1/2/08

SEIU puts down California dues revolt

Now that it has defeated a potentially costly insurgency, the leadership of California's largest state workers union faces a new challenge: unifying its membership ahead of upcoming contract and pension battles.

Service Employees International Union Local 1000 stood to lose $12.5 million in revenue in the campaign to eliminate "fair share" fees in its largest bargaining unit. But the rescission campaign failed when less than half of the eligible voters mailed in ballots, the Public Employment Relations Board reported.

By state law, the rescission campaign needed the support of 50 percent plus one of the 44,187 employees in SEIU 1000's Unit One. Only 17,699 ballots were returned to PERB, however, in a month of voting that began Nov. 27. As a result, the ballots were not even counted, said PERB general counsel division chief Les Chisholm.

SEIU 1000 President Jim Hard said the defeat of the rescission campaign will allow the union to "focus on this huge and growing state budget deficit and our contract negotiations that are coming up quickly," as well as another challenge to its members' pension benefits.

"Unity in the upcoming budget and contract campaigns is critical," Hard said. "We're going to reach out to all those who have concerns and complaints and try to resolve them. We're all state employees who are affected by this. We need to come together and work for a new and fair contract."

The deal between the union's 87,000 members and the state expires in the middle of 2008. SEIU 1000, as well as other public employee unions, also is expecting to fight an initiative campaign next year that is seeking to reduce benefits for its future members.

Upset by an increase in union dues from 1 percent to 1.5 percent of their salaries, supporters of the rescission campaign obtained valid signatures of 13,000 Unit One employees to force the election. The unit, the largest in SEIU 1000, covers administrative, information technology and other state employees.

Despite the results, the organizer of the petition campaign, Lyle Hintz, said the effort "had some good, positive effects."

Hintz said that the union leaders agreed to submit a scheduled dues increase to a vote of the membership. In addition, Hintz said, the union, in the midst of his petition campaign, rolled back the dues "cap" from $130 a month to $90 a month.

"We think we did real good," Hintz said. "I think this shows that the rank-and-file is really upset with the union. Seventeen thousand people voting in a union election is a really outstanding return. Even though it wasn't successful in overturning the fees, it should be sending a strong message to the officers of SEIU 1000 that we've got some problems that need to be addressed."

Hintz, a retired Unit One member, said he is planning to protest the election results.

According to Hintz, some ballots had the voter's home address on one side and PERB's on the other and subsequently were delivered to the wrong destination. Moreover, Hintz said, some voters weren't able to cast their ballots within the 30-day election window.

Hintz said he also plans on challenging the state law that requires that rescission campaigns get the approval of half the unit's membership rather than half of the ballots cast.

Chisholm, the PERB official, said the results of the election will not be certified until any objections are resolved. He said that anyone who wants to contest the election has 10 days to file the protest.

Fair share employees are covered by contracts negotiated by the union and are required to pay fees for bargaining and other services provided by the labor organization, even though they are not members. In Unit One, the fees come to about $73 a month for the fair share payers, or $2 below the dues paid by union members.

SEIU 1000 officials estimated that fair share fees accounted for $12.5 million of its $44 million in revenue last year.

(sacbee.com)

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails