Ken Hamidi has been trying to break the grip of SEIU Local 1000 since 2007.
Along the way, the Iranian-born Franchise Tax Board employee has won some admirers for his never-say-die spirit and for winning a landmark California Supreme Court case a dozen years ago. He’s also drawn the ire and the ridicule of SEIU officials, who dismiss him as a self-aggrandizing blowhard and a buffoon.
Now he has renewed efforts to replace the union’s exclusive representation of half of California state government’s organized workforce with an association that he would head.
Hamidi says that he already has 6,000 of the 28,500 or so petition signatures he needs to put SEIU Local 1000’s continued representation to a vote. He acknowledges that merely reaching nearly 100,000 state employees is a daunting task, but he thinks that he can find sufficient support if he is allowed access to state email.
“Four emails,” he said. “That’s all it would take.”
This week Hamidi revealed that he has retained Roseville-based United Law Center, which specializes in consumer law, to knock down any legal blockades that SEIU or the government might erect to keep his campaign from communicating with employees about decertifying the union.
The announcement was significant for Hamidi, a sign that his rough-hewn fight with SEIU has a professional ally in a 13-lawyer firm that has taken on banks and insurance companies.
SEIU leadership isn’t impressed.
“Ken Hamidi is a state worker who relies on televised theatrics, falsehoods and exaggerated claims to attack Local 1000,” Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker said in an email to The Sacramento Bee. “Like his candidacy for governor in 2003 and for Local 1000 president in 2008, his 8-year-long campaign to weaken the union hasn’t attracted any meaningful following.”
Hamidi, 68, worked for Intel Corp. before he joined the Tax Board in 1999. In 2003, he won a landmark freedom of speech case that turned back the tech firm’s charge that he illegally disrupted its business by sending negative comments about the company through its corporate email system.
The case went all the way to the California Supreme Court and garnered a measure of fame for Hamidi, who intensified the spotlight with media stunts. In one instance, he delivered 40,000 printed emails to Intel’s Santa Clara headquarters via horse-drawn carriage to draw attention to the case. Unions, including SEIU, supported his cause for fear that a court-sanctioned email restriction could hamper their ability to organize.