Following up on my earlier post about The Los Angeles Times‘ investigation into allegations of financial malfeasance by the head of a California affiliate of the Service Employees International Union, the union head in question resigned this week.
The head of California’s largest union local has stepped aside in the wake of Times reports that the organization and a related charity paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to firms owned by his wife and mother-in-law.
Tyrone Freeman, president of a Service Employees International Union chapter in Los Angeles, said in a written statement late Wednesday that he was taking a leave of absence and that the local would be placed in a temporary trusteeship.
With embarrassing evidence piling up, Freeman seems to have found it impossible to hang on. Yet it doesn’t seem that he Freeman was about to go easily.
His departure comes as several union staff members told of being pressured by Freeman’s lieutenants to sign a petition in support of him. Some of those who initially refused were transferred to positions far from their homes, according to three staffers who asked not to be identified because they feared reprisals.
About 10 workers who balked at signing the petition had their union-provided cellphone service discontinued, the staffers said.
The petition cited recent “attacks” on Freeman and the local and said, “Let it be clear that we . . . proudly and firmly stand with President Freeman and the work of our local,” according to a copy the staffers provided.
“It’s essentially a loyalty oath,” said one of the workers. He said the atmosphere at the union has been “very tense. . . . There’s a lot of intimidation.”
That kind of intimidation will become more common if the so-called Employee Free Choice Act were to become law; EFCA would circumvent secret ballots by mandating card check organizing whenever unions demanded it — and there is no reason for them not to demand it.