Supporters of a recall campaign against SEIU Local 1000 President Yvonne R. Walker and three other union leaders have less than a week to gather more than 8,000 additional signatures needed to force an election.
The main grievance: a $143,000 stipend split among Walker and three vice presidents that was approved by the union’s board in late June.
“(Walker) and the three statewide officers basically gave themselves a salary stipend on top of their regular salary, and they did this during open contract negotiations,” said Richard Louis Brown, the SEIU member who started the petition.
State workers can take a leave of absence from their jobs to work for the union while still drawing their state salary and benefits. The union then reimburses the state for the costs. The approved stipend more than doubled Walker’s compensation from $49,400 to $108,950. Vice presidents will get paid 15 percent less than Walker.
SEIU spokesman Jerry Jimenez did not respond to requests for comment on the recall effort.
Brown, who ran unsuccessfully against Walker in 2015, said the decision not to allow a general membership vote on the stipend was a “travesty.” He has announced his intent to run for president if the recall effort is successful.
On Tuesday, Brown said the petition effort had gotten more than 2,500 signatures. SEIU bylaws state that a recall election can be held if 20 percent of the voting members sign a petition. A letter of intent to recall sent by Brown cites the number of voting members as 55,839 – meaning 11,168 signatures are needed.
Kevin Menager, a Local 1000 steward, said he was supporting the petition and criticized the union’s leaders for seeking pay raises for work he said they signed up for.
“You don’t volunteer for a church and then hit up the pastor for a couple thousand dollars,” he said Tuesday.
Supporters of the stipend say it is deserved because the union – the largest for state workers – represents 95,000 employees and the executive team handles $60 million in dues and fees each year.
The recall petition names Walker, Vice President-Secretary-Treasurer Theresa Taylor, Vice President for Organizing-Representation Tamekia N. Robinson and Vice President for Bargaining Margarita Maldonado.
Walker and Taylor acknowledged receipt of the letter on July 11, starting the 30-day countdown for the petition to be submitted with the required signatures, according to letters provided by Brown. The signing period for the petition ends Aug. 10.
If the petition is successful, a recall election will be held within 60 days. If the leadership is voted out, another election will be held within 120 days to fill the vacancies. Those elections would take place while the union is engaged in contract negotiations with Gov. Jerry Brown. The union board already has authorized a membership vote on further contract actions, including a strike.
Menager, however, doesn’t think they would affect the talks.
“The crew doesn’t quit just because the captain is gone. We can still run the ship” he said.