Prepare for another round of infighting if you’re in SEIU Local 1000.
California’s largest state employee union is considering a plan to pay its president and three vice presidents a stipend on top of their government wages. Members’ money would fund the supplemental annual payments of up to nearly $59,000 for President Yvonne Walker and from $16,400 to $51,000 for vice presidents Theresa Taylor, Tamekia Robinson and Margarita Maldonado. Total tab: $143,000.
The union’s board of directors, during its June 25-26 meeting in Sacramento, will take up a plan that calibrates the stipends to bring the president’s total pay up to what the 1,000th-highest-paid Local 1000 member earns. The union’s researchers say that was $108,950 last year.
If the policy were in place now, Walker would get $58,838 added to her roughly $50,000 salary as a Department of Justice legal secretary. (Walker is on union-paid leave. She, like others who take time from work to conduct union business, still receives her state wages and benefits. Local 1000 then reimburses the state.)
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Stipends paid to the VPs would equal 15 percent less than the 1,000th-member benchmark. An officeholder whose state pay met or exceeded the benchmark wouldn’t receive a stipend, meaning the total cost could vary from year to year.
Union spokesman Jerry Jimenez declined to comment on the stipend proposal. It’s a touchy subject – and has been for five years.
In 2011, Walker pulled a plan that would have given her a $100,000 annual stipend after news reports about the proposal riled the rank and file. Last fall, she backed a plan that based stipends on the highest-paid state job covered by the local. The stipend again would have paid her more than $100,000. After hours of impassioned debate, the board rejected it.
But the general consensus, The Sacramento Bee reported at the time, was that union executives should get something extra. The local commissioned a panel of stipend-proposal supporters and detractors to work on a policy.
Walker and the vice presidents lead an organization covering 95,000 workers, from some of the lowest-paid to some of the highest-paid. They manage $60 million-plus in dues and fees each year. Comparable state executive jobs, according to the board packet, earn from $120,000 to $136,000 per year. That fuels another argument that the stipends reflect a union imperative: Pay should be proportional to the work.
Local 1000 steward Kevin Menager, who ran on a slate against Walker’s team in last year’s Local 1000 election, worries that the stipends will violate another bedrock union principle by establishing an elite leadership cadre distanced from the workers they represent. The extra money, he said, would undercut union democracy, since the stipend windfalls could be used to fund future union-election campaigns.
Besides, Menager said, no one forces union leaders to lead: “I understand the work they do takes long hours, but they knew that going in.”
And although this proposal lowers the stipend benchmark compared with prior proposals, it’s still too much money, Menager said, predicting “it will cause dissension in the ranks – again.”
Editor’s note, June 15, 2015: This post has been changed to reflect the correct dates for the SEIU Local 1000 board meeting in Sacramento.
Previous Local 1000 annual stipend proposals
2011: Salary + stipend = $150,000 for president, $125,000 for VPs
2015: Salary + stipend = Highest-paid Local 1000 member’s wage +10% for president, +5% for VPs