The board of directors of SEIU Local 1000 has approved a new stipend for the union’s top elected leaders nearly five years after a controversial proposal to raise pay initially circulated. The stipend more than doubles President Yvonne Walker’s pay to nearly $109,000 a year.
Union leaders can take leave from their state positions while in office and continue to receive their regular government wages and benefits as compensation for their union duties. Local 1000 reimburses the state for the officials’ pay and benefits.
Under the new plan, member dues will cover an additional $143,000 stipend to be split among Walker and three union vice presidents, according to documents given to board members.
Supporters of the pay bump argue that union leaders should be paid more for their work. Local 1000 represents 95,000 workers and the executive team manages more than $60 million in dues and fees a year.
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Critics say the stipends are egregious and that leaders were driving the campaign to boost their own pay.
The stipend bumps the president’s total pay up to the compensation of the 1,000th-highest-paid Local 1000 member, which the union reports as $108,950. Vice presidents will be paid 15 percent less than Walker’s benchmark.
As a legal secretary for the Department of Justice, Walker earned about $49,400 in 2015.
Margarita Maldonado, vice president for bargaining, earned about $75,100 as an associate information systems analyst, also for the Department of Justice. Maldonado’s stipend would total $16,408.
The union’s secretary and treasurer, Theresa Taylor, received about $74,800 as a principal compliance representative for the Franchise Tax Board last year. Her stipend is set at $16,708.
Tamekia N. Robinson, vice president for organization and representation, earns about $42,100 as a tax technician for the Board of Equalization. Robinson’s stipend totals $51,148.
The board voted 34-22 in favor of the proposal on Sunday, according to union members in attendance. Eight members were absent, including Taylor, and didn’t render a vote. Walker, Maldonado and Robinson supported the raise.
“How can she vote for something she is benefiting from?” asked Local 1000 steward Kevin Menager. “That sounds like a conflict of interest.”
Menager is not a voting member of the board, but observed the vote at the meeting over the weekend. He was against the stipend and believes the pay boost will create a divide among members and leadership.
Union spokesman Jerry Jimenez did not respond to requests for comment.
The stipend comes five years after Walker tabled a proposal to increase her pay to about $150,000 a year. The early package, which would have split an extra $295,000 among the four top officials, faced criticism from members until Walker ultimately ended the conversation. The board rejected a similar, but more watered down proposal last year.