California’s largest state worker union has demanded government officials “come to the bargaining table” over Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom’s mandate requiring all state employees to show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination by August 2 or be subject to weekly testing.
Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1000 President Richard Louis Brown posted a letter to social media on Wednesday to the California Department of Human Resources (CalHR). Written by the union’s chief counsel, the letter claimed “the Governor abruptly turned away from the legal requirements of notice and bargaining” by changing work conditions for the local’s 96,000 members.
Brown said he “did not consult” the union’s board before the document was drafted, a move that has reportedly divided members, according to The Sacramento Bee.
A press release from Brown said that Newsom never specified how the vaccine verification mandate would be implemented by state agencies and went on to question whether the requirement “was a knee-jerk reaction to the rising number of COVID-19 cases.”
“Last March, Governor Newsom was quick to issue a stay-at-home order in response to the growing COVID-19 pandemic, forcing thousands of state employees into teleworking full time,” said Brown in a statement issued on Wednesday. “His actions today might suggest he is willing to risk the health and safety of state employees by having them return to the office.”
“I’m not willing to accept that risk at this time.”
@sacbee_news @SacBeeEditBoard @amychance @TheStateWorker @GavinNewsom
Local 1000 Listens to You!Cease & Desist against GAVIN!
Finally a REAL LABOR UNION fighting for ALL of its represented employees! pic.twitter.com/exTTD5LJTD
— Richard the Real 7437 (@RichardReal7437) July 28, 2021
In the letter to CalHr, Anne M. Giese, chief counsel at SEIU Local 1000, claimed Newsom’s new policy violated the requirements of a state employer-employee relations act that grants state employees the right to join labor organizations.
“This is a change in the terms and working conditions of our represented employees and requires meeting and conferring with the Union prior to implementing the change,” she wrote.
Giese called on CalHR and state officials to “cease and desist enforcing this requirement or imposing an immediate deadline” until they “meet and confer” with the union.
Early last month, SEIU Local 1000’s board of directors overwhelmingly approved a $1 million donation to help Newsom fend off a recall in a special election that has since been set for September 14.
The massive contribution was opposed by Brown, who was the union’s incoming president at the time. He was elected in May and took over the role on June 30. According to The Associated Press, “his anti-Newsom comments caused a stir in the organized labor movement that largely backs the governor.” The outlet reported, Brown “ran on a platform that included opposition to Newsom because of a state worker pay cut topping 9% last year.”
The Sacramento Bee reported that Brown said, “We will bring the state to a standstill, and we’ll run Gavin Newsom out of office one way or another,” during an interview during the campaign.
On Wednesday, Brown said, “Governor Newsom has counted on support from organized labor for quite a while,” adding, “It’s time Local 1000, and the other bargaining units, take a hard look if that support should continue.”