Despite all evidence to the contrary, Tyrone Freeman (see photo) was convinced he was innocent. It proved less a conviction than a delusion. This past Monday, January 28, a Los Angeles federal jury convicted the once-powerful Southern California Service Employees International Union (SEIU) leader on 14 criminal charges, including embezzlement, mail fraud and tax fraud. It was an ignominious downfall for a man whom many believed one day would succeed his ally and mentor, then-SEIU President Andrew Stern. "This was a case about abuse and betrayal," said U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. "Freeman abused his position as a leader of the SEIU, and he betrayed the hardworking people whose interests he was supposed to represent."
Tyrone Freeman was once a rising star within the Service Employees International Union. Now his fall is imminent. Last Tuesday, July 31, Freeman, former president of the powerful Los Angeles-based United Long-Term Care Workers, also known as SEIU Local 6434, was indicted in federal court on 15 counts of embezzlement, tax evasion and other offenses. The action wasn't unexpected. Freeman's one-time benefactor, former SEIU President Andrew Stern, had permanently moved him from his post in late 2008 following newspaper accounts of corruption. The stories triggered an internal probe and a nearly four-year joint investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor, FBI and IRS. Freeman's lawyers say their client is innocent. A jury might not be of a similar cast of mind. His wife already has pleaded guilty. And he's facing an unresolved state civil suit.
The year 2008 will be remembered most of all for the $7 trillion in stock market assets that evaporated.The losses were a consequence of the widespread attitude among Wall Street money managers that debt-fueled growth has no limits or negative consequences.The equivalent view among union leaders is that institutional growth must come at any cost, whether to the unions themselves, employers or the country as a whole.Only 7.5 percent of the nation’s private-sector work force now belongs to a union.Labor officials are convinced that with the right laws and programs in place, that figure could double, even triple. Everyone supposedly would win, save for certain "greedy" employers and ideologues hostile to the interests of working families.
There may be few things in organized labor these days as permanent as the temporary suspension of a union officer suspected of massive corruption – at least when the parent union itself is under the watchful eye of authorities.On November 26, Service Employees International Union President Andrew Stern announced he was imposing a lifetime ban on Tyrone Freeman, until recently the president of the largest SEIU local in California.Additionally, Stern ordered Freeman to repay the local more than $1.1 million he allegedly misappropriated over the last few years.Thus ends a promising union career, not to mention a close working relationship with SEIU top brass.
It’s understandable why Andrew Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, has been nervous lately. The union’s 160,000-member Los Angeles affiliate, the United Long-Term Care Workers, also known as Local 6434, has been the target of reported investigations by the U.S. Department of Labor and the House of Representatives following revelations that its president, Tyrone Freeman, engaged in a pattern of misconduct.Freeman had taken a paid leave of absence in order to facilitate an internal SEIU probe.About the last thing Stern wants is for Congress and the executive branch to come down on his union.
The Service Employees International Union under President Andrew Stern, as this publication has noted more than once, is committed to maximizing membership in its own ranks and in the labor movement as a whole.Part of this ongoing campaign involves backing union-friendly political office-seekers. But in Southern California this alliance has produced a downside:bad publicity and a pair of investigations.The focus of attention is SEIU Local 6434, also known as the United Long-Term Care Workers, and its embattled president, Tyrone Freeman.On Thursday, August 21, Bernard Parks, a Democratic candidate for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, demanded that his opponent, Mark Ridley-Thomas, also a Democrat, return more than $4.5 million raised by a union-led alliance whose driving force is Freeman.