Santeramo Bust Damages Unions More Than GOP



Former teachers union boss Pat Santeramo, charged Tuesday with widespread corruption, not only destroyed himself. His arrest has done more to damage organized labor in Broward than the GOP could ever do.


Pat Santeramo’s Mug Shot

Santeramo is a reminder that there is plenty to criticize in the union movement.

Democrats and other activists brand any attack on unions as right-wing, Republican-sponsored propaganda. They need to take a good look in the mirror.


Bad Bosses

In that mirror you’ll see Walter “Buster” Brown.

This South Florida union boss and former Port Everglades commissioner was busted for violating the Taft Hartley Act provisions that forbid him from accepting money from an employer while being the head of the Federation of Public and Private Employees. Sentence in 2004: 70 months in the federal pen.

Or maybe you’ll see Tony Gentile.  He ran the Broward teachers union for more than two decades until he was convicted in 2002 of child pornography.  He sent lewd photos to an agent posing as a 14-year-old girl. He was arrested when he showed up to meet the girl

Pat Tornillo is in that mirror.

Tornillo was for 40 years the head of the Dade county teachers union. He was perhaps the most politically-powerful labor figure in the state for a generation.

He ended his career in 2003 by pleading guilty to using $650,000 in union money for cruises, other vacation and lavish personal items.

And now Santeramo.

He is accused of stealing $165,000 in a kickback scheme, plus another $121,848 in fraudulent sick and vacation time. He is also accused of election fraud by reimbursing teachers union employees for political contributions.

So when Republicans talk about union excesses, they have plenty of examples right here.

Oh, I can see the comments already.  What about employer abuses, they will say?

I know about employer excesses.  I worked for the union-busting Tribune Company for more than three decades.

Labor excesses always offended me more.

Organized labor is run by folks entrusted with watching out for working stiffs. When they steal from their members or disgrace them, it is a betrayal of these workers.

Another way to put it is that you know the boss is going to try to screw you. You don’t expect it from your colleagues.

Lobster Lunch For The Boss

I got my first look at union excesses when I was a reporter in my 20s.

I interviewed the boss of one of the largest unions in the country.

The interview took place poolside at a Miami Beach resort.  While I asked questions, this national union president dug into a huge Maine lobster and then smoked a big expensive-looking cigar, all while drinking white wine.

I thought:

His members were far from the gold-plated workers. They had no lavish pensions or birth-to-death health benefits. They were the working poor.

I thought:

His members were slaving at jobs that paid them less for a week’s work than his lobster lunch would cost.

If unions want to turn win the public relations battle in this country, they need to police themselves better. No more leaders like Santeramo, who is accused of wrongdoing that went on over a long period of time.

They need to have tighter control of their own leaders.  They need to have tighter control over their budgets.

Union leaders need to start acting like who they are: representatives of the workers.

And no more lobster lunches.


See the news release from the State Attorney’s Office announcing Santeramo’s arrest here. 

9 Responses to “Santeramo Bust Damages Unions More Than GOP”

  1. Chaz Stevens, Genius says:

    >> I got my first look at union excesses when I was a reporter in my 20s.

    You’re still not?

  2. Not for Nothin' says:

    The only good news in this is that it was BTU members themselves that aked for an investigation by their parent union AFT. When irregularities were found AFT cooperatede with authorities resulting in the charges.

    FROM BUDDY: You are right. It was a dedicated group of dissident BTU members who first uncovered irregularities.

  3. TeeTee says:

    Unions have outlived their usefulness. They have made this nation uncompetitive and helped destroy several industries, like autos, clothing and steel.
    We need to get into another era.

  4. Shitty activist Walsh 2 says:

    Yes, Robert. Homophobic. You hate your own kind. You attack your own.. Probably because the gay mafia in broward wont let you in their own club. I noticed that you didn’t deny your are a felon. Also shitty activist Walsh, didn’t mean to steal your name. I guess great minds thinks alike. Walsh and Stern make me puke.

  5. Sweeping it clean says:

    Santeramo’s bust does indeed damage the Unions, but more than the GOP “could ever do”? Pretty sure that’s a work in progress, Bud. Hats off to the BTU members who had the courage to talk to BSO and some true investigative journalists about what was going on. Saw the news about it on Red Broward and here on Broward Beat. The backlash on this will be fun to watch! There seems to be a chill in the air for the long time etitlement types!

  6. Real Deal says:

    Union work should be honorable but too often it involves criminal activity; avoidable and difficult to understand.

    However, labor’s biggest crime isn’t the stain of crime already well tattooed into the American consciousness. Or the shame of so much of that crime being petty and sleazy.

    Labor’s biggest crime is the total perversion of their mission to those they were supposed to defend combined with a near total denial and inability to see beyond the oh so obvious of how they operate.

