As California political observers focused on an ongoing spring and summer gubernatorial recall election, another major state election was taking place. Members of the powerful Local 1000 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) were voting for a new president.
This particular election had received more attention than usual because the winning candidate, Richard Louis Brown, campaigned on an unusual platform. “Get the union organization completely out of politics,” the Sacramento Bee explained.
The union is not only the largest representative of workers in the state government, but it also provides electoral strength to the Democratic Party. The SEIU chapter donated $ 1 million to oppose the recall and its political action committees have spent (in cash and other contributions) $ 17 million over the past decade, according to the Bee report.
Brown made the sane argument that instead of promoting independent progressive political priorities (for example, raising the minimum wage and lowering immigration restrictions), the union could better serve its members by focusing on issues. traditional trade unions, such as improved bargaining agreements. Such arguments were music to our ears.
Despite his grassroots support, other union leaders were unwilling to accept this radical change in leadership. Last week, its board of directors voted to transfer the governing authority from the president to a hand-picked president. Brown’s enemies also pointed to the harassment and unfair dismissal allegations as further justification for their move, according to the report.
Brown retaliated by likening the meeting to a lynching and claiming the disqualification vote was illegal. This dispute in a local is not the least of SEIU’s problems. Attorney General Rob Bonta has filed charges of tax evasion, embezzlement and other criminal charges against the executive director of SEIU California (who has resigned, but disputes the allegations) following an investigation by the Fair Political Practices Commission.
Unions clearly need to get their homes in order, but the controversies have great political significance given the outsized role these unions play in California politics. We’re not fans of government unions in general, but it’s about time they stayed in their way – and stick to helping members rather than beefing up lawmakers.