Tyrone Freeman, the president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) California Chapter 6434, was found guilty on 14 counts of embezzlement last week, and faces a maximum of 180 years in prison when his sentence is announced in April.
Hand-picked by SEIU president Andrew Stern (pictured) to “consolidate” numerous local chapters in California, Freeman succeeded in expanding membership among home healthcare workers through a combination of persuasion, coercion, and fraud. All he was doing was following the dictum of his boss: “We use the power of persuasion first. If it doesn't work, we try the persuasion of power.”
Along the way Freeman lavished himself and his family with union funds extracted from workers making an average of $9 an hour. Some of his schemes involved buying $175 glasses of cognac, $250 bottles of wine, and a lavish — all-expenses-paid-for-by-the-union — trip to the NFL’s Pro Bowl in Hawaii for him and friends.
These were just incidentals. The egregious theft of funds involved supporting a golf tournament to the tune of $418,000, billed as a fundraiser for the union but which turned out to fall more than $100,000 short of even meeting its expenses. He arranged for his union to pay companies owned by his wife and his mother-in-law amounts exceeding 10 percent of the union’s entire annual budget. This was in addition to his $213,000 salary and his wife’s $50,000, earned while she was a union staffer. Some of the companies the union “hired” were shell corporations, or didn't even exist, according to court records. For instance, one company, the Long Term Care Housing Corporation, listed a Bell Gardens address that is owned by Freeman’s former chief of staff, who no longer lives there.
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Photo of Andrew Stern: AP Images