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2009-05-01

SEIU Takes Millions in Loans from Union-Owned Bank While Trying to Recruit its Members

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Juan Gonzalez, Democracy Now! co-host and columnist for the New York Daily News.

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In the New York Daily News, Juan Gonzalez reveals new details on the internal finances of the Service Employees International Union. The SEIU has borrowed millions from Bank of America as well as Amalgamated Bank, a union-owned bank with a breakaway group that SEIU has tried to recruit into its ranks. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Before we stay in Wisconsin with Professor Alfred McCoy, Juan, it’s great to be with you again. I’ll be back with you in New York on Sunday. We’ll be at the ninetieth birthday of Pete Seeger at Madison Square Garden, and we’ll be bringing folks highlights of that on Monday.

But you have an interesting piece in the New York Daily News. Can you talk a little about what you wrote about?

JUAN GONZALEZ: Yeah. Well, yesterday I had a column in the paper that dealt with the Service Employees International Union. As you probably know, no doubt know, there was a annual shareholders’ meeting of Bank of America this week, and attempts were made by shareholders or a vote to remove Ken Lewis, the CEO and chairman of the bank. They were able to remove him as chairman, but not as CEO. And SEIU actually was one of the unions leading that effort.

Well, it turns out that I discovered, in reviewing the annual financial statements of the union, that Bank of America is the number one creditor, has been for years, of SEIU. And actually, SEIU, while it’s been organizing rallies around the country against Bank of America, has been increasingly borrowing more money from the same bank — it now owes $87 million to Bank of America, by far its largest creditor — and also that it was taking out a substantial loan from another union that it is now seeking to wrest members from, the Amalgamated Bank, which is owned by UNITE HERE. SEIU took out a $15 million loan last September from the Amalgamated Bank. And the members of UNITE HERE, who are now involved in an internal battle, are saying, in essence, that SEIU borrowed money from the bank to try to then use that money to take over the union.

There’s a continuing negotiations going on within the labor movement over how this nasty split between SEIU and UNITE HERE will be worked out. There were negotiations in Washington yesterday that did not bear much fruit. But I noted that it is a little hypocritical for the SEIU to be launching a nationwide campaign from Bank of America while it’s borrowing millions and millions of dollars from the same bank. So we’ll see how this works out over the next few weeks.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Juan, we’ll link to your column at democracynow.org.

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