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California | Labor & Workers

SEIU Pres Stern's Key CA Operative Tyrone Freeman Linked To Corruption Scheme
by repost
Saturday Aug 9th, 2008 7:39 AM
SEIU Pres Andy Stern is seeking to consolidate hundreds of thousands of workers in California and force them into a homecare workers local led by hand picked operative Tyrone Freeman. It has now been revealed that Stern's ally is California has been using hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay his family members for video and pr services. The many workers of the local earn around $9.00 an hour
SEIU Pres Stern's Key CA Operative Tyrone Freeman Linked To Corruption Scheme-Corporate Unionism At Work
http://www.latimes.com/news/la-me-union9-2008aug09,0,6048769,full.story
A TIMES INVESTIGATION
Union, charity paid thousands to firms owned by official's relatives

The video production and day care companies are owned by the wife and mother-in-law of the head of the SEIU local, which represents low-wage home healthcare workers.
By Paul Pringle, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
August 9, 2008
California's largest union local and a related charity have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to firms owned by the wife and mother-in-law of the labor organization's president, documents and interviews show.

The Los Angeles-based union, which represents low-wage caregivers, also spent nearly $300,000 last year on a Four Seasons Resorts golf tournament, a Beverly Hills cigar club, restaurants such as Morton's steakhouse and a consulting contract with the William Morris Agency, the Hollywood talent shop, records show.


In addition, the union paid six figures to a video firm whose principals include a former union employee. And a now-defunct minor league basketball team coached by the president's brother-in-law received $16,000 for what the union described as public relations, according to the union's U.S. Labor Department filings and interviews.

Most of the 160,000 people represented by the union, a local chapter of the nation's fastest-growing labor organization, the Service International Employees Union, earn $9 an hour or slightly more tending to the infirm and disabled in private homes under taxpayer-funded programs. The workers, whose dues fill the local's coffers, often are described as "the poor caring for the poor." In its Labor Department filings, the local, headed by Tyrone Freeman, has reported more liabilities than assets for each of the last three years.

Freeman, who leads the United Long-Term Care Workers, said he and his union have done nothing wrong. "Every expenditure has been in the context of fighting poverty," he said.

A rising star in labor circles, Freeman, 38, said the union's members have benefited from the money spent on the video production and day-care companies that his wife and mother-in-law operate at their homes, because of what he termed the high quality of the services.

The union and the charity have paid those firms at least $405,700 since January 2006, not counting any outlays this year.

Nelson Lichtenstein, director of UC Santa Barbara's Center for the Study of Work, Labor and Democracy, said the local's spending recalls the excesses of organized labor's past.

"It's very important for unions not to do this kind of thing," he said. "Union leadership is a public trust -- all the more so when the people being represented are among the lowest-paid in America."

Based on documents filed with the Labor Department and Internal Revenue Service, the Guidestar nonprofit database, business records submitted to several state and local agencies and numerous interviews, a Times investigation has also found that:

* Payments to the company owned by Freeman's wife were among the local's largest single expenses last year. Payments by the charity, the Homecare Workers Training Center, to his mother-in-law's firm represented more than 10% of the nonprofit's total annual expenditures.

* A housing corporation that Freeman helped found as a nonprofit has not been granted the IRS tax-exempt status it sought and was suspended from doing business in California. It also has claimed on its website to have a "strong relationship" with the prominent California Community Foundation, which says it has no such relationship.

* The union spent at least $123,000 more on the fund-raising tournament at the Four Seasons Resort in Carlsbad than it received in reimbursements, according to Labor Department filings and interviews. Freeman said the event made money for the charity. The union's expenditures included $100,000 in payments to entities associated with former professional football star Eric Dickerson, which have been suspended from doing business in California. The payments were listed as donations to nonprofits, not as fund-raising expenses.

* The local's nearly $10,000 tab at the Grand Havana Room, a cigar lounge known for its celebrity clientele and invitation-only memberships, was for "lodging," according to the union's annual financial report. A Grand Havana spokeswoman said the club does not provide accommodations. Freeman declined to characterize the expenditure, and after The Times inquired about it, he said he had refunded it.

