Bargaining and Political Pressure – How a Good Contract Gets Built
SEIU Local 1000 is at the table again, negotiating a contract that will have impacts over the next three years. These impacts don’t end with state workers, but extend to their families, the businesses where they shop, the cities in which they live, and in the end, the entire state of California. On the other side of the table sit representatives of the Governor’s office and CalHR staff. We fight for our members using every tool at our disposal. One of the most powerful tools we have to win a good contract is political pressure.
“Sometimes, we talk about politics in a clinical way. We need to paint a picture of who we’re bargaining with,” said Omega Brewer-Gonzalez, Director of Government Affairs for SEIU Local 1000. “We want bold and unapologetic leaders in California. We want champions in the legislature who understand the struggles and stories of our members when they work on the state budget. Corporate donors want someone who will do as they’re told.”
Individual contributions of members into our Committee on Political Education (COPE) make labor the last, best defense against corporate interests. The politicians that listen to corporate money will not prioritize worker’s interests. Lower wages mean more profit, so corporate donors support lower wages, weakened workplace protections, and other policies that will hurt workers.
One of the strongest kinds of political power our members have is that we live in every district and county across the state. Every office in the legislature has a district office, and every office has a contact with the state departments in their area. During the pandemic, due to shelter in place, some legislators fought for additional resources for EDD. “As part of this process, we had a team of union members, activists, and stewards that worked to process claims,” said Omega. “As a result, the legislative district office staffer was working in conjunction with our union members to help expand funding and resources for the department. These legislators understand the importance of our members to the community. We need to make sure they all do.”
Corporations have enough money to directly pressure the Governor. Working people standing together can fight for what we need on the legislature’s floor, at the governor’s desk, and across the table as we bargain. Our elected officials are elected by us, and when they work to help members and our communities, they join our fight for a California that works for us all. But when politicians are more concerned with the bottom line than the well-being of their constituents and we take action. “It’s a two-part process. We need to make sure we’re exercising our member’s political power with the legislature to influence their budget. The legislature has the power to expand or reduce funding for the departments, which changes what CalHR can offer in bargaining,” said Omega. “When our members are engaged in the process as the state budget is determined, we can have more flexibility with the State and have a higher likelihood that funds are available to support workers when we need them.”