The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

July 28, 2011
Ken Hamidi battles SEIU Local 1000 again over union's audit

OB KEN HAMIDI 2003.JPGKen Hamidi hasn't given up his quest to decertify the Service Employees International Union Local 1000, but the union says his efforts are not gaining much traction.

Hamidi, an employee at the Franchise Tax Board who made national headlines while working for Intel, has attempted each of the past few years to get other state workers represented by Local 1000 to challenge the union's annual financial audit.

The numbers show how much money the union spends on direct representation such as collective bargaining compared to what's considered under state and federal law to be non-germane to direct representation, including donations to election campaigns.

In 2010, 32 percent of the union's spending was designated as non-germane. Included in that category was $5.4 million for political activity and $12.9 million for meetings and activities with affiliated groups.

Hamidi and other formal "challengers" argue that the union's audit, done by an independent firm, is incorrect and that the percentage of non-germane spending is actually higher. A union spokesman and its attorney counter that Hamidi's claim has no merit and that he is just trying to find ways to bankrupt the union so he can replace Local 1000 with his own group, California Professional Public Employees Association.

Almost 34,000 of the 95,000 workers represented by the union are not actually members. They pay a lower amount of dues each month known as a fair share fee because they don't receive death benefits, group health plan benefits or special discounts from third parties. Some pay an even lower fair share fee because they object to paying for non-germane expenditures.

Hamidi said in a recent email to followers that he could "confidently ... guesstimate that over 30,000 of us filed NGOs" -- referring to the acronym for objections to paying dues for non-germane expenditures -- "which is a record in history of any union."

He added that he also could "confidently guesstimate" that about 19,000 of the objectors chose to challenge the 32 percent figure, "which is by far a record in history of any union since the inception of the Fair Share Fee!!!"

SEIU assistant chief counsel Felix De La Torre said the union received about 13,000 objector filings this year and a steady 10,000 or so each year during the past decade. He wouldn't give out exact numbers of objectors or challengers, saying the union "would be playing into Hamidi's game at that point" if they disclosed those figures. He said Hamidi has not driven a significant increase in filings.

"He wants to make it sound like he's creating some bigger revolution than he is," De La Torre said. "His whole motive is that he wants to be president of the union. He's really a non-issue. He should be on 'The Jerry Springer Show' or something."

Hamidi, who ran as a Libertarian in the 2003 recall election that Arnold Schwarzenegger won, finished third when he ran in 2008 for Local 1000 president. The union's current president, Yvonne Walker, was re-elected in May.

Hamidi's current estimates are based on his assertion that 1,500 fellow tax board workers filed objection forms.

"Until they remain unaccountable, we have to publish the figures, which we calculate based on the only inferential methods and means available to us," Hamidi wrote in an email. "SEIU is in possession of the documents and they have the burden of proof, not us."

Hamidi has challenged expenditures each of the past three years and lost each time during arbitration.

"He's obviously a very persistent person, but at its core, the substance of his accusations is wrong," said Local 1000 spokesman Jim Zamora. "He's bothersome, but he keeps losing."

Hamidi's history with the union also involves an altercation at Local 1000 headquarters that resulted in a judge imposing three temporary restraining orders instructing Hamidi to stay away from the building.

Hamidi, however, has tried something different this year. He's persuaded many challengers to give him power of attorney, meaning he'll advocate on their behalf at an arbitration hearing next month to decide whether the union's audit is accurate.

"The economy is bad, and they are taking our money with no accountability and transparency," he said. "They are just using us as cash cows. It's nothing but extortion. We are going to hold their feet to the fire."

De La Torre said he doesn't think much of Hamidi's challenge. "He has no interest in winning," he said. "He just wants to agitate."

But Hamidi remains confident that thousands and thousands of state workers are behind him.

"SEIU Local 1000 is terrified of our methodical, smartly designed, and well-calculated decertification tsunami," he said.

PHOTO CREDIT: Ken Hamidi photographed Aug.15, 2003. (Sacramento Bee / Owen Brewer)

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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 jortiz@sacbee.com.

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