The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

September 8, 2011
SEIU Local 1000 to consider six-figure salaries for officers

Yvonne_Walker_small.jpgEditor's note, Sept. 9, 11:59 a.m.: This post has been corrected from an earlier version that listed the incorrect dates for the Local 1000 council meeting in Oakland.

SEIU Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker would receive three times her current wages under a new executive pay proposal that the union's statewide council will consider at its Sept. 16-19 meeting in Oakland.

The plan calls for members serving in Local 1000's top job to earn a total compensation package of $150,000 per year. In Walker's case, the union would tack on $103,000 to the $47,000 gross pay she receives as a legal secretary with the Department of Justice.
Because Walker is on full-time union paid leave, SEIU already reimburses the state for her salary plus 35 percent to cover her benefits. So in reality, the entire $150,000 would come from union resources.

The pay plan also establishes a $125,000 annual compensation package for Local 1000's secretary treasurer, the vice president of organizing and representation and the vice president of bargaining. The union estimates the total cost of boosting pay for the four offices would total about $295,000 per year.

The added money wouldn't figure into the executives' state retirement, nor would it qualify them to participate in the union's own employee retirement plan, according to union member Marie Harder, who spearheaded the plan.

Employment Development Department employee Alex Hernandez was one of about two dozen people who e-mailed the agenda item (posted below) to The State Worker today. He's angry.

"This just adds insult to injury," Hernandez said, noting that the proposal has surfaced during a long, painful period for state workers who went from imposed furloughs to contractual unpaid days off and the threat of layoffs.

Hernandez, a former Local 1000 Council board member, said that the pay increase would also distance Walker and executive team from the real world pressures state workers confront, since the plan guarantees their overall pay rate if their state wages are reduced.

"This will exclude any of the officers from furlough, salary reductions, or any other (stuff) that is negotiated," Hernandez said. "This will remove any incentive to fight for our members at the bargaining table, because they will be exempt from any of it."

In a telephone interview this afternoon, Walker said that she didn't conceive the plan and won't be voting on it when it comes up before Local 1000's state council in Oakland.

But she defended the idea as just compensation for "a secretary doing a CEO's job" as the head of a multimillion-dollar enterprise with roughly 90,000 members.

"We need to take the people involved out of this and ask, 'Would this be appropriate compensation for the job?'" said Walker, who was elected the local's president in 2008 and reelected to another three-year term in May. "If it's not inappropriate, then there shouldn't be a problem."

The council's agenda item makes the same argument, noting that the four statewide Local 1000 officials "work long hours," and control the union's considerable resources. While on union leave, they "forgo promotional opportunities" that cause "a disruption to their promotional and earning potential over time." Their salaries "fail to adequately compensate them for the long hours and significant responsibilities they face ..."

Local 1000, like the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, has a contractual Union Paid Leave agreement that allows some members to work full time on union business instead of at their state job. In such cases, the union reimburses the state for the employee's wages and benefits.

Officers of some other state unions, such as Professional Engineers in California Government, volunteer most of their time while continuing to work their state jobs. Those employees may occasionally take work time to attend to labor matters, like bargaining.

When asked whether now is a poor time to consider raising union executive pay, Walker acknowledged that the last few years have been tough for Local 1000 members, but said the timing was procedural, not political. "Why now? Because now is the time (the plan's author) moved it," she said.

And when did Walker know about the plan?

"When the motion came in," she said.

Harder, vice president of Local 1000's Bargaining Unit 1, is making the proposal because, she said, the union's executive team "needed to be valued more. They work their fannies off." No one prompted her to raise the issue, she said.

Working with union legal and research staff, Harder compared other union executive compensation packages around the nation, focusing on groups of similar size and larger. The pay raises she recommended came from that data. Lawyers vetted the plan and then submitted it for council consideration, she said.

"I'm sure that there will be plenty of discussion" when the council takes up the plan, Harder said. "And there should be."
SEIU Local 1000 executive pay increase agenda item 5(J)

PHOTO: Yvonne Walker / Sacramento Bee file, 2008

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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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