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Key labor groups embroiled in bitter fight over dues, clout

Even though Gov. Schwarzenegger and his handlers are spending millions of
dollars to convince the public that California is bedeviled by a monolithic
bloc of “union bosses,” the reality is far different: Three weeks before the
Nov. 8 special election, a blood feud has erupted between the state
employees association and its largest affiliate member. The dispute is as
acrimonious and hard-fought as the fight at the ballot box.

The fracture in one of California’s most important labor organizations–a
split that in some ways mirrors fissures in the national labor movement–came
to a head in Anaheim last week, when the California State Employees’
Association elected new leaders at its general council meeting. The
president, J.J, Jelencic, was reelected in a race against Jim Hard, the head
of Local 1000 who says CSEA is in need of a major overhaul.

Local 1000 represents more than 85,000 civil service employees. It is the
largest member of CSEA, comprising more than half of CSEA’s 140,000 members,
and it is a member of the powerful inner circle fighting the governor’s
proposals. CSEA has three other affiliate members-the California State
University workers, managers and supervisors, and retirees. Unlike Local
1000, CSEA is not a member of inner circle.

Hard says that as the association’s largest member, Local 1000 should have
more control over the resources it gives to CSEA. “It just makes no logical
sense, no business sense, no union sense, for us not to direct the
management staff we’re paying for,” Hard says. He says the fight between his
union and CSEA mirrors the dispute that led to the national split between
the Service Employees International Union and the AFL-CIO.

“The AFL-CIO is a coalition that has lost its edge, has lost its way,
doesn’t know how to respond to the changing world, and reorganize itself so
it can win for working people in the United States,” he says. “CSEA has no
strategy and is fighting structural reform to have its affiliates be
effective, so there is a parallel.”

Jelincic dismisses the criticisms, and says Hard and his supporters are
simply trying to take over the association. “This is just pure power
politics” he says.

Part of the fight is over political and tactical decisions. And part,
inevitably, is about money. The two groups are currently locked in a legal
struggle over money that Jelincic says Local 1000 skimmed off to put into
their own political fund, instead of contributing to CSEA’s political action
committee.

Unlike CSEA, Local 1000 is a member of the Alliance for a Better California,
the umbrella group that was formed to try to beat back the governor’s four
initiatives in November. The local has dedicated more than $1 million to the
Alliance cause–money that Jelincic says should have gone into the CSEA
political action committee.

“They wanted to show they can play with the big boys at the Alliance,” says
Jelincic. While Jelincic says CSEA and the Alliance share much in the way of
common purpose come November, he notes that his association is working
directly with the No on 75 campaign instead of through the ABC.

The Alliance is formally opposing all four of the governor’s initiatives –
Propositions 74 through 77. CSEA is not a member of the Alliance, but they
are joining in the fight against Proposition 75, the union dues initiative,
and Proposition 76, the governor’s budget-spending control measure.
According to Jelincic, Alliance members were all asked to pony up at least
$500,000 “to have a seat at the table,” and participate in the group’s
decision-making process and strategy sessions. The alliance is led by Joe
Nu


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