The national & international news has been a LOT the past week and I doubt this week will change that. I just want to draw your attention to a hyper local election that happened over a month ago and what it might mean for the CA recall and other races going forward.
August 27th I had the “honor” of attending a rally outside the Sacramento Capital building. It’s not abnormal for me to attend a rally, I’m often there to document things. This was a first, though. How in the heck was I there to cover a labor event that seemed to also be an anti-mask, anti-vax, Larry Elder fan meet-up? I did a little digging and, hey, it’s kind of a funny story.
A while back, SEIU Local 1000 had an election and the outcome was quite curious. Long time president, Yvonne Walker lost her bid for a 14th term to a newcomer, Richard L. Brown, who’d never held office before. The turnout was ridiculously low – less than 8k votes out of a possible 55k eligible voting pool of the 96k membership. Not everyone who benefits from union membership actually decides to be a dues paying member but unions seem to forget that not every dues paying member is pro labor. They’re pro themselves. It seems that Freedom Foundation dipped their grubby anti-union paws into the SEIU Local 1000 election. In fact, they gloated about it. Full disclosure, while many members suspect that Freedom provided campaign funds, there’s no proof. Also, even if there was, I didn’t see anything in the bylaws that said outside orgs couldn’t fund candidates.
This week, our outreach efforts paid off in a big way when it was announced that long-time president Yvonne Walker was unseated by a self-proclaimed “outsider.”
You heard right. Walker’s 13-year reign of terror over the largest state employee union in California is officially over, and it is a direct reflection of Freedom Foundation’s success in the Golden State.
Walker is now the third SEIU local president, after David Rolf (SEIU 775) and Kim Cook (SEIU 925), to either leave or lose their job after we conducted sustained outreach efforts to their members.Freedom Foundation blog – Rachel Wiegel, June 2, 2021
So, that’s how a progressive union wound up holding an apolitical rally about not being able to negotiate a vaccination or testing mandate for their workers that also seemed to feature a lot of pro-recall signage, anti-vax signage (loved the one comparing it to rape) and speakers that wouldn’t wear masks including one that felt that things were gestapo like. And it still didn’t beat the new president telling the mostly Lassen county crowd that the Susanville Correctional facility wouldn’t be closing if they were Black people. Yes, he’s saying that this red county was being punished for supporting Trump & being 2nd amendment, God-fearing white people. Does he have proof? No. Does he need proof? Also, no. They ate it up. In fact, they’re delighted by him. He’s got a rock star quality in their eyes. For once, the union is being represented by the kind of conservative that’s normally fighting the unions. He won with 33% of the vote. I have to admit, when I read that in my research, all I could think of was Kung Fu Monkey’s 27% Crazification Factor. If the vote wasn’t split between a bunch of more progressive people, it’s doubtful R. L. Brown would be president. But, let’s be honest, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen the idea of winning with a committed 30% of the vote. It’s just the first time it’s been successful.
SEIU Local 1000 is, or rather, was a very politically active chapter of of SEIU and my personal feeling is that this was a very well timed loss that put a pretty active, organized group out of commission just in time for a recall. Odd coincidence that both the recall and this hyperlocal election seems to have been affected by outside money. We’ll see how the loss of their manpower affects things.
Local 1000’s social media pages are fairly contentious nowadays. The union president having a chummy video chat with a libertarian anti-union activist certainly seemed to raise eyebrows. However, I think most of the membership is just trundling along, blithely unaware of whom is at the helm and will continue to be, until something goes very wrong.
This is the 3rd SEIU union leader ousted by Freedom Foundation and all they had to do was target the conservative members who would hang together as a group way more than everyone else, who will be derailed by future leaders feeling it’s their time, older leaders still clinging to power and the way folks on the middle and left who tend to fall into fanhoods. What’s worse is that there’s no real way to prevent this. This is internal. Any member can run for office. Anyone. If conservative dark money groups can undermine union organizing and political power, cut off the flow of not just political donation money, but union workers putting time in for getting out the vote – we on the left will not just be hamstrung, but gutted. Many other writers are pointing out the astroturfing going on right now with attacks on school boards, but I hope international union heads are paying attention to this. Every election matters. Just ask Local 1000 members astonished that the union filed a cease & desist to insist on a meet & confer over mandating vaccines. Whether he won with less than 3k votes or with 30k votes, Brown is president. You either voted for someone else, for him or you allowed him to be president by not voting at all. Complacency & apathy are dangerous. I hope workers are paying attention. Gonna be interesting to see how this plays out. Happy Labor Day.