SEIU Local Paid Big Bucks to Relatives' Firm

Fast-rising union prez defends payments to wife's company
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 9, 2008 7:05 PM CDT
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, right, greets members of SEIU Local 6434 with union president Tyrone Freeman in Los Angeles, Saturday, May 12, 2007.    (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – California's biggest union local has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on companies owned by its president's relatives, the Los Angeles Times reports. The SEIU local for low-wage caregivers, and a related charity, paid six figures to a video company run by the wife and mother-in-law of union President Tyrone Freeman. He defends the expenses, which include nearly $300,000 on a golf tournament and $10,000 on a celebrity cigar lounge.

"Every expenditure has been in the context of fighting poverty," said Freeman. But the local spent nearly $123,000 more on a fundraiser than it was reimbursed, and 10% of its annual expenses on Freeman's mother-in-law's firm. "It's very important for unions not to do this kind of thing," a labor advocate said. "Union leadership is a public trust—all the more so when the people being represented are among the lowest-paid in America."