Disgraced California Union Leader Keeps Board Seats After Arrest

Alma Hernández was charged with multiple counts of embezzlement and fraud

Alma Hernández / U.C. Berkeley
October 18, 2021

A top California union boss with ties to prominent Democrats may still wage considerable influence in the state even after she was arrested on charges of embezzlement and tax fraud.

Alma Hernández stepped down as executive director of SEIU California last week after she and her husband were charged with multiple counts of fraud. But Hernández, under whose direction the union donated to Gov. Gavin Newsom (D.) and then-senator Kamala Harris, is still listed on the board for three state governing bodies, including the executive council for the California Labor Convention.

Jessica Millan Patterson, the chairwoman of the California Republican Party, said Democrats are likely to turn a blind eye to the charges because of their financial connections to unions.

"Unions are top political funders of the California Democrat Party, and allegations of felony corruption should be treated seriously and investigated fully," Patterson told the Washington Free Beacon. "We are disappointed but not surprised by these indictments and the fact that Democrat politicians are circling the wagons to protect their union benefactors. That's a clear signal to voters that their interests are secondary."

Hernández and her husband, Jose Moscoso, are charged with multiple counts of embezzlement, tax fraud, perjury, and failure to pay unemployment insurance taxes. California's attorney general alleges that the couple over a five-year span underreported their income by $1.4 million. The charges also say that Hernández in 2014 gave $11,000 from an SEIU-affiliated PAC to her husband to provide food for canvassers—a service he never provided. SEIU California is the largest union in the state, with nearly 600,000 members. Hernández led the union since 2016.

In addition to the executive council for the California Labor Convention, Hernández serves on the boards of the California Budget & Policy Center and Health Access California. None of the three groups responded to requests for comment on whether they will remove Hernández in response to the charges.

Under Hernández's leadership, SEIU California donated $6 million to Newsom's anti-recall effort this year. The union also contributed to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra's 2018 attorney general campaign and Harris's 2016 Senate campaign. Neither Harris nor Becerra responded to requests on whether they will return the funds in light of the charges against Hernández.

Timothy Snowball, the California litigation counsel for the Freedom Foundation, said union bosses like Hernández have made a habit of using their positions of power to boost their influence and bank accounts. Snowball says this behavior begins with efforts to prevent rank-and-file workers from opting out of union dues.

"For decades, government unions like SEIU California have broken the law by taking public workers' money without their affirmative consent for their own political pet projects," Snowball told the Free Beacon. "Now we find out they are using that money to line their own pockets. What else will it take for the union rank and file to realize they are being used and abused?"

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) says congressional Democrats should abandon their latest pro-union legislation in light of Hernández's arrest. The PRO Act, which the Biden administration supports, would overturn right-to-work laws in 28 states that ban forced union dues as a term of employment.

McCarthy says the bill reveals the dangers of the cozy relationship between union bosses and Democratic leaders.

"While Democrats have been prioritizing union bosses over the needs of hardworking constituents, the Executive Director of California's biggest labor union has been allegedly committing tax fraud at the expense of American taxpayers," McCarthy told the Free Beacon. "I urge Democrats to stop pandering to corrupt union bosses by gutting workers' privacy through the PRO Union Bosses Act, and immediately denounce this behavior."

House Democrats in September proposed an addition in a $3.5 trillion reconciliation package that would allow a tax write-off on union dues that go toward political spending. Workers who opt out of those dues would still be taxed.