The State Worker

Bills would force unions to open books, ratify representation

Assemblywoman Shannon Grove speaks at a rally at the State Capitol in 2014.
Assemblywoman Shannon Grove speaks at a rally at the State Capitol in 2014. pkitagaki@sacbee.com

A group of organized-labor dissidents have teamed up with Republican Assemblywoman Shannon Grove to introduce two long-shot measures intended to throw open government-union books and allow members to choose their representation.

Assembly Bill 2753 would require California’s public employee unions post itemized budgets online and make them accessible to members. Assembly Bill 2754 would mandate public unions hold an election every two years to ratify its continued representation of members. At the same time, employees could choose another public employee union to take its place.

Both measures strike at transparency and accountability concerns that some SEIU Local 1000 members have had for years. The union, which represents about half the state’s organized workforce, covers about 95,000 employees.

I want to be the voice for the voiceless.

Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield

Grove said in a telephone interview Tuesday evening that she submitted the legislation for the same reason that she has authored bills for the disabled community and farm workers who want to leave their union.

“I want to be the voice for the voiceless,” she said, as she recounted listening to six hours of personal stories from members who say that Local 1000 takes their money but fails to disclose how its spent or to effectively represent them.

Some of those accounts are captured on a video released Tuesday by Grove’s office when it announced the legislation.

A Local 1000 spokesman did not return a call and an email from The Bee seeking comment.

Dissidents, such as DMV employee Mariam Noujaim and Franchise Tax Board employee Ken Hamidi have mounted unrelenting quests to look at the local’s finances, peel off employees to start a separate union and to file for status that allows them to pay less money or nothing to the union.

They’ve sued the local, mounted decertification campaigns, publicly questioned the ethics of Local 1000 leaders and even crashed union rallies to protest what they believe is the organization’s corrupt practices. To date, however, their efforts have not achieved the outcome sought: weakening Local 1000, revealing details of its officers’ expense reports or eliminating the local’s representation.

Asked what she thought would happen next, Grove predicted the bills probably won’t survive hearings.

“The people who hope (the measures to pass),” she said, “will probably have zero representation on (legislative) committees.”

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