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New California union president promises to cut dues in half and stop political spending

The newly elected president of California’s largest state employee union ran on a platform of cutting his members’ dues in half and eliminating union political spending. 

Richard Louis Brown, an Air Force veteran who handles unemployment claims for the state, was elected president of Service Employees International Union 1000 in May, his third try for the office. He will represent 96,000 employees, including nurses, librarians, office workers, and technicians. 

Brown also said that he would separate from SEIU, since the state and international take “half of members’ dues,” and that he would support complete financial transparency.

Brown told the Associated Press that by supporting Democratic candidates, union officials were “alienating half (their) union.” 

“You can’t unify your union if you’re involved in politics,” he said.  

Besides his promise to get the union out of politics, Brown also said on his website that he will not accept a salary as union president, and that he would focus solely on protecting union jobs and on contract negotiations. 

Brown ran three times against long-time SEIU 1000 President Yvonne Walker before finally toppling her. During the early days of the pandemic, Walker agreed to concessions asked for by Gov. Gavin Newsom. 

This week, Walker and the union’s board of directors voted to give Newsom $1 million to help him fight a recall effort, which is in direct conflict with Brown’s pledge to union members that he would not give Newsom money for the effort. Brown does not assume the office of union president until June 27. 

Brown still faces an uphill battle to get his platform through. He will have to convince the union’s board of directors to vote with him on his proposed changes.

  • Suzanne Bates

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Suzanne Bates

Suzanne Bates is Senior Writer and Researcher with Americans for Fair Treatment, a community of current and former public-sector workers offering resources and support to exercise their First Amendment rights. Prior to joining Americans for Fair Treatment in 2020, Suzanne worked as a journalist for the Associated Press, as Policy Director with the Yankee Institute, as a contributor for The Hartford Courant, and as a regular commentator for WNPR’s The Wheelhouse.