Bevona Leaves SEIU Penthouse
With $7.5 Mil.Golden Parachute
by Andy Pzasak ' the harassment of reformers, Local for a union seeking to position itself as
1 Gus Bevona, whose name has 32B-321is notorious for the practice of the activist leader of the new labor
I become svnonvrnous with high living, iob sefling. For vears, members have movement.
alleged mob Gonnections, &d dic$ >harg& &at business agents have col-
torial rule, resigned as president of laborated with building owners and SWEENEY'S ROLE
Service Emplo ees International superintendents to sell jobs for thou- Bevona's presence as head of such a
Union Local 32J-32J on February 1 sands of dollars. large and strategically placed local had
after 18 years in office. The SEIU In addition, despite Bevona's claims repercussions beyond the SEIU. AFL
International pressured Bevona to to the contrary, members' living stan- CIO PresidentJohn Sweeney was pres
resign because he had become an dards have been in decline. ~arucular- idpnt of 32B-321 before Bevona. and
emgarrassment because of his extrava- r~
1 since a bitter strike in ~ a n h a 1996. he-remained onJthe local's board after
ant salaries and the atmosphere of L o n g other things, the 1996 settle- becoming SEIU international presi-
Bear and intimidation he fostered with-
in the local.
ment established a two-tier wage scale
with new hires receiving substantially
dent. Sweeney continued to draw a sec-
ond salary from the local for 14 years.
The international placed the local less than those already on the job. Moreover, Sweeney signed off on
in trusteeship and suspended all of its the harassment campaign against
37 officers in addit~on to forcing The president of New York Guzman and turned a blind eye to the
Bevona out. City's building service local had authoritarian methods Bevona used
Even in resigning, Bevona took with against other reformers. More than
him a $1.5 million golden parachute, a become a liability to the inter- three vears into the new AFLCIO,
ripoff SEIU International President national union. Ucw)n;~ an cmharrass~~lent jusi
Andrew Stern said will not be chal- to [he SKIC but to all of'the labor lead-
lenged. "It's a good thing I have my wife's ers who have gathered around
In addition to Local 32B-325, which benefits, otherwise I'd be in bad Sweenev in efforts to reinvigorate the
represents 55,000 building service shape," said one member when asked labor movement.
workers in New York and New Jersey, about Bevona's claim that 32B-32J's Carlos Guzman emphasized that
Bevona was also resident of the SElU contracts were the best of all building reform and democracy' must be the
New York City gbint Council and of service workers in the country. rimar goals for the future of the
Local 32B-32J/144 representing All the while, Bevona was living Pocal. ')tve have to get the members
20,000 home health workers. large at his Long Island estate and in more involved in the union," he said.
As part of the agreement to get his penthouse atop union head uar Stern echoed that point, stating that
Bevona out, dissidents Carlos Guzman ters, the exvavagance of wftich Bevona's .departure "creates great
and Dominic Bentive na will drop a
lawsuit they had broug%t against him.
shocked even some of Bevona's most
hardened o ponents.
W e felt it was better for the mem-
bers for us to drop our suit and for
The 23r floor penthouse has two
terraces overlooking Manhattan. It is.
Tom Balanoff, the 32B-325 trustee
and president of SEIU Local 73 in
Chicago, said that changes were
Bevona to go and the International to finished with black, green, grey, and already in effect to prevent Future pay
come in," said Guzman, a long-time white marble. It has rosewood display abuses.
rank and file activist. Guzman had cases and a rosewood liquor cabinet. Coming as it does just two months
been followed and harassed by There are his and hers bathrooms and after the fall of AFSCME District
Bevona's private detectives after h e l p dressing rooms, each of which has Council 37 Executive Director Stanley
ing to form a caucus within the local, three cedar closets. Hill, Bevona's ouster provides yet
Members for a Better Union. Guzman In addition to the lack of demo- more momentum for reform forces in
ran against Bevona for president of the cracy and excessive salaries, Stern, in the New York City labor movement.
local in 1992, 1995 and 1998. He was announcing the trusteeship, cited a Within 32B-325, however, the trustees
critical of the undemocratic nature of lack of organizing under Bevona. The and reformers are confronted with a
the local and of Bevona's $535,000 in local's membership has fallen from great deal of passivity and cynicism
salaries from his various posts. 70,000 to 55,000 in just the last four among members who have had to
years. In addition, there is no Justice endure years of fear and intimidation.
JOB SELLING for Janitors campaign in New York, There are also real questions about
Although Guzman had earlier been and nothing that com ares to the mii-
awarded $100,000 because of the
harassment, the two dissidents had
itant tactics used by e SEIU in Los
Angeles and other cities. For a union
how far the SEIU International is will-
ing to go with reforming the local and
involving the membership in any
filed a second suit because Bevona that prides itself on its organizin 32% meaningful way. But the opportunities
used the union's money to pay both 32J's declining membership ro& in a for democratic change and the build-
the $100,000 settlement and $1.5 mil- union city like New York was clearly ing of a militant local are far better
lion in legal fees. The suit also called unacceptable. than they have been in Local 32B-321 .
for Bevona to pay the local $600,000 The SEIU also wants to be a bigger in a long; long time.
that it spent on a book commemorat- player in New York City and State poli- As Eddie Wright, another 32B32J
ing 32B-32J's history. A federal judge tics, an area in which 32B-325 has activist, ut it, "I'm overjoyed because
determined that book to be a piece of
Bevona campai n literature. Published
played virtually no role. Last year,
when Hospital Workers Local 1199
a bad c apter in this local has been
closed, and excited about the possibil-
during the 199 race between Guzman
and Bevona, the book is full of pho-
affiliated with SEIU, both SEIU and
1199 officials em hasized the opportu-
ities for the future."
tographs and praise of Bevona.
In addition to bloated salaries and
nity for increase clout in the political
arena. Clearly, Bevona was a liability
[Andy Piascik is Project Coordinator at the
Association for Union Democracy and a
member of the National Writers Union.1
LABOR NOTES MARCH 1999 'PAGE 5