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June 27, 2004

SEIU Beats Arnie in Budget Fight

When Arnie announced plans to slash state funds for home health care workers, many analysts thought he'd roll over the state legislature.

But instead, SEIU ramped up its efforts and the result was a backing down by the Gropinator:

As both sides push to beat a June 30 budget deadline, SEIU appears to have won. And if their victory stands, labor analysts and legislators said, it will reinforce the growing influence of the 1.6 million-member union rooted in organizing service employees. It could also put SEIU on a collision course with Schwarzenegger, who shares few interests with the union.

"The alliance between the Latino community, big labor and the liberal left has the markings of a very powerful political coalition," said Victor Silverman, professor of history and labor issues at Pomona College.

This strength derives from massive organizing by SEIU among home health care workers in the last few years:
"Our interests are getting people out of poverty," said Tyrone Freeman, general president of SEIU Local 434B and chairman of the union's home care workers lobby. "We would work with anyone politician that believes in those goals."

Home care workers have become a growth industry for the union, as it has organized the work force dominated by black and Hispanic women who provide a variety of domestic services to the disabled or the elderly. Their pay comes from a mix of federal, state and local dollars.

Although allowed to organize for years, the workers and unions gained more clout in 1999, when they pushed for changes in California law to mandate the state to pay more of the workers' wages. The new law sparked a rush to organize; in what was the nation's largest union election since World War II, 74,000 home care workers in Los Angeles County voted to join SEIU in 1999.

Give Arnie credit. At least he cuts the deal when he faces opponents unwilling to back down before his celebrity.

Posted by Nathan at June 27, 2004 02:16 PM