10/9/07

SEIU breakaway unit to re-vote forced gov't unionism

The relationship between the California State Employees Association and its largest affiliate figures to improve as a result of balloting that took place over the weekend in San Jose.

Dave Hart, supported by the Service Employees International Union Local 1000, won the election for the CSEA presidency over incumbent J.J. Jelincic. Sunday's vote among the delegates to the CSEA general council favored Hart, 539-438.

SEIU 1000 won another victory over the weekend when the delegates approved bylaw changes that will shift power from CSEA to the affiliates. The voice vote by the delegates gave the affiliates greater degrees of autonomy long sought by SEIU 1000. "I think it's a new day in CSEA," said SEIU 1000 President Jim Hard. "The combination of the election of Dave Hart ... and the package of bylaw improvements is going to make it very easy to work with all of the affiliates inside the association."

With 87,000 members, SEIU is by far the largest of the four affiliates that make up CSEA. The other three, which represent retirees, state supervisors and California State University employees, have a total membership of about 49,000 among them.

The weekend elections came at a critical time for public employees in California. A ballot initiative is circulating that proposes to substantially change the public employee pension system. The unions strongly oppose the changes.

SEIU 1000 also is facing an internal fight by employees in one of its bargaining units to rescind their "fair share" fee payments. If they are successful, the "fair share" employees, who are not union members but are required to pay fees every month for representation services they receive from SEIU 1000, won't have to pay the money anymore. The Public Employment Relations Board is preparing to set a date for a vote on the measure. If it passes, it could cost SEIU 1000 about $12 million in revenues annually.

Meanwhile, the union's contract with the state expires next year, at a time when the California budget is expected to be facing a multibillion-dollar shortfall.

Along with Hart, CSEA delegates voted in another SEIU 1000-backed candidate, David Okumura, as the board's new secretary-treasurer. The lone incumbent to retain her position on the CSEA board is vice president Donna Snodgrass.

Hart is a member of SEIU 1000's bargaining unit 11 that is made up of about 3,500 technicians like himself. He has worked to measure the California snowpack every year for nearly a quarter-century.

He said one of his immediate goals as president is to end the public bickering that has marked the relationship between CSEA and SEIU 1000 in recent years.

"This internal debate has been demoralizing to our members," Hart said. "I'm stopping all of that stuff. People can fight in meetings, but don't go public with it. People who don't understand the context can be very confused and demoralized by it."

Hart said he was supported by SEIU 1000 "because they wanted this internal sniping to end."

"We're burying the hatchet and moving on," he said.

Jelincic has been president of CSEA since 2003, when SEIU 1000 supported him for the job previously held by Perry Kenny. But shortly after Jelincic was elected with SEIU 1000 support, he found himself at odds with the union over his efforts to exert control over its management. He said the public portrayal of the conflict was overblown.

A former investment officer at the California Public Employees' Retirement System, Jelincic said he will have no problem going back to his old job, which he termed "a good gig."

He said Hart's election and the bylaw changes will make SEIU 1000 singularly responsible for whatever successes or failures the union generates.

"They've lost their ability to blame their problems on somebody else," Jelincic said.

(sacbee.com)

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