More SEIU scandals for union leadership to ignore

The Los Angeles Times deserves praise for its coverage of a hornet's nest of scandals that keep emerging involving one of the nation's most powerful unions, the Service Employees International Union. Today's paper discloses yet another scandal (details below). Meanwhile the New York Times ignores the controversy.

Why is this noteworthy? Because the SEIU has become a powerful political force in America.

Maybe Andy Stern, leader of the Service Employees International Union (who has become one of the more powerful political players in America because of his control of the SEIU and its fund) should focus more on the corruption that keeps emerging from his "union". Or perhaps he can hand off that chore to Anna Burger, the Secretary-Treasurer of the SEIU. But maybe she too is more interested in playing politics with its members money than ferreting out fraud among its officials. Burger is chairwoman of the Change to Win Federation, a coalition of labor unions formed to promote advocacy.

Both Stern and Burger have links to the Democracy Alliance-a group of very wealthy donors and political activists who have joined forces to promote vast policy changes from our government. Burger, Stern and the SEIU have close ties to the Obama administration. Burger was recently appointed to the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board. Maybe both of them should work to clean up corruption instead of focusing on advancing their political agenda.

A Bay Area officer of the scandal-clouded Service Employees International Union has collected double salaries, one as a city transit worker and the other from a charity that receives much of its funding from the labor organization and corporate interests, records show.

In addition, the nonprofit paid more than $16,000 in rent for the officer's home in 2007, the most recent year for which the charity's tax return is available, according to his son, who is also on the charity's payroll.

James Bryant, who earned just under $68,000 as a transit station agent in 2007, received about $117,000 that year as president of the San Francisco chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, according to the tax return and the city's Municipal Transportation Agency. He was also paid or reimbursed about $10,000 as an executive board member for SEIU Local 1021, whose political committee he chairs, the union's financial statements show.

The nonprofit's tax-exempt purpose is to promote civil rights, voter education and the interests of black workers. Its biggest contributors include Pacific Gas & Electric and other corporate benefactors that have enlisted it to campaign for or against ballot initiatives dealing with energy and land development.

Nonprofit watchdogs say those relationships raise questions of whether the institute is straying from its charitable mission. The institute's corporate supporters say the nonprofit's campaign work helped preserve funding for social programs and supported the construction of affordable housing.

Bryant, who is in his 50s, is the latest of several SEIU California officers whose financial practices have come under scrutiny. He declined to be interviewed.

On Tuesday, the SEIU said one of its highest-ranking officials, Annelle Grajeda, who went on leave last summer after the union began examining payments made to her former boyfriend, has resigned her leadership positions. Grajeda was an executive vice president of the national organization and head of the union's California council and a Los Angeles local. The SEIU said its inquiry found that she committed no wrongdoing and that she had decided to become an assistant to the national union's secretary-treasurer.

Bryant's son, Joseph, who is the institute's associate director and acting executive director, said his father could not comment because the SEIU is reviewing an internal complaint made against him in connection with at least some of the nonprofit's finances.

The SEIU has ben rife with scandals for some time now.

The former president of an L.A.-based SEIU local, Tyrone Freeman, has been the subject of a federal criminal investigation. He was fired after The Times reported his 160,000-member local and a related charity paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to home-based firms owned by his relatives.

Freeman's former chief of staff was removed as head of the SEIU's largest Michigan local for allegedly receiving improper lease payments for his Bell Gardens house.

Yet its leaders enjoy unparalleled access to the White House. Recently, Stern was invited to a private cocktail reception hosted by the Obamas that was geared towards activating a nationwide network of left-wing advocacy groups to promote his agenda.

What is corruption and tax fraud when its helps the left? Not a concern when Democrats are in charge.


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