Freeman's local has grown dramatically in recent years, largely because of a consolidation campaign spearheaded by Andy Stern, president of the 2-million-member SEIU. The local is SEIU's biggest California chapter, the second biggest in the nation -- and it is bigger than many international unions. Freeman also represents 30,000 workers as president of an affiliate, California United Homecare Workers.

Stern, among the most influential labor leaders in America, has denounced excessive pay and perks for union officials.

He and his spokesman would not answer questions about Freeman, who ranks among the country's better-paid local labor chiefs, receiving $213,000 in salary and other compensation in 2007.

In an e-mail, Stern spokesman Steve Trossman said: "As far as I can determine, the International Union has not received allegations concerning [Freeman's local]. If the International Union receives allegations about a local that warrant further action, we have internal union procedures for handling them."

Video production

Freeman's wife, Pilar Planells, 28, was a union staff member until 2006, earning more than $50,000 as an executive assistant. She left the local to pursue an entertainment industry career, according to another former employee. That year, Freeman's local paid roughly $36,000 to Planells' firm, Lotus Seven Productions. In 2007, the local paid the company about $178,000, annual financial reports filed with the Labor Department show.

Labor Department officials said they have no record that Freeman filed a 2006 disclosure form that requires union officers to reveal payments to entities in which a spouse has an interest.

The officials said Freeman filed the 2007 form more than four months after the deadline, on July 17, about a week after The Times raised questions about the payments to Lotus Seven.

He also did not identify his wife on the financial reports as the owner of the firm.

Freeman said Lotus Seven has produced 10 videos that promote the local's work and have been shown on lease-access cable channels. He said that the company won the contract through a competitive bidding process and that his wife did not personally profit from the payments to her company.

"She only gets reimbursements," Freeman said. "She does not profit at all."

Freeman said Lotus Seven had other paying clients, but he declined to provide their names or respond to questions about whether the firm received more payments from the union this year.

Pilar Planells, who also uses the stage name Pilar Sharai, declined to be interviewed. In a letter to The Times, she said of the video contract: "Any money that was left over after paying staff and expenses went back into the company."

Los Angeles city officials said Lotus Seven does not have a business license for the couple's Studio City address. No other address for the firm could be found, nor could a phone listing.

Freeman said that a union committee solicited bids before awarding the contract. The local did not respond to questions about the bidding process.

"At one time it was on our website, I do remember that," Freeman said of efforts to advertise for bids. "And then that was it, I mean, and the word goes out. . . . I stayed away from it."

Two losing bidders for the video contract, Freeman said, were Grand Ma's Watching Productions, whose incorporation papers list former union employee Brian Cheatham as chief financial officer, and The Filming Inc.

The two entities still received money from the union, according to the local's Labor Department reports.

Last year, the local paid about $147,000 to Grand Ma's Watching for other video work, Freeman said. It paid the company about $72,000 in 2006 for consulting. Calls to Grand Ma's Watching, which produces music and awards show videos, were not returned.

The Filming was paid nearly $106,000 by the union, but Freeman said he had no information about the entity or the work it performed.

"I would suggest you track them down," he said.

The union's financial report forms describe $82,000 of the payments to The Filming as a contribution to a nonprofit organization; the other $23,650 was reported as advertising and promotional expenses for the golf tournament.

No state incorporation record or IRS nonprofit listing for The Filming could be found, and the Los Angeles address given for it on the union's financial report could not be located. L.A. city officials said no business license has been issued for a company of that name at such an address.

Day-care contract

Carmen Planells, Freeman's mother-in-law, provides day care at her Los Angeles home. Her business had been receiving more than $90,000 annually for the past several years from the training center that Freeman founded as a separate nonprofit and chairs, according to IRS filings and interviews. Freeman's wife and brother-in-law, Hernando Planells Jr., are listed in state documents as officers in the mother-in-law's business.

