SEIU’s California Scheming III (and Michigan, too)

by Ivan Osorio on August 26, 2008 · 2 comments

The scandal that broke at the largest union local in California earlier this month, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union, has spread to Michigan, where the head of that state’s largest local has been forced to resign, less than a week after Tyrone Freeman, the head of the California local was forced to resign and the SEIU national organization removed all of the California local’s officers.

One interesting aspect of this story, in today’s Los Angeles Times, is the continuation of the power struggle between SEIU President Andy Stern and Sal Rosselli, the head of an Oakland, California, local which Stern has been trying to merge into the local at the center of the scandal.

In its statement, the SEIU said it has enlisted former California Atty. Gen. John K. Van de Kamp to assist in the Los Angeles investigation, and that former California Supreme Court Justice Joseph Grodin has agreed to preside over an internal hearing on the inquiry next month.

The statement also announced that Stern’s administration would seek trusteeship of an Oakland local that has resisted the union’s efforts to shift 65,000 of its 150,000 workers to the chapter that Freeman headed. The Los Angeles local was placed in trusteeship last week and all of its officers were removed.

In the statement, Stern’s office accused the Oakland local of improperly setting up a nonprofit and a legal defense fund with members’ dues, misappropriating an internal database and retaliating against workers who criticized its leadership. The statement said that the union found significant evidence that the Oakland chapter’s leadership “engaged in a pattern of financial malpractice and fraud.”

Ringuette said she knows of no allegations that officers of the Oakland local or their relatives personally profited from any of the purported actions. The Times reported some of Stern’s charges against the local in June.

The president of the Oakland organization, Sal Rosselli, denied the allegations Monday. He said the trusteeship move was an attempt to deflect attention from the spending inquiry in Los Angeles and now Michigan, and to punish him for fighting the 2-year-old proposal to transfer his members to Freeman’s local.

“It’s an act of desperation by Stern,” Rosselli said. “They’re just recycling stuff he’s already talked about.”

A merger with the Los Angeles local would have given the now-disgraced Freeman more dues money to play with, at rank-and-file members’ expense. Rosselli would be right to feel vindicated in his opposition to the merger with the LA local, so it is curious that SEIU’s national officers would be going after direct control of his local now.

For more on SEIU, see here, here, here, and here.

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