California's Largest Worker Union Throws Support Behind Gavin Newsom

California's largest worker union on Wednesday voted to donate $1 million in support of Governor Gavin Newsom's fight against the recall.

But some members of SEIU Local 1000, which represents 96,000 state workers, said it would cause a further divide in the union, the Associated Press reported.

"Gavin Newsom will win the recall without our support. The only thing that our support will do it further divide our union," said Robert Bayze, a union member who tried to get the union to take no position on the recall.

Union President Yvonne Walker called an emergency meeting for the vote weeks before the incoming president, Richard Louis Brown, takes over.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Gavin Newsom Economic Recovery Conference
California's largest worker union on Wednesday voted to donate $1 million in support of Governor Gavin Newsom's fight against the recall. But some members of SEIU Local 1000, which represents 96,000 state workers, said it would cause a further divide in the union. Above, Newsom (center) buttons his jacket as he prepares to take a photo with state and local leaders during a press conference at The Unity Council on May 10, 2021, in Oakland. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The $1 million contribution approved by the board of directors will go to the SEIU California State Council, which oversees 17 unions and voted last week to oppose the recall.

Brown opposes union support for Newsom due to state worker pay cuts the governor imposed during the pandemic. He would need support from the board of directors to make opposition to the recall an official union position, but his anti-Newsom comments caused a stir in the organized labor movement that largely backs the governor.

A spokesman for the union did not respond to questions about when a political endorsement vote would normally be held.

Among the board, 44 people voted in support of the $1 million donation, nine voted against and five abstained.

Union member Steven Alari, who proposed the donation, warned failing to support Newsom could leave the state with a Republican governor who would take anti-worker positions. He reminded members about the tenure of former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who won in the 2003 recall election and sparred often with the state worker union under Walker's leadership.

"We must protect our members and the state of California," he said.

The opponents included all three of the union's vice presidents, one of whom was re-elected.

Kevin Menager, the outgoing vice president and secretary-treasurer, said the union should wait to take a position until the recall is closer. Others similarly said the debate should happen at a regularly scheduled meeting, held on Zoom, rather than on a last-minute phone call. He supported Bayze's amendment for the union to take no position on the recall at this time.

"We're not telling our boss we don't support you. We're saying, 'We'll get back to you,'" Menager said, referring to Newsom.

Newsom, a first-term Democrat, has largely locked up support among labor unions. The California Labor Federation, which represents 2.1 million workers, announced Tuesday it was launching a campaign to fight the recall that would send thousands of workers out knocking on doors this summer.

But Brown, the incoming SEIU Local 1000 president, ran on a platform that included opposition to Newsom because of a state worker pay cut topping 9% last year. Newsom cut worker pay as he estimated a massive budget deficit that did not come to fruition. The state now has $76 billion in extra money, and Newsom said he expects to restore the pay when the next budget year starts July 1.

Fewer than 8,000 people, a fraction of the union's membership, voted in the election. Brown also ran on a platform of creating a strike fund that the union can tap in future contract negotiations and splitting from the larger SEIU.

The recall must go through several more steps, including a cost estimate by state officials, before an election date can be set.

Governor Newsom Unveils Economic Recovery Package
California's largest worker union on Wednesday voted to donate $1 million in support of Governor Gavin Newsom's fight against the recall. But some members of SEIU Local 1000, which represents 96,000 state workers, said it would cause a further divide in the union. Above, Newsom speaks during a press conference at The Unity Council on May 10, 2021, in Oakland. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images