Mil. Golden Parachute

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    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
                                                                                                       was                    not
    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.
                                                                                             opportunity."'   .
       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