Freeman said the day-care contract was awarded to Carmen Planells several years before his 2006 marriage to her daughter. The state birth registry shows that Freeman and Pilar Planells are the parents of a daughter born in 2001.

Asked about the day-care payments, Freeman responded, "She wasn't my mother-in-law when she got the contract."

Freeman said the day care was available to anyone who applied for it and that he did not use it. He added that his mother-in-law has been providing the service since 2000. IRS records show that the training center began reporting itemized payments for day care -- initially about $92,000 -- in 2002.

In a telephone interview, Carmen Planells said she still had the day-care contract. "Is there something wrong with that?" she said, before declining to answer more questions.

After The Times inquired about the contract, Freeman said the training center's board would review it.

Hernando Planells Jr., listed in state records as one of three officers of the day-care service, was also coach of the Hollywood Fame, a former American Basketball Assn. franchise, according to the team's general manager, Carl Williams. The team received $16,000 from Freeman's local in 2006, the union's financial report shows.

Freeman did not respond to questions about the payment, and Hernando Planells Jr. could not be reached.

Another sports undertaking was the Four Seasons golf tournament last year, which Freeman said netted $80,000 to $100,000 for the training center and the housing group. The Long-Term Care Housing Corp. is a separate entity from the local, but its "primary goal" is to help union members obtain affordable housing, according to its website.

The local's financial report shows that it spent $418,000 on the event, not counting about $7,000 in unspecified lodging costs at the Four Seasons. That was at least $123,000 more than the local received in return. Some reimbursements may still be outstanding, Freeman said.

Lichtenstein said the tournament spending was troubling under any circumstances.

"I don't care if they're making money or not," he said. "It's disconnected from the world of the people they're representing. No one's playing golf who's a home healthcare worker."

The local's costs for the tournament included a combined $100,000 in payments to two entities associated with Dickerson, the former Los Angeles Rams running back and a co-host of the golfing fund-raiser. Another NFL Hall of Famer and tournament host, Jackie Slater, was paid $30,000 in consulting fees.

Freeman said the gridiron greats helped raise much more money than the sum paid to the Dickerson entities and Slater. Dickerson "only got a portion of what he raised," Freeman said. "If he didn't raise it, he wouldn't have got it."

Dickerson did not respond to interview requests.

In a brief phone interview, Slater said a former teammate had asked him several years ago to "help the workers" by hosting the tournament.

The union money that went to the Eric Dickerson Foundation and "Dickerson Sports" was recorded on the local's financial report as contributions to nonprofits, not as fund-raising expenses for the tournament.

The state Franchise Tax Board has suspended Dickerson Sports from doing business for failing to file a statement of corporate officers in 1999, a spokesman said.

The tax board has also suspended the Dickerson foundation for failing to file numerous tax returns, the spokesman, John Barrett, added. Dickerson Properties has been suspended for not submitting tax returns or a corporate statement of officers, Barrett said. All the suspensions remain in force.

In addition, the tax board suspended Long Term Care Housing Corp.'s right to do business because it had not filed tax returns since Freeman founded it in 2004.

After the Times inquired about the suspensions, a law firm for the housing entity said in a memo that tax-exempt status had been "delayed" because the IRS had made a "routine" request for additional information. The memo did not say when the request was made.

The memo said the housing organization has filed its tax returns. As a result, the Franchise Tax Board lifted the suspension Thursday, a spokeswoman said.

On its website, the corporation says it has "a strong relationship with the California Community Foundation, and they are currently building 13 new homes" in Lancaster. It said the foundation was "helping us purchase land."

"No one here has ever heard of the group," said California Community spokeswoman Namju Cho. She said the foundation asked the corporation to remove the statement from the website, and the corporation did so this week.

The site lists a Bell Gardens address for the corporation. County property records show that the address is that of a home owned by Freeman's former chief of staff, Rickman Jackson, who now heads a local in Michigan. He did not return phone calls.

Freeman said he did not know if the housing organization paid Rickman for use of his residence.

All of the local's expenses were justified, Freeman said, including $41,500 last year at three restaurants. The union had tabs of $12,500 at Morton's in Burbank. The restaurant bills were for meetings of the local's executive board and "large numbers of workers," he said.

