume that you’re not welcome if you’re not Black but to understand this is a support space and we are here to support and encourage as we can.”