The newly elected head of California’s largest state worker union, known for his vocal opposition to Gov. Gavin Newsom, is facing calls for the election results to be tossed.
Richard Louis Brown ousted the longtime incumbent president of Service Employees International Union Local 1000, Yvonne Walker, in an election in May. He ran on a platform of ending Local 1000 donations to any political figures and organizations such as Black Lives Matter, a stance that he said is the reason behind the drive to invalidate the election.
Brown beat Walker by capturing more than 33% of the vote compared to her 27% in a low-turnout election in which just 7,880 of the union’s 54,000 dues-paying members voted. At least five people who ran for leadership positions filed protests alleging irregularities in how the election was run and how votes were tabulated, the Sacramento Bee reported. Brown blames the pushback on his anti-political stance and his race.
He told the Washington Examiner during a Friday interview that he was not surprised that the group is trying to toss the election results because he’s “getting ready to destroy the status quo.”
“As a black man in this country, I may not be marching in the Black Lives Matter protest, but what I’m marching for is for everyone to have equal justice within Local 1000, and that is something they cannot allow to happen,” Brown said.
Brown has previously said that a major reason why he doesn’t support political donations is that there are members of the union who might be conservative or belong to third parties who don’t support Democratic candidates or social causes such as Black Lives Matter. He believes that the union’s support for Newsom (it just voted to donate $1 million to defend the governor in a recall attempt) alienates members.
The president-elect has said that of the 96,000 state employees that Local 1000 represents, only about 54,000 pay dues, a statistic he attributed to the political donations and to the cost of membership dues.
“We don’t have a labor union. We have a social justice organization that spends money for the Democratic Party and supports the Democratic Party’s agenda,” he said.
Miguel Cordova, who was one of the candidates for president and filed a protest, criticized that Brown had offered to pay the dues of nonmembers so that people could vote in the election. He said that it was akin to paying for votes, according to the Sacramento Bee. In the election, only dues-paying members are permitted to cast ballots.
Brown characterized the rule as a “poll tax” and said it wasn’t fair because the union negotiates the wages of those who don’t pay dues, yet they can’t vote. He said a lot of people in the union can’t afford to pay dues and hopes that if sworn in, he can slash membership dues in half and distance the union from SEIU. He called accusations of voting for cash an “absolute lie” and said nobody took him up on his offer.
“What I was trying to do was encourage people to participate in the voting process,” Brown said. “What I was doing was putting my money where my mouth was because voting is this important.” He added that he made the same offer in 2018.
Cordova also claimed that Brown infringed upon the union’s code of conduct, which says candidates must offer “constructive alternatives” and “conduct themselves in a manner which brings respect to Local 1000.” Cordova contends that Brown’s ideas about moving away from SEIU and allowing nonmembers access to the ballot come into conflict with that code.
A protest committee of three people (appointed by Walker, the outgoing president) will investigate the protest complaints and, according to union provisions, will transmit its decision by June 25. The Washington Examiner asked Walker and Local 1000 for comment but has not yet immediately received a response.
While Brown said he is unsure of what the outcome of the deliberations will be, he repeatedly asserted during the Friday phone call that there are individuals within the union that are working to ensure he doesn’t get sworn into office later this month.
“These people are lying. They are doing anything they can to silence my voice as a black man in America,” he claimed.