William Morris, which represents people in the entertainment industry and provides consulting services to companies, received $106,000 from the union last year.

Freeman and his representatives said the contract was for public relations and advancing the union's political agenda.

In an e-mail, a William Morris spokesman said the agency provided the union with strategic analysis and "advice and counsel" in such areas as media and "membership awareness."

Neither Freeman nor the William Morris spokesman, Christian Muirhead, would offer specific examples of the agency's services to the union. Freeman said the contract had nothing to do with his wife's entertainment industry work.

paul.pringle [at] latimes.com
seiu_ultcw_pres_tyrone_freeman_apri_for_web.jpg
seiu_ultcw_pres_tyrone_fr...

SEIU 1021 Stern supporters Damitra Davis-Howard and James Bryant honoring SEIU ULTCW president Tyrone Freeman
by SEIU Lover
Saturday Aug 9th, 2008 12:48 PM
I like SEIU and I think they do great work, but they simply can not allow this kind of corruption to continue. Andy has made his career out of chasing corruption out of the seiu locals. How on earth could he ever defend this behavior?
Andy needs to step in immediately and remove Tyrone. If nothing else, paying himself $200,000 per year while his members make $8.00 per hour is corrupt and wrong. I am not saying we all need to be martyrs in the labor movement, but 200 grand is imbezzlement in my view. Let alone the fact that he is paying his family hundreds of thousands out of union coffers.
Andy should do the right thing and investigate this man.
by Unionista
( peasawnirth [at] yahoo.com ) Sunday Aug 10th, 2008 6:35 AM
Clearly, an audit by an independent firm (not an interrnational union organization as suggested by Mr Freeman) is needed. I'll reserve my judgement about whether union money has been misused until that happens, BUT it was the duty of Mr Freeman and the union board members, as fiduciaries, to not only ensure that our hard-earned dollars go where they should be going, but that the APPEARANCE OF IMPROPRIETY also be avoided. This is clearly where Mr Freeman and his poorly -trained board has failed. We need a strong union. Mr Freman and the current board, if they care at all about us, should voluntarily resign.
by iSpeakTRUTH
Tuesday Aug 12th, 2008 10:51 AM
lets start by telling the truth about this times article.

This is about Sal Rosselli President of UHW, his business and lifetime partner Adam Reeves and Paul Pringle trying to hold onto power.


*Adam Reeves - Sals' Partner, owns a business called "Its in the Bag" Graphics Design company in SF. Worked with the LA Times for 13 Years developed the LA Times Graphic Design Department. Currently has the LA Times as a client.

*Paul Pringle - had relationship with Adam Reeves prior to Adam leaving to SF to develop his company and also helped Adam secure contract with LA Times.

*Sal Rosselli, President of SEIU UHW - Adam Reeves long time partner. Owns home with Adam in SF where they have the "Its in the bag" company listed as the mailing address. Adams company has been investigated by the IRS for not paying taxes. The house used as the companies mailing address has been used as a front for loans for the company and then transferred back to Rosselli many times, just to avoid paying taxes.

This whole article has been mis-leading so bad it makes me sick. This paul pringle person did the whole article based off an angry former employee. Its unbelievable this reporter still works for the LA Times and the editors should also be ashamed of themselves for letting a story like this out especially when a WAR has broken out between Russia and Georgia. Very distasteful and insulting to our Russian and Georgian citizens.

