The 2008 spending scandal centered in Los Angeles ripped through the SEIU just as the union began to rupture on the West Coast, with leaders of its 150,000-member, Oakland-based healthcare local rebelling against Stern's stewardship.
The Times' findings led to the ouster of Freeman, the president of the Los Angeles chapter, and several other SEIU officials. Federal criminal investigations were launched.
Allegations of misuse of SEIU funds by local administrators fed criticism of Stern's drive to consolidate the organization into bigger and bigger chapters.
One of the harsher detractors, Herman Benson, secretary treasurer of the Assn. for Union Democracy, said the corruption was a byproduct of Stern's elimination of smaller locals where members could keep a closer eye on the leadership.
Benson said that five years ago, Stern could claim the "high moral position" in the labor movement after having started Change to Win and demanding that unions be more aggressive in organizing and mobilizing workers.
But then, Benson said, the battles that Stern sparked with the Oakland local and Unite Here cost him that lofty position.