California (The Gaslamp Post) – Has anyone ever given serious thought as to where all of the money that union workers pay up the ladder goes? Some say to political campaigns, others believe that it goes towards their retirement, others think that it goes to float them when they’re either out of work or on strike.
A man who was described as a “one time rising star in national labor circles” was found guilty yesterday of 14 counts of stealing union funds from some of his lowest wage earners. SEIU leader Tyrone Freeman,43, who was removed from office amid scandal in 2008, is now facing some serious prison time.
A four-year long investigation after allegations of union dues going to pay for vacations, his wedding, and some expensive golf outings, led the IRS, the FBI, and U.S. Department of Labor to uncover fraud to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars. Freeman, who earned some $200,000 per year, was also found to have been redirecting funds from Local 6434 into his personally led California United Homecare Workers union.
“This was a case about abuse and betrayal,” U.S. Atty. André Birotte Jr. said in a statement after the verdict. “Freeman abused his position as leader of the SEIU, and he betrayed the hardworking people whose interests he was supposed to represent.”
While giving himself raises, he was doing it off of the backs of union workers being paid $9 and hour.
As president of SEIU Local 6434 and an affiliated chapter of homecare workers, Freeman carried significant clout in Los Angeles, Sacramento and Washington, D.C., because he commanded deep sources of campaign money and foot soldiers.
In August, he was indicted on charges of embezzling from his statewide local of mostly $9-an-hour workers and using some of the stolen money to cover costs from his Hawaiian wedding. Other charges were mail fraud, violation of tax laws and giving false information to a mortgage lender.
His wife, Pilar Planells, had earlier pleaded guilty to a tax charge in connection with more than $540,000 she received in consulting payments from the L.A.-based local while Freeman was in charge.
The verdict of guilty was met by cheers of many whom he had at one time represented from Local 6434. Mr. Freeman is due back in court for sentencing in April, where he faces a maximum sentence of 180 years.
“When union bosses get all the power and they’re not accountable to their members, it leads to the corruption that is spelled out today in the conviction of Tyrone Freeman,” said Sal Rosselli, president of the rival group, the National Union of Healthcare Workers.
The verdict was cheered by Local 6434 members such as Raquel Toribio, 69, a Monterey County homecare worker paid to look after her son, who has Down syndrome. “I’m very happy to hear Freeman’s going to pay for what he stole,” she said. “It has been a long time.”
“Mr. Freeman occupied a position of public trust, and he violated that trust by enriching himself at the cost of California’s workers,” said Assistant U.S. Atty. Elisa Fernandez, a prosecutor in the case.
(h/t: LA Times)