The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

March 28, 2011
Food at union meetings: Perk, bribe or legit accommodation?

The single-sentence email from a frustrated state worker hit our inbox this morning:

"This is what SEIU does to attract attendees, and my fees go to this!"

It came with a scan of this flier promoting a series of 30-minute Local 1000 meetings at CDCR headquarters this Wednesday promising, "$5 Subway Cards will be given to all who attend." All employees represented by the union are welcomed and, presumably, will get a Subway card.

The flier reminded us of an SEIU protest at the Capitol a few years ago that offered free lunch to participants. At the time we thought it was a legitimate accommodation for state workers who were taking their lunch time to show up at a rally, sort of like when a reporter turns in a receipt for a business lunch with a source.

SEIU Local 1000 spokesman Jim Zamora said that the union often offers food at events where it's asking folks to sacrifice their break time to participate. It's also an effective recruiting tool, he said. Former SEIU president Andy Stern once said he joined the union because "they were serving pizza."

What do you think about food and union business? Is free food mostly a perk for activists, a bribe for the apathetic or a reasonable gesture to compensate people who take time to tend union affairs?

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About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at


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