A recent corruption scandal has been discovered in AFSCME local 3299, a branch of the largest UC labor union that represents nearly 20,000 patient care and service workers. According to recent reports, corruption charges have been directed at newly elected AFSCME local 3299 president Kathryn Lybarger and other staff members, including executive vice president Jessica Agost and financial secretary Ruben Santos.
Charges being brought against members of the newly elected administration include allegations of racial discrimination, election tampering and mismanagement of union funds.
“Based on what we know to be factual, the evidence is compelling,” said Kat Bedford, chair of the AFSCME 3299 Election Committee, in a report recently released to UC student media outlets. “This may be one of the worst corruption cases in AFSCME history and I hope the national union takes action before its too late.”
Lybarger, a UC Berkeley groundskeeper, was sworn in as local 3299 president on Oct. 27 after receiving a reported 66 percent voter approval rating, soundly defeating incumbent president Lakesha Harrison. However, after recent allegations, some are calling for the newly-elected president to step down.
“Its very saddening that in their desire to control the union, these individuals have caused great harm to the members of our union,” said Jannet Pascual, AFSCME 3299 recording secretary, in the report. “The claim is that they stole and misused our union’s resources for their personal gain. Union members from all across California demand that Lybarger and co-conspirators resign and that our parent union steps in immediately.”
In light of the corruption allegations, calls have been made for AFSCME international president Gerald McEntee to place the union under a trusteeship, which would allow the parent union to take control of local 3299 in an effort to stabilize the union’s finances and protect union member assets from possible corruption.
Bill Pool, a maintenance worker at Merrill College and AFSCME union member, is opposed to the idea of placing local 3299 under a trusteeship, as he claims it would allow the international union to assume power for up to 18 months.
Pool said he feels charges against recent president-elect Lybarger were brought about by ex-president Harrison and her supporters, who could not accept defeat in the recent election.
“I think that Lakesha [Harrison] is a sore loser, and that she ran the union for her own benefit, not for the people,” Pool said.
Pool recalled past instances where Harrison called on local 3299 members to strike, seemingly in an attempt to only benefit her own political aspirations within the union.
“We went on strike three and half years ago in the middle of summer when no one was here, we marched up from the base of campus in blistering heat waving signs at each other, it was basically pointless,” Pool said. “It only made sense if Lakesha Harrison was running in the next election, in which she actually was and elected to international board.”
Pool said he fears placing local 3299 under a trusteeship could help Harrison, as she has connections in the AFSCME International Board. He is calling on union members to speak out against the plans to place AFSCME local 3299 under a trusteeship by contacting international president McEntee.
President Lybarger and ex-president Harrison were unavailable for comment.