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Newsom didn't go far enough!

Gavin, in case you didn't notice, is literally dripping with White privilege. Kind of like a Vermont Maple in the fall. It is critical that he steps down and provides an opportunity for a worthy candidate to assume his position.


Sorry, I meant a worthy trans, minority, labor leader which is the logical equivalent.


Laphonza Butler, Gavin Newsom and the SEIU

Dianne Feinstein’s Senate successor cleaned up a union local but isn’t popular among members.


By Michael Saltsman and Charlyce Bozzello, NY Times

Oct. 4, 2023


Joe Biden calls himself the most pro-union president, and California’s Gavin Newsom is determined to be the most pro-union governor.


This week Mr. Newsom appointed labor activist Laphonza Butler to fill the seat of the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Ms. Butler made a name for herself by cleaning up the Service Employees International Union’s messes in California. Now she’s poised to become its most vocal advocate in the Senate.


Her brand of leadership doesn’t exactly recommend her to federal office. Her controversial rise at the SEIU was a result of bitter infighting and power plays that left ordinary union members in the lurch.


She moved to Los Angeles in 2009 to take over SEIU Local 6434 after its president, Tyrone Freeman, was accused of enriching himself with member dues. (Mr. Freeman was convicted of federal charges in 2013.) The SEIU’s national office in Washington successfully pushed Ms. Butler as a leader despite the protests of local members who wanted a grassroots democratic approach to cleaning up the union.


Ms. Butler would soon find herself in a much larger intraunion fight. Early in 2009, the SEIU’s then President Andy Stern took control of a 150,000-member local in California through a controversial process called emergency trusteeship. He put in place a local union leader loyal to him, Dave Regan. Mr. Stern’s power play started a civil war within the California labor movement. Ms. Butler had to guard against a potential raid on her own members.


But Ms. Butler soon benefited from a union raid. After current SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry took power in 2010, reining in Mr. Regan’s power in California was one of Ms. Henry’s priorities. In 2015, following Mr. Stern’s playbook, she took 70,000 members from Mr. Regan’s local as well as members of several others and placed them under Ms. Butler in the newly formed SEIU Local 2015.


Again rank-and-file members weren’t consulted; they weren’t even given a heads-up about the restructuring until it was a done deal. Mr. Regan called it “a massive betrayal of our stated principles and values.” He accused Ms. Henry—and by extension, Ms. Butler—of sacrificing healthcare workers to her own “political needs.”


Ms. Butler’s tenure atop SEIU 2015 was short (she left in 2018 for a political consulting firm), but the state is still suffering the consequences of her actions. She is credited with securing passage of a $15 statewide minimum wage in California, which eliminated some 400,000 entry-level jobs, according to a 2017 report from economists at Miami and Trinity universities. According to the Freedom Foundation, she also raised dues payments for SEIU members while making it nearly impossible for them to opt out of membership.


The local she left behind has struggled to recover from its controversial beginnings. Earlier this year, the union was protested by its own employees who accused it of having a “culture of toxicity.”


Ms. Butler hasn’t said if she views her appointment as a short-term gig or as an audition for a longer-term job. But if she decides to run for a full Senate term, one thing is certain: SEIU leadership will have her back, and she will have theirs.


Mr. Saltsman is executive director of the Employment Policies Institute. Ms. Bozzello is communications director of the Center for Union Facts.

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