Ousted union leaders take vehicles, political cash with them

10:47 PM, Dec 10, 2009   |    comments
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Ernie Duran, Jr., the longtime president of UFCW Local 7, will receive his union-issued vehicle, a 2007 Ford F350 pickup, as a retirement gift.

The vehicle was purchased with union dues paid by the union's 23,000 members, grocery workers at Safeway, King Soopers and Albertsons. Union members are voting on last, best and final contract offers from Safeway and King Soopers. Their mail-in ballots must be received by Monday.

9Wants to Know has learned Duran is urging the workers to go on strike.

Outgoing union secretary-treasurer Stan Kania will drive away in a union-purchased 2006 Ford Five Hundred.

Both gifts were approved by Local 7's executive board, in what 7th Vice-President Will Joseph called a long-standing tradition.

"If every other president got the vehicle on departure, I don't see changing the trend," Joseph said.

Every other UFCW Local 7 president who has served since 1973 told 9Wants To Know they did not receive vehicles as retirement gifts. In addition, those presidents, Dan Thorn, Charlie Mercer and Gary Hakes, all said they had never heard of any president receiving that perk.

Duran and Kania declined interviews through a union spokeswoman.

A slate of candidates led by Duran was unseated in a September election by a rival group led by Kim Cordova, a rank-and-file grocery worker, who alleged Duran had encouraged nepotism and excessive spending.

Two of Duran's children held high-ranking union posts. Federal records show the three made a combined $430,156 in 2007.

Duran's daughter, Crisanta, who was expected to lose her job as the union's associate counsel in January, stepped down Tuesday to run for election in Colorado House District 5.

Two weeks before she entered the race, the Local 7 executive board took an impromptu vote by telephone to automatically endorse any staff member running for public office and donate the maximum amount allowed by law.

The motion, which resulted in a $4,250 donation to Crisanta Duran's fledgling campaign, was made by her father.

"While I do qualify for the automatic endorsement of the UFCW, I did not accept it and instead chose to appear in front of the executive board and membership to ask for their support," Crisanta Duran said.

The executive board reaffirmed its decision to make an endorsement and donation.

Crisanta Duran is one of four Democrats vying for the party's nomination.

Another Democrat in the race, Dr. Mark Thrun, said he did not have a chance to ask for the union's support.

"I would have loved the opportunity to present my case," Thrun said.

A union official said candidates must request an audience before the executive board and Duran was the only District Five candidate to do so.

Union leaders noted that the expenditures, including the gifting of vehicles and the campaign contribution, were approved by the union membership as a whole.

Rank-and-file union members have the opportunity to vote to approve or reject the executive board minutes in their entirety.

For example, to deny Duran and Kania the vehicles, union members would have needed to vote down monthly meeting minutes that included items like emergency hardship funds.

Hardship funds are given to union workers who experience misfortune like the death of a child or the sudden illness of a family member.

 

 

 

Ernie Duran's son, Ernest Duran III, was to have been removed from his position as a union director in January's transition of power to the new union leaders.

Duran III stepped down from his director's post to take a lower-ranking job as a union organizer where he is likely protected from removal by incoming leadership because of the rules of an in-house union representing certain staff members.

Cordova, the incoming president, said her first order of business will instituting anti-nepotism policies for leadership positions and stricter spending controls, including a prohibition on vehicles as gifts.

"Our efforts and money should be focused on the membership," Cordova said. "Not for personal use."

If you have information about this story, or would like to suggest another story, you are welcome to e-mail investigative reporter Kyle Clark.

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