Most of the local's 160,000 members earn about $9 an hour caring for the elderly and infirm in their homes. Freeman also heads an affiliated local, California United Homecare Workers, which has about 40,000 members.
The spending scandal has spread to other SEIU chapters as well as the union's national headquarters. An SEIU executive vice president, Annelle Grajeda, has gone on leave because of allegations that a former boyfriend received improper union payments. Grajeda also is president of the SEIU's California council and a second L.A.-based local.
The president of the union's biggest Michigan chapter, Rickman Jackson, a former chief of staff to Freeman, has been removed from office. The Times reported that his Bell Gardens residence was used as the address of a housing corporation associated with Freeman's local. The SEIU later said that the corporation improperly paid to lease the house; the union has required Jackson to return $33,500 in payments.
The housing organization never obtained the tax exemption it sought when it was founded as a nonprofit, and had lost the right to do business in California. The city of Compton is investigating whether it was defrauded when the corporation enlisted it as a partner in the nonprofit enterprise to develop homes for low-income workers.
In the meantime, the SEIU has fired four of Freeman's top managers and assistants. Two other employees either were fired or resigned after being accused of threatening colleagues suspected of speaking to The Times, according to an SEIU official.