This story is not about Tyrone Freeman and his spending, its about another attack on an African American Leader about to become the largest labor leader in CA and probrobly the world.
by worker of the world
Tuesday Aug 12th, 2008 12:08 PM
Obviously everyone will ignore the deluded individual who 'talks truth'. The only thing this has to do with UHW is that Stern wanted to wrangle thousands of UHW members who are serviced well and have a voice in their union into a union that International has ultimate control of via Andy's corrupt minions. Truth is--this is completely disgusting and unfortunately not too suprising.
Andy's perfert public image may be tarnished--its about time
by Labor Lover
Thursday Aug 14th, 2008 10:29 AM
The staff from Tyrone's union need to take a class in 'spinning' because they are not doing a very good job on these message boards.
Tyrone's problems have nothing to do with "Sal Roseeli" or "his lifetime partner."
The fact is that Tryone spent hundreds of thousands of his members hard-earned dues dollars to pay off his wife, his mother-in-law, his brother-in-law, expensive golf tournaments, and fancy cigars. All Tyrone needs to do is explain why he is using 10 per cent of his members money to finance his mother-in-laws childcare service? That is a question that needs to be answered.
And while he is at it, Tyrone should also explain why he spent over $10,000 dollars at a fancy Beverly Hills cigar bar -- a bar I am sure very few, if any, of his members have ever been to. And he should explain why he spent $400,000 of his members dues to sponsor a fancy golf tournament, a fundraiser no less, that made NO money -- in fact it lost money.
I dont know why the staff at Tyrone's union (whatever it is called -- it seems to have 7 different names) feels the need to write on these blogs spinning this into something it is not. Instead of trying to spin this into some story about people having relationships with reporters, the staff at Tryone's union should spend their time explaining why Tyrone has spent his members hard earned dues on outrageous expenditures. And while he is at it, he should explain why a $10,000 cigar bar tab, a $50,000 talent agent contract for his wife, a $400,000 golf tourament, and a huge contract to his mother-in-law benefit home care workers that make $9 per hour.
One last thing . . . Tyrone should explain how he can sleep at night knowing that he makes over $200,000 in salary (on the books) and drives around in a fancy car, while his members make $9 per hour.
Instead of 'spinning' the folks at Tryone's unions should do some 'explaining.'
by SEIU Member
Thursday Aug 14th, 2008 10:35 AM
Andy Stern is ultimately responsible for this mess and he is the one that needs to take immediate action. I think it is great that they are going to review the books . . . but that is not enough. There is no explanation for some of Tyrone's outragaous spending. How can Stern, who has made a career of revitalizing labor, defend Tyrone paying for his mother-in-law's childcare company? And what about paying for a $10,000 cigar bar? And $400,000 for a golf tournament? This is despicable behavior and if Andy is going to defend his legacy he needs to push Tyrone out the door -- immediately.

As an SEIU member I am pissed that there has not been more action from the folks in DC. I hope they are working around the clock to bring some justice to the members of Tyrone's local.
by Cathy Earnshaw
( earnshawcathy [at] yahoo.com ) Thursday Aug 14th, 2008 6:34 PM
I made less money before IHSS workers were unionized and I had no health care. But, since I get so few hours, due to the $16 in union dues, and the $4 in assessment (what is that anyway?), my net pay is about the same as before. I'd be better off without a union and the minimum wage. The union's health and dental plans SUCK. I am better off on ORSA or Healthy Choice ~ I don't have to pay for it, or pay copays, and I go to exactly the same clinics and see the same doctors. I bet Mr Freeman has a better plan than we get. The first thing that I noticed once we became part of a union was I started getting all kinds of junk mail and credit card companies wanted me to sign up for their "special offers for union members" at horrible interest rates. Those credit card companies also kept asking me to mail something back even if I didn't want their credit cards which seemed weird to me. And the phone calls! I sure don't appreciate all the robo-calls beginning "This is Tyrone Freeman your union president..." telling me how wonderful he is. Sometimes it's a real person calling saying "Tyrone Freeman, your union president, wants you to do such and such" and I always tell them to please just mail the info, the calls are annoying to everyone who lives here and shares the phone so please for the love of Jesus remove me from the list of people to call but the calls just keep coming and coming. Why the emphasis on getting his name out there all the time. Personally, I think the focus would be better on the UNION; unions are about group effort and solidarity, not the glorification of one person.

