Alma Hernández, who earned around $240,000 annually, resigned as executive director of California’s largest public-sector union after being charged with several felonies, including embezzlement and roughly $1.5 million in tax fraud. 

Interestingly, Hernández may continue to have considerable influence on union issues within the state, as she remains on the boards of three other labor organizations, including the California Federation of Labor, which is the umbrella organization involving more than 2 million workers among 1,200 unions.

You would think that several felony indictments would also disqualify Hernández from participating on these boards, but board-level representation tends to fly under the radar, and thus far no one in the Democratic Party, which unions overwhelmingly support, has called for her to resign from these positions.

In addition to serving on the board of the California Federation of Labor, Hernández also serves on the boards of the California Budget and Policy Center and Health Access California. According to a media report, none of these three groups responded to requests for comment on whether Hernández will be asked to resign from their boards.

This stonewall has been facilitated by politicians who have swept all this under the rug. Interestingly, these politicians are sharing a nearly identical playbook, sending tweets that celebrate the new SEIU-California interim leader, Tia Orr, while remaining as quiet as a mouse on the previous leadership and those unmentionable felonies.

San Jose legislators Senator Dave Cortese (D) and Assemblyman Ash Kalra (D) sent matching tweets after Hernández resigned and Orr was named as her interim replacement: “The labor movement’s strength comes from members united to fight for fairness & justice. With Tia Orr as its new Interim Executive Director, @seiucalifornia will not miss a beat. #StrongerTogether.”   

Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) tweeted, “Workers organizing for fairness & justice—that’s where the labor movement’s strength comes from. Confident that w/ @TiaOrr1111 serving as new Interim Exec Dir, @seiucalifornia will not miss a beat.”

And from Angeleno assemblyman Miguel Santiago (D): “@seiucalifornia will not miss a beat with @TiaOrr1111 as its new Interim Executive Director. She’s a strong and fierce leader who will stand up for our workers! #StrongerTogether.”

Four tweets, all enthusiastically proclaiming that SEIU-California “won’t miss a beat.” Won’t miss a beat? Sounds like business as usual, more of the same, yes? As in more embezzlement and tax evasion indictments against SEIU leaders? And what of the idea of “fairness and justice”? Really? When the executive director, who makes roughly five times as much as the median rank-and-file union member, is indicted for several felonies involving theft of union dues?

We all know what this means. Do they really think we can be snowed this easily? Don’t mention federal indictments. Stay away from the word “embezzlement.” Don’t use the words “tax” and “evasion” together. Pretend everything is just fine, and that the workers who fund the union are being served well by the union leadership. Hernández may as well have left the position of executive director because she was promoted, as far as anyone could tell from these texts.

And what of the tweets from SEIU-California about the indictment of Hernández and her husband and her resignation? Nothing, as far as I can tell from reading their Twitter feed in recent weeks. Not one word about Hernández or her felony arrest. Not one word about her interim replacement. All quiet on the SEIU front.

Ironically, the SEIU-California Twitter feed is heavy on demanding transparency and accountability from others, while they are creating the mother of all opacities and diversions.

It is as if none of this unpleasantness ever happened, a nasty felony arrest obfuscated by a carefully choreographed Twitter dance that is intended to pull the wool over the eyes of the rank and file who fund them. A masterful political playbook used by union leaders, working in tandem with friendly politicians, against a rank and file who are to be kept in the dark. What dues-payers don’t know won’t come back to hurt those who live off those dues.

This is what happens in the world of symbiotic political elites who play with other people’s money and who have every incentive to keep this cozy game going for as long as possible, a game in which the more generous the new union contract, the better it is for both sides in the negotiation.

And this is the reason why public-sector unions are so damaging. The terms of employment as embedded in union collective-bargaining agreements would almost certainly be very different if unions were negotiating with taxpayers directly.

The interest of taxpayers is in choosing public goods and services of the quality and quantity that they desire at the lowest feasible price. This is not the goal of politicians, who gaze at unions as a cash cow to help fund their next campaign. And unions gaze at politicians much the same way, by providing much better terms than they would receive if bargaining with taxpayers.

The solution? Make public-sector unions illegal. An initiative along these lines could be on next year’s ballot if it collects enough signatures.

Radical? Not exactly. None other than Franklin Delano Roosevelt argued forcefully that collective bargaining faced “insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management.”

FDR was spot-on correct. The incentives facing politicians and unions are far different from those of the taxpayers who fund them. Moreover, the idea that public employees—who operate what is essentially a monopoly-provided service—can strike is incredibly damaging. And the damage done by public-sector collective bargaining will remain carved into California stone until taxpayers demand differently.

And if you didn’t think you had enough to worry about as it is, House Democrats proposed an addition to the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package that would allow a tax write-off on union dues that are used for political purposes. Keeping track of political shenanigans is becoming a full-time job.

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