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Guest essay: SEIU Local 1000’s anti-democratic cabal

Jack Dean is President of District Labor Council 792 within SEIU Local 1000. He lives in Susanville, Calif., and is a member of the local’s 65-member Board of Directors.

SEIU Local 1000 is the largest public sector union in California representing about 99,750 state employees. Our members proudly contribute almost $6 billion to the California economy, and we staff more than 2,000 sites doing work critical to our state and communities. We work as engineering and scientific technicians at California departments of transportation, fish & game, water resources, and food & agriculture. We are accountants, auditors, analysts and clerical staff. We are registered nurses, printers and custodians.

We are your friends and neighbors, and we believe in a labor movement that works best when it reflects our core democratic values.

This last part is very important because in May the dues-paying members of SEIU Local 1000 elected Richard Louis Brown our new President. He replaced four-time incumbent Yvonne Walker, but instead of accepting this vote, many of Walker’s chief lieutenants on our Board of Directors have launched an undemocratic power grab to strip President Brown of his leadership responsibilities. This has happened within Brown’s first 60 days taking office and just as Brown has begun fighting the Governor for mandating new Covid work rules without negotiating at the bargaining table per our hard-fought union contract – a position widely supported by the membership.

I whole heartedly support President Brown’s efforts and his 10-point reform platform. But sadly since this cabal of long-time Board members cannot legally recall a duly elected President, they are seeking to achieve this by instead rewriting the Local 1000 Policy File and Bylaws. So they have introduced proposals that, if passed, will remove all duties, authority, and ability to speak from the President’s position and transfer day-to-day control of the union to a new position created out of thin air. This new position – called “The Chair” – would not be chosen by the dues paying membership, but by the Board.

The proposals by this group would effectively cancel the May vote of the membership, turn the President into a figurehead, and significantly diminish the voting power of the union membership moving forward. This is simply a power grab by a group of long-time loyalists of the last President who have no issues with authoritarian rule.

If the current proposals are accepted, I’m afraid a permanent division will be created that will have a long-lasting negative impact on SEIU 1000 and its members. President Brown, a throwback union reformer, has vowed to steer Local 1000 away from these kinds of divisive politics and tactics. He recognizes that our union is made up of members who share many different political viewpoints, and instead of negating their voices as these renegade Board members are trying to do, he wishes to as fairly as possible represent them all.

An irony in all this is that the current Policy File and Bylaws were massively overhauled in 2015 at the direction of the former union President. This included granting the statewide officers a monthly stipend (which President Brown has ended) while consolidating power into the hands of the President. Some of the people who voted for those changes still sit on the Local 1000 Board of Directors and are now fighting to undo what they instituted just six years ago.

President Brown has repeatedly stated he will enforce our contract that many of us believe the Governor broke when he issued his mandatory COVID vaccine proof and testing policy without the required 30-day notice to meet and confer with the union. That’s when Brown went public defending our contract and defending all membership. He demanded the Governor’s representatives come to the bargaining table. In President Brown’s first 60 days in office, he has also taken on the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation with regards to closure policies, started negotiations for permanent tele-work, and got our UAW workers a contract going in the right direction.

I stand alongside President Richard Louis Brown 1,000% and support everything he is doing to make this a stronger, more inclusive union than we have had in over a decade. After working with President Brown for the past few months, it is evident he truly cares about all represented employees and his primary goal to negotiate and enforce the best contract in SEIU 1000’s history. We have a long way to go, but with an engaged and supportive membership and a Board that respects our democratic union processes, we will make Local 1000 the model others can follow.

I am asking all SEIU 1000 represented employees to Unite, get involved, and talk to your DLC President today.

EDITOR’S NOTE: To see past SEIU Local 1000 coverage, click here.

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