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Janet Atkins

Local 535 Election Notice

Fresno Victory flyer (pdf)

Budget Accountability Act Flyer


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Local News

July 2003

First vice president Janet Atkins has accepted a promotion to the position of social services program manager with Santa Clara County. In the wake of Janet’s promotion out of a 535-represented bargaining unit, northern vice president Penny Donovan assumed the office of first vice president, and Local 535 president Annette Jeffries has named Lee Hawn, of The Arc/San Francisco, as northern vice president.

Welcome New Staff

Three Local 535 members have been hired as field representatives, Contra Costa Chapter president and eligibility worker Ian Arnold , Santa Clara County union activist Edgar Azevedo, and former president of the Regional Center of the East Bay Chapter Susan Stofan. Ian will be working out of the Oakland office, Edgar out of the San Jose office, and Susan out of Pasadena. Carlos Rivera has been hired as a communications coordinator working out of the Oakland office.


July 18-19 Coalition of Labor Union Women statewide meeting (Oakland)

July 29-August 1 A. Philip Randolph Institute education conference (Atlanta)

August 7-10 Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance convention (Los Angeles)

September 1 Labor Day

September 7-11 SEIU member political action conference (Washington DC)

September 10-14 Labor Council for Latin American Advancement convention (Washington DC)

September 13-14 535 state executive board (Fresno)

September 18-20 Pride At Work convention (Virginia)

October 9-12 CLUW national convention (Seattle)

October 18 535 New Strength Unity division meetings (San Jose)

October 24-26 535 Budget Committee meeting (Oakland)

November 4 general election

November 15-16 535 state executive board (Emeryville)

December 8 California Labor Federation pre-primary convention


Local 535 won six of the nine awards presented at the SEIU State Council Labor/Neighbor Conference due to the work of the COPE/Political Action Committee co- chairs Doris Wallace and Lee Hawn and our legislative/political directors Jerry Fillingim and James Johnson. Awards include:

Best Lobbying Operation: Included 125 members from 20 chapters and 23 lobby days in Sacramento from a broad range of programs including child welfare, mental health, developmental disabilities, public health, social services, education, local government, and child development.

Best Political Program Supporting New Organizing in the Developmental Disabilities Community: Fighting the budget cuts for developmental disabilities included organized testimony at numerous hearings with a wide variety of members from around the state, including North LA Regional Center, North Bay Regional Center, The Arc/San Francisco, and Valley Mountain Regional Center.

Most Innovative Political Program: The Social Work Campaign with the Heroes of Social Work photo exhibit. The campaign drew attention to workload/caseload problems and the shortage of social workers. The effort involved hearings with the Assembly Human Services Committee and the passage of legislation including AB 364 to implement the caseload reductions called for in the SB 2030 yardstick study. Members served on an advisory council to Assemblywoman Dion Aroner and the Child Welfare Services Stakeholder Committee.

Other awards were for meeting or exceeding goals for Voter Registration, Committee on Political Empowerment Quota, and Membership Participation.

Court Workers Finally Get Chavez Holiday

Sometimes a holiday can make all the difference. In the past, Fresno court workers were forced to work on Cesar Chavez Day (April 1), a state holiday, even though the court was closed and all the judges were off. The union took the court to arbitration and won. This April 1 they got to celebrate for the first time. “It was a big deal,” states former court employee and current field representative Gloria Arroyo. “The courts think they know it all, and no one tells these powerful people what to do. Well, SEIU held them accountable,” she states with satisfaction.


Madera Regional Head Start: Madera Regional Head Start workers voted 46 to 13 to join SEIU Local 535. The new chapter consists of master teachers, teacher aides, head cook, cook aides, bus aides, bus drivers, home base educators, associate teachers, and family advocates. Thanks to member organizers Sharon Diaz, Brandy Harner, and Marvin Valverde. Organizing staff on the campaign were Catherine Balbas, Andy Christensen, Gilbert Gonzalez, Dave Otero, and Rudy Waller; Yolanda Guerra was principle organizer. Organizers Janis Carroll, Tim Farrell, Liza Go, Maria Keegan, Jim Moreau, and Dung Tran also lent their assistance in the initial stages of the organizing drive.

Glendale YWCA:Local 535 organized the first YWCA in the state, a unit of 35 domestic violence workers at the Glendale YWCA. Contract negotiations have begun. These workers went to the press, went to the politicians, and marched on their boss. Assemblywoman Judy Chu wrote a strong letter of support asking for neutrality, but the agency held mandatory anti-union meetings anyway. Workers marched into one of the closed board of directors’ meetings to demand union recognition. Among those workers were Maral Belian, Hrachik Madathian, Teresa Rivera, and Sara Siebert, who have also been elected to the negotiating team.

Student Transportation of America/Porterville Unified Bus Drivers: A new unit of 35 bus drivers voted to join Local 535. Congratulations and thanks to the organizing committee, with a special thank you to new members Carol Coles, Andrea Coon, Brian Hileman, Esperanza Mota, Colleen Norris, David Norris, Patricia Patterson, Jody Rowland, and John Yarbro.

Kaiser: Internal organizing has resulted in the addition of Kaiser social workers in Bakersfield to those already represented by 535. Southern vice president Rhonda Goode and Kaiser Psych/Social Worker Chapter president Priscilla Kania, with the assistance of chapter vice president Bill Noack, were successful in getting 100% of the eligible social workers to sign representation cards for Local 535.

