Tuesday, March 1, 2022

California SEIU has a problem

The vice presidents of SEIU Local 1000 issued a letter to union staff on Sunday saying they had suspended President Richard Louis Brown because he posed an “immediate threat” to the union’s welfare due to mismanagement and improper spending. His access to union headquarters was later revoked, union spokesperson Brian Nash said.

Brown, who has been a controversial leader since he was elected to a three-year term last May, said Monday he rejected the allegations and was still the union’s rightful president. He called the movement against him a coup and said he didn’t recognize the suspension. He said he had already suspended the vice presidents as of Friday.

“Since Day 1 that has been their whole desire: To remove me from office,” he said.

The union’s policy manual gives the president power to suspend members and the vice presidents power to suspend the president. It appeared that the union was operating Monday under the leadership of the vice presidents, who had already secured support for Brown’s suspension from the national parent union.

The influential SEIU Local 1000 represents 96,000 state workers and has long played a critical role in fighting for state worker pay and other rights. Brown, an analyst in the state treasurer’s office, defeated longtime President Yvonne Walker last year in a low-turnout election.

From the beginning, he staked out positions at odds with the union’s traditional views. He said the union shouldn’t financially support Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom as he faced a recall, but the union’s board voted to contribute $1 million anyway. He also wanted to cut ties with the parent Service Employees International Union.

In a statement released Monday through its Twitter account, the union said Brown’s suspension was necessary to protect its fiduciary duty to its members. The vice presidents alleged Brown failed to hold board meetings, limiting the board’s power to oversee spending of union dues.

The letter alleges Brown defied the board to “lavish staff with additional paid days off without regard to the significant cost to the expense of hard-working members’ dues” and retaliated against people who questioned his actions.

Brown said he gave union staff additional days off in recognition of their hard work. He also said other union leadership was after him because he didn’t share the union’s traditional politics. As an example, he cited his work to keep open a prison that the state wants to close in rural Northern California.

The union’s board voted in October to remove Brown from office, and in January a board member filed a lawsuit accusing Brown of spending money without board approval and failing to pass a budget through the union’s approved process, the Sacramento Bee reported.

Union Vice President David Jimenez will immediately assume a leadership role as the union’s staff and 65-member board determines what to do next, said Nash, the union spokesman. Jimenez joined fellow vice presidents Anica Walls and Irene Green in voting to suspend Brown.

“This isn’t something that we’re all smiling and high-fiving each other,” Nash said. “It’s a sad day for all of us and we’re trying to move forward in the best interests of our members.”

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