What I really thought was strange though was when I was given a ballot about making the union a closed shop and there was no way to disagree on the ballot. Ordinarily, I'm pro-union. I'd never cross a picket line and truly believe in solidarity. But, $20 is more than ten percent of what I net now and I hadn't seen much benefit to being in this union, nor did I see any benefit in the foreseeable future, so I thought I'd been played by this particular union and disagreed with making it a closed shop. And, the ballot had my name on it. I think secret ballots, with more than one choice, would be more appropriate. I just didn't mail it back. Soon there was a union employee at my door telling me to sign a ballot she had for me. I said I disagreed and asked how I could do that on my ballot. She didn't know. I also asked why we were voting on it since opting out of the union had never beeen an option for me before and I could sure use that extra money every month; it would be more than a ten percent raise. She said that all she knew was that Tyrone Freeman wanted all the ballots back from all the member so it could be a closed shop and didn't I want to stop the freeloaders? What freeloaders? We were already forced into this union; why go to the expense of mailing out ballots and knocking on doors?

I imagine the union has some good people working for it. It's a real shame that the union boss, so to speak, has brought down the reputation of this union, and unions in general by his behavior. Even if what he has done is legal, which I doubt, it's still not right. People in that position need to be concerned about how things look, not just whether they can get away with something. And, what kind of a board member votes to let him spend money that way? Haven't they had any training in how to be competent board members? I am more disappointed in them than I am in him even and I doubt there will be much of an investigation. I bet this gets covered-up and there is no change. Our union will be weakened by this because the persons across the bargaining table from us will know that Tyrone Freeman is no respected by many of the rank and file. He is regarded as suspect now, even by his own union's membership so he's lost his bargaining power. But if he stepped down, I don't think there's anywhere for him to go, so it's not going to happen. From what I've read, the union people above him are his cronies so they won't do anything. People like me, as usual, are with no recourse except to organize ourselves against this union. What a shame! The people we care for are going to suffer, people like me are going to suffer, and for what? Some cigars?
by Lars Logan
Monday Aug 18th, 2008 10:37 PM
No not Bush, Tyrone Freeman.

After launching a raid on the United Domestic Workers of America (a 'sister' homecare union) in retaliation for the ousting of its corrupt president, Ken Seaton-Msemaji, for the self-same sort of behavior that has been uncovered regarding Freeman--he was then appointed the president of the new union CUHW (California United Homecare Workers Union).

UDW was weakened, and had been mismanaged for years, but was being given a hand up under an administrationship by its parent organization AFSCME (American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees). AFSCME was organizing, trying to re-make UDW as a democratic, member run organization, and was renewing negotiations when Tyrone Freeman launched his raid on UDW.

After many divisive months and many millions in wasted dues money, with SEIU434b attacking and AFSCME defending--an agreement was reached that created CUHW. Turned out that CUHW was 434b in sheep's clothing, had the same address as 434b, and the 'CUHW' organizers were still handing out business cards with SEIU434b imprinted on them. All loyal UDW members and member organizers were discarded or forced out.

I was finally removed from the 'bargaining team' when I questioned the edicts coming from Freeman's 434b/CUHW and refused to sign the loyalty oath to 'President' Freeman. The homecare workers of Butte county wound up with a wage just barely above minimum ($8.15 an hour) with no healthcare, because 434b/CUHW wanted to push thru a union run healthcare plan. Hmm…wonder why they want to keep that money in house?

My major problem with Mr. Freeman was the raid, his disproportionate salary (over 200 thousand dollars), his undemocratic appointment and undemocratic management of the 'new' union. The recent articles from the LA Times just confirm some of my suspicions. CUHW should be dissolved, and Mr. Freeman should be immediately removed from his un-elected office and face criminal charges.
by Lars Logan
( illuminaticus [at] gmail.com ) Monday Aug 25th, 2008 2:31 AM
Mr. Freeman has been the unelected 'President' of CUHW (pronounced COUP as in Coup d'état) for three years now and CUHW is ran from the same offices as SEIU 6434 which was the result of a raid on the United Domestic Workers.

He spent loads of money on the raid to force us into SEIU, yes we got a contract at $8.15 an hour with $35 in dues subtracted each month and no democracy.

We can fight him and Stern together: contact at illuminaticus [at] gmail.com