    Used to be companies treated their employees like dirt and workers had no way to fight back. The labor movement demanded that necessary consideration. It was a worthy and needed improvement.

    But steadily since it has gone overboard. Today, unions just don’t care what happens to the employers that pay them. Or what impact their demands have on society. Their only interest is more pay for less work and better working conditions.

    If children learn less in schools, too bad, pay me. If airlines go bankrupt, oh well. Pay me. They couldn’t care less if work gets done, how much work gets done, what income statements look like. Pay me is the only relevant consideration.

    That is no way to run any business and for sure it is a shit-where-you-eat approach to running any union. Labor and management work together. They have to be mutually supportive. Being a partner means both sacrifice for the long term common good of each. The true meaning of this is lost today.

    This is why manufacturing jobs have left the United States. You can’t manufacture affordably in the US anymore. It is part of why our educational standing in the world has dropped. We have too many teachers that are lousy but can’t be removed because they perversely use their employment rights. It’s why airlines are constantly in bankruptcy. They cannot make ends meet and still deliver a service riders will accept and pay for.

    A basic reckoning is long overdue in the labor movement. People are afraid to discuss it. It needs to be done.

    Management long ago stopped treating employees like dirt. There are laws today that protect workers, accounting for at least 85% of what the labor movement was created to achieve. There remains a place in our society for labor unions. But not if they refuse to evolve. Not if their agenda is so unquestionably self-centered and narrow minded.

    A frank public conversation is long overdue about the proper role, responsibility and duties of labor in today’s America. Some new rules need to emerge. The blue collar sector is nearly gone. Yet our population has gone from 72 million in 1900 to 300 million in 2010.

    In an age with so much technology, where the hell are all these people going to work? How will they make a living without America becoming a welfare state? We must come to our senses.

    The labor movement is nearly dead in America because they have helped kill a whole bunch of American work. Even the average citizen no longer supports unions, seeing them as way too selfish and corrupt. Labor is poisoning itself. They are doing it to themselves and that is the biggest of all their crimes.

    Here is my suggestion. Give labor a share of ownership or a stake in profitability. Either works fine. Look at participatory economic models. Tie employee benefits and raises to company profits and outputs.

    Watch the US bring back blue collar jobs. Watch people take pride in their work again. All because we put the incentives in the right places. The better the company does, the better the worker does. The worse the company does, the worse the worker does.

    Not more pay for less work and better working conditions.

    Big difference.

    This is why you MUST tie teacher pay to student performance because that’s the product that teachers produce. Don’t worry about the grades of under achievers. Do the best you can with them. The offset of overachievers will offer balance. The real challenge lies in improving the performance of our many average students. That’s where the truly measurable gains can come from.

    Get teachers talking about how to make kids learn better, and we are on our way to improving our world standing in education.

    Government should pay workers a decent salary plus bonus for over achieving goals and cost cutting. Put the incentive on work, quality work, and amount of quality work and watch our employees perform better, earn higher wages, while reducing cost to the taxpayer.

    All of the incentives are on non-performance and more pay. Labor and managers had better wake the hell up and get this right. That plus stopping all this corruption which is very bad for business and only results in people going to jail.

  7. ExCompassionate Conservative says:

    I wonder if there are some more kickback schemes. Broward teachers seem to have a really bad health care plan compared to Palm Beach teachers. Was he involved in that deal? ALways keep in mind that employees with real and usable heatlh care plans recirculate their benefits locally via the middle class health care workers who are employed taking care of them and their famililies.

  8. Dan Reynolds says:

    Some perspective labor haters.

    There are over one hundred local unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO in Broward County. Each one of them has elected officers and executive board members that oversee the finances and activities of their respective locals. Buddy named four over the last twelve years who were arrested. Two of those were charged with crimes that didn’t involve their union duties or funds.

    In that same twelve years how many public officials, police, priests, lawyers, ponzi schemers, business executives, etc. have gone to jail. If we are going to write off whole parts of our society for the failures of a few we will no longer have a society left.

    @ “real deal” The conversation you are talking about is taking place all over the country. Our econonmy has changed dramatically over the last decades and all sectors of our economy are struggling with the new normal. Labor needs to have a voice in that discussion unless your vision for America is just another third world oligarchy.

    By the way, Southwest Airlines is the healthiest in the industry and prides itself on its labor relations with its all union workforce.


    Dan Reynolds is the AFL-CIO president in Broward County. He is a journeyman carpenter and studied economics at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland. While in Poland, he witnessed the birth and rise of the Solidarity trade union movement. Thanks for taking part in the discussion, Dan.

  9. Paul Giordano says:

    My friend’s mug shot looks really nice! I was waiting for this day to come true!! I am nervous because he may give my name as coconspirator in this SCAM. I will call my buddy Marchetti to see if I am on the list.