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Union big's proteges stole from union members
About two dozen health-care workers rallied Monday in Manhattan Beach, demanding their national union leaders allow them to elect local leaders and return misused union dues. "They are supposed to be helping us, not keeping us in the dark," said Stephen Sherman, 88, a longtime member of Local 6434 of the Service Employees International Union.
The workers gathered in front of the Marriott Hotel on Rosecrans Avenue, the site of a disciplinary hearing into the actions of Tyrone Freeman, former president of Local 6434. Freeman, recently removed from office, has been charged with several counts of using union money for personal purposes.
The workers allege that they are being kept in the dark by the national leadership of SEIU, which placed the local chapter into a trusteeship until the disciplinary matter is resolved.
"All members of Local 6434 were sent a letter detailing exactly what's taking place," said Michelle Ringuette, spokeswoman for SEIU in Washington, D.C. "We are very careful to respect the due process rights of all of our leaders and elected officers, and members."
The SEIU and its California affiliates, including United Health Care Workers-West and Local 6434, have been embroiled in a tense tug of war over leadership for the past several months. The national group wants to consolidate long-term health-care workers into one local, while some members of the California chapters want to remain separate.
widely reported allegations against Freeman have added another layer of tension. The national union claims, among other things, that he diverted $600,000 in union dues to a company owned by his wife without proper disclosure.
Those who protested in Manhattan Beach said Freeman is a scapegoat for the national union, which deserves equal share of the blame for the mismanagement.
"We want the truth," said Raquel Torivio, a union member who flew to the South Bay from Monterey to participate in the rally. "The real problem is with the national leadership."
At one point, a contingent of Freeman supporters - wearing Local 6434 T-shirts and buttons - showed up to the rally, loudly asserting that the demonstrators weren't actual members of Local 6434, but rather United Health Care Workers-West.
The demonstrators disputed that claim.
National leaders say if Freeman is found guilty of the charges, the members of Local 6434 will be entitled to a democratic vote for new leadership.