The Kaiser San Diego Mental Health Providers Chapter voted 91 to 10 to merge into the Los Angeles Kaiser Psych/Social Worker Chapter, creating a chapter of approximately 900 mental health professionals covering all of southern California from San Diego to Bakersfield. Following completion of the unification of these chapters, discussions will be held with Kaiser to merge the two contracts. One of the long-range goals is to gain a common wage scale for all of the Kaiser mental health professionals in southern California.

Volunteers Needed: Member organizers are needed for Head Start campaigns, especially Spanish-speaking volunteers. We also need volunteers for the Kaiser organizing campaign. Contact organizing director Willas DeMorst or any member of the organizing staff. We provide training for all of our volunteers based on the campaign. We are exploring development of a “flight team,” a group of workers who would move from one campaign to the next. We are looking for a commitment of at least a month to assist in organizing our Head Start targets.

Fresno County Agency Shop Victories

The public defenders of Fresno County (Unit 31) voted overwhelmingly to approve agency shop on February 2, and on June 18 ballots were counted for the three largest bargaining units in Fresno County, representing 3,112 workers in a wide range of classifications including social workers, mental health professionals, eligibility workers, job specialists, clerical, para-medical, building and service workers. Members and staff from around the state worked tirelessly for six months, which paid off with a victory in all three units. This agency shop campaign was the largest organizing campaign within SEIU and will bring in over 2,500 new members/fee payers.

Since February 2002 Local 535 has won eight agency shop elections in Fresno County. All of the bargaining units represented by Local 535 in Fresno County are now an agency shop. “This is a dream come true for our members,” said Lisa Edelheit, central regional director. “Members have been trying to secure agency shop for Fresno County for nearly 20 years. We will have more power and a stronger voice as we enter into contract negotiations later this summer.”

Thanks to all the members and staff that worked on the campaign. See Fresno Victory Flyer

New Strength Unity Plan Update

As the SEIU international convention year of 2004 approaches, Local 535 is about to institute all of the New Strength Unity constitutional and program changes adopted at the 2000 convention. Below is an update of the last pieces of our program.

Diversity Program: The committee established to develop a diversity program for our local has met several times this year. Members of the committee are attending all of the regional officers’ meetings to solicit input from our leadership.

Division Structure: At the November 2002 state executive board meeting, constitutional changes were adopted to add three divisional vice presidents as statewide officers. These new vice presidents will be elected in our statewide election this year. The first division meeting has been set for October 18 at the Hyatt Airport Hotel in San Jose.

Communications: The local has been able to broaden its outreach to the community and our members through the media and events with the help of our communications program staff.

Developmental Disabilities Campaign for Quality Services

SEIU staff and members have been meeting with various stakeholders in the developmental disabilities community to build a coalition to improve services for consumers and obtain better wages for direct care staff in the industry—as well as support legislation to reach those goals. AB 649 was introduced in the legislature earlier this year. This was the first time in the history of California that DD consumers, parents, family members, unorganized workers, and union members stood in a coalition in support of a bill that will improve services within the developmental disabilities system. The legislation would establish “work service centers” as third-party employers of record for direct care staff.

AB 649 has been designated a two-year bill. This will give our campaign time to strengthen the statewide coalition in preparation for our fight to pass this bill when it is heard again next year. History is in the making as we march on in our organizing efforts to improve services in this system. We thank the following members for their participation: Amar Bajwa, Tsahi Benton, John Gutierrez, and Kathryn Watts from North Los Angeles Regional Center; Gary Gregerson and Francesca Rosa from The Arc/San Francisco; Marg Cimafranca from Hope; Joseph Buchroeder and David Mulvey from Tri-Counties Regional Center; Claudia Marino from San Andreas Regional Center; Adele Fukuba from Regional Center of the East Bay; Richard Greenwood from North Bay Regional Center; and first vice president Penny Donovan. The following staff also participated: Greg Cross, Don Evans, Jerry Fillingim, Armin Reyes, Ron Rhone, Sylvia Sanchez, and Dung Tran.

In Brief:

• Congratulations to central vice president Elvira Dominguez on her recent election to the Fresno County Retirement Board The campaign was a joint effort of Local 535 and the SEIU Capital Stewardship Program. We now have two seats on the board. (Senior field representative Tom Abshere holds the other.)

• Local 535 was well represented at the Democratic State Convention by Amar Bajwa, Elaine Duvali, Gregg Fritchle, Mary Gallatin, Judi Harris Kirkham, Luisa Nava, Harry Parker, Doris Wallace, president Annette Jeffries, legislative/political director James Johnson, and field representative Brian Polejes. We swept the election of officers in the Children’s Caucus: Doris Wallace, president; Brian Polejes, secretary; and Mary Gallatin, treasurer.

• On May 6, the AFL-CIO launched The Union Shop Online at, a website featuring union-made clothing, books, music, videos, posters, note cards, and more.

• The SEIU Scholarship selection process has been completed, and it is a pleasure to announce that Gregory Ruiz, the son of Local 535 Los Angeles County Chapter member Gustavo Ruiz, was chosen as an award recipient. Gregory will receive $1,500.00. SEIU believes in education and we know higher education is costly. We award more than 50 scholarships annually to help defray that cost so that our members and their children can pursue their aspirations.

• Workers Portal Launched by California Department of Industrial Relations. The Department of Industrial Relations has launched a new workers’ portal to increase access for workers. The portal makes information about the state’s labor and workplace safety and health laws readily available and provides easy access to the workers’ compensation and apprenticeship systems, programs the department oversees, or