Given his well-documented history of bad decisions, it’s not unthinkable California Gov. Gavin Newsom would have appointed Emily’s List president Laphonza Butler to fill the Senate seat left vacant by the death last week of Dianne Feinstein anyway.
But when you throw in Newsom’s painfully obvious desire to follow Joe Biden’s roadmap to the White House, how could he have settled on anyone else?
After watching Biden resurrect his moribund presidential campaign in 2020 by promising Big Labor to become the most “pro-union president you’ve ever seen,” Newsom apparently decided to go even further by selling out to the Left’s most prolific donor preemptively.
Two years ago, for example, Newsom signed a bill obligating the state’s taxpayers to cover the cost of government union member dues to the tune of $400 million. This year, he’s backing a bill that would empower unions to block the “… passing of any statute or ordinance that interferes with, negates or diminishes the right of employees to organize and bargain collectively over their wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment and workplace safety.”
Against that backdrop, who else but Laphonza Butler, former embattled president of SEIU 2015, could check all the right boxes? Not only do her race, gender and sexual orientation allow Newsom to dismiss anyone critical of his choice a bigot, but her labor credentials align perfectly with his needs.
To be blunt, she isn’t just a former public-sector union president — making her the first member of the U.S. Senate who could claim that “distinction” — but she was a bad one at that.
Butler’s time at SEIU 2015, which was cobbled together in 2014 from various local unions across the state, was marked by controversy from the start, including internal conflict from those losing their members to hers. In a leaked memo, the leader of SEIU-UHW accused SEIU leadership of dishonesty, secrecy and of acting contrary to the best interest of the union members.
In his memo, Dave Regan demanded to know:
“Why is it that honest, open discussion on something as significant as reassigning 70,000 human beings, without talking to a single one of them is now so frightening that we need to adopt and enforce gag orders barring even internal union communications among affected members? Once an organization loses the ability to tell the truth internally, let alone with the public, the culture of such an organization has become so degraded that its ability to be effective and successful must be questioned. The top leadership of SEIU has now created such an organization.”
Regan added, “Values and integrity are supposed to be non-negotiable…”
By the summer of 2015, Butler’s union, which represented more than 280,000 Medicaid-compensated homecare providers from across the state of California, was fully operational. There was only one problem: Many of Butler’s new union members were not even aware they’d been waylaid.
Those who opted out of union membership with their former union were puzzled to notice that dues started coming out of their paychecks once again. When they called their previous union, they were told their “membership” had been transferred without their knowledge or consent to SEIU 2015.
The fortunate few who managed to get someone from SEIU 2015 to answer the phone were informed they could not re-opt out of union membership until a one-year period had elapsed.
Under Butler, SEIU 2015 deducted a staggering 3 percent of the caregivers’ meager paychecks, which comes to more than $500 per year for many. By comparison, SEIU 1000, which actually handles workplace issues, deducted only 1.5 percent of its members’ wages for doing so.
When a caregiver tried to opt out of union membership, they were sent a 500-word form letter rejecting their request. The letter rambled on about the benefits of union membership and buried instructions on how to “properly” opt out during the annual 15-day escape period.
In a statement to the Los Angeles Sentinel, just as she was leaving the union to take a position as one of Vice President Kamala Harris’ key advisors, Butler noted, “I have long said that in order for an organization to thrive, it requires new energy, ideas and leadership.”
Maybe. But based on her record in California, the distinguishing characteristics Laphonza Butler will bring to the Senate are a contempt for transparency, indifference to her constituents and just plain gall.
Just like the man who nominated her.
Bob Wickers is Vice President of Operations at the Freedom Foundation. He resides in California.
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