SEIU contract creates political pickle

The May 19 ballot has created a complicated situation for the largest union of state employees. While their parent union is adamantly opposed to the spending limit measure on the May 19 ballot backed by Gov. Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders, SEIU Local 1000 must try to navigate a new contract through the Legislative process and eventually obtain the governor’s signature.

This week, Local 1000’s new contract passed out of Assembly Appropriations. It will be heard next on the Assembly floor.

But ratification of the contract needs a two-thirds vote. And during the contract’s first two legislative tests, it did not garner any Republican support.

“I’m pleased that our members ratified an agreement that will provide some stability in these uncertain times,” said Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker. “This agreement gives our members layoff protections at a time when California’s unemployment rate is above 10 percent and the state’s budget deficit continues to mount. Our members voted to protect their jobs and their families during this economic crisis.”

Meanwhile, Local 1000 has been walking a political tightrope. The union has given $300,000 to the campaign for Proposition 1C, the lottery modernization measure that would allow the state to borrow up to $5 billion from lottery proceeds.

The money comes as deep divisions swirl among the Service Employees International Union over how to play in the May 19 special election. SEIU’s state council has opposed Proposition 1A, the state spending limit measure, and opened an account earlier this week to launch a formal campaign against 1A.

But SEIU has endorsed Proposition 1C, and a spokesman for Local 1000 said it makes sense for the union to support the measure.

“Our position on Prop 1C is consistent with our position that the state of California could be generating more money out of the lottery if it had a different managerial structure,” said Local 1000 spokesman Jim Zamora.

SEIU’s contribution did not go to the committee controlled by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s political team, which is pushing for passage of all of the May 19 measures. Instead, th money went to a committee sponsored by GTECH, a Rhode Island-based company that contracts to supply lottery equipment to the state.

Roger Salazar, a spokesman for the Yes on 1C committee, welcomed news of the contribution. “One thing we all agree on is that if we can generate additional state revenues without tax increases, it makes sense for everyone,” Salazar said.

But the big question remains the extent to which the state council will fund the No on  Proposition 1A campaign.

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