Hernández Scandal Doesn’t Embarrass SEIU; It Exposes It

AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu

With more than 700,000 members, SEIU California is one of the largest unions in the state, spending millions annually to advocate for favored political issues, like opposing the recent failed effort to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom.

And until this spring, the union was doing so under the perfidious leadership of Alma Hernández — who during October found herself arrested and charged by the state Attorney General’s Office with multiple counts of tax fraud, embezzlement, perjury, and failure to pay unemployment insurance taxes.

Specifically, Hernández is accused of underreporting her income over a five-year period by $1.4 million and failing to pay more than $100,000 in income taxes. The longtime union powerhouse also stands accused of using a purported political fundraising account to fraudulently pay herself through her husband.

It would be bad enough if Hernández’s illicit activities were the outlier union apologists would have you believe. Sadly, it’s par for the SEIU course.

  • Cedric Earl Hughes, then an organizing coordinator for SEIU Local 721, was indicted in 2015 for embezzlement from the (unaffiliated) union of union staff (the United Union Professionals of Los Angeles), for which he served as treasurer.
  • In 2013, Tyrone “Ricky” Freeman, the ex-president of SEIU Local 6434, representing California United Homecare Workers, was convicted in federal court of four counts of mail fraud, six counts of embezzlement/theft of union assets, and one count of making false statements to a financial institution. He was subsequently sentenced to 33 months’ imprisonment.
  • In 2010, Alejandro Stephens, the ex-president of (now-defunct) SEIU Local 660, pleaded guilty in federal court to mail fraud and tax evasion, and was sentenced to four months’ imprisonment.
  • Former SEIU Local 99 President Janett Humphries in 2007 pleaded guilty to conspiracy and embezzlement for a scheme to finance a Los Angeles city council campaign with union funds. She was also convicted on state-law charges of perjury and conspiracy and sentenced to a six-month term in prison.

The conga line just keeps moving — all of which leads one to wonder whether SEIU is on a statistically impossible run of unhappy coincidences or perhaps it’s the organization itself that’s rotten to the core.

The Freedom Foundation, a national government union watchdog group, has documented a campaign of forgeries committed by SEIU across the West Coast, in which the union is alleged to have signed purported members’ names on membership cards without their permission or knowledge.

These activities have resulted in the Freedom Foundation filing more than a dozen lawsuits against SEIU on behalf of public members, including two cases in federal court alleging violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO), a law originally intended to fight conspiracies launched by the mafia and organized crime.

If the shoe fits, right?

Of course, none of this criminal activity would be possible were it not for the millions of dollars flowing into SEIU coffers from rank-and-file members, many of whom either don’t know what the payments are being used for or who have been denied the opportunity to decide for themselves how their money should be spent.

Here is how it works:

Public-sector employees are handed a stack of paperwork on their first day of work and told to fill it out. Often there will be an SEIU membership card snuck into the mix.

Workers unwittingly sign this card and return it without ever having been informed that union membership and dues are 100 percent voluntary.

And when that tactic fails, California state law allows unions to conduct a 30-minute “information” session during which paid labor organizers pressure new workers to join, often telling them that if they don’t send money to SEIU their pay will plummet, or their benefits will be taken away.

No mention is made of the political spending by the union, of course. So long as those cards get signed, SEIU will argue that they can take that worker’s money and spend it however they want — the First Amendment rights of the worker be damned.

Over and over again, it has been demonstrated that unions like SEIU and its former leader Alma Hernández care more about lining their own pockets and those of their pet politicians than they do following the U.S. Constitution.

Public employees across the United States who have not been paying attention should wake up and realize that organizations like SEIU are no longer labor unions advocating for the wages, hours, and working conditions of their members.

They long ago became the funding and enforcement arms of the state, alternately hiding behind laws passed by their corrupt partners in elected office and ignoring them altogether.