News

SEIU Local 1000 delegates approve dues increase

Delegates of Service Employees International Union Local 1000 approved a
dues increase that will begin taking effect next year. The 87,000-member
local is the largest single bargaining unit of state employees.

The decision was made October 21 at a meeting of more than 400 delegates at
Sacramento’s Radisson Hotel. The vote was 270-125 in favor of the increase,
SEIU officials reported.

Dues, now capped at $45 a month, would top out at $75 monthly by January,
and at $90 in July.

Local 1000 officials, who had backed the increase, said the money was needed
to aggressively negotiate on behalf of members and to retain earlier gains.
“After 18 years of work for the state, I don’t want to go into my retirement
and have to worry about my health care or my pension. I don’t want to have
to worry about the governor taking away everything,” said delegate Patrick
Finnegan.

Opponents of the dues hike said the proposal was engineered by the union’s
leadership in an effort to strengthen ties to the national headquarters in
Washington, D.C., at the expense of California SEIU members. Some members
“are frustrated at the way this dues increase was shoved down their throats
and, surely, the final approval of the proposal will intensify this
frustration,” reported the CSEUnited.org, the opponents’ newsletter.

The dispute over the dues has been creating tensions at SEIU Local 1000 for
months. SEIU leaders said the increase was needed to cover, at least in
part, a $6.7 million deficit, while critics said the proposal reflected a
power grab by the leadership.

“We feel this is necessary,” Jim Hard, president of SEIU Local 1000, said in
an earlier interview with Capitol Weekly. “It’s not good timing. It’s never
good timing to raise dues, but the challenges coming at us are huge, and
very, very important.”

But one critic said union leaders were becoming too powerful.

“Before you raise the dues, you have to make the leadership more
accountable,” said Barbara Powers, a chief steward and SEIU official
familiar with the inner workings of the union. “[The leaders] are more
interested in gaining new members than in protecting our [existing]
members,” she added.

By one estimate, the union’s projected budget for 2007 calls for nearly $38
million in spending against $31 million in disposable income–a $7 million
gap that the potential dues increase is expected to resolve.

The funds are intended, among other things, to cover a nagging deficit,
aggravated by the political battle last year over Proposition 75, in which
the Schwarzenegger administration sought to limit the dues-gathering ability
of public-employee unions.


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