In Bevona’s Wake, Corruption Questions Linger in New York

Union dissidents who helped overthrow corrupt union boss Gus Bevona as head of the Service Employees Int’l Union Local 32B-32J in N.Y. are now under fire themselves from other dissidents who claim the union’s new leadership, appointed from Washington, has co-opted them. While the new leadership has stopped the lavish spending, it has done little to restore democracy or encourage the membership to get involved in union affairs.

SEIU president Andrew L. Stern, who is himself tainted by corruption linked to the Ron Carey-Teamsters scandal, took over the Local last month after Bevona retired as part of a settlement of a lawsuit filed by dissidents. The Local is now run by Thomas Balanoff. Dissidents said they were angry because they thought that the new leadership would change the dictatorial ways of the union.

“I see Gus Bevona. He was a dictator. I see Thomas Balanoff as a benevolent dictator, so to speak, in that he’ll listen to you, but he has the final say,” said dissident leader Paul Pamias. Another dissident Raul Quinones said the new administrators had not removed the Bevona loyalists who run the union on a daily basis – the business agents and district chairmen who deal with members’ problems. “We are disappointed with the trustees,” Quinones said. “It looks to us like this administration is pro-Bevona.”

The central issue, according to Newsday, is a “classic union tug-of-war. Does the leadership of a local taken over by the international work on behalf of the local membership, or does the leadership protect the interests of the international leaders who presumably failed to properly oversee the local in the first place?” [Newsday 3/30/99]

As part of the Benova probe, Stern and Balanoff have hired the private investigation firm, Kroll-O’Gara Co. (NASDAQ: KROG). Kroll is the firm of Michael G. Cherkasky, the current Teamsters Election Officer. This is a troubling nexus given Stern’s ties to the Teamsters money-laundering scandal. [Daily News 3/29/99]