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In reading the article entitled “Leader’s Kin get Union Business,” I became quite incensed. However, the provocation of my irritation was not that which the author intended. Instead, I was gravely disappointed because the writer, Paul Pringle, employed an under-handed, but effective strategy of intentionally misleading the reader in order to create a perception of impropriety. I will support this assertion in the text that follows, but let me be clear, I am formally accusing Mr. Pringle of employing this tactic. In contrast, if you read the article carefully, Mr. Pringle never accuses Mr. Tyrone Freeman or the Union of wrong-doing, nor claims that the practices discussed are immoral, illegal, or unethical. The article is simply written for the purpose of leading the reader to make such a conclusion. Ironically, as I will demonstrate in this response, the practices that were magnified in the article are not only justified but typical and in many cases, necessary.
Consider Mr. Freeman’s charge. He is tasked with improving quality of life for under-employed workers in a market where corporate and private dollars are becoming scarce, worker salaries are diminishing, and government support is shrinking. Therefore, he must implement creative, out-of-the-box funding strategies to accomplish this objective. One such strategy is the housing corporation. This affordable housing entity provides quality 2500 square feet homes for home care workers and similarly under-employed workers. This benefit alone serves to supplement the workers’ income and increase their standard of living.
Mr. Pringle also sought to convince the reader to view the golf tournament as an act of impropriety. However, he never made such a claim because he knew that the picture he was painting did not represent the reality of the situation. First, charity golf tournaments have proven to be an effective fundraising strategy. They bring awareness to individuals whose good fortune has protected them from being exposed to the need; provide more fortunate individuals and companies with an opportunity to learn about the challenges facing under-employed workers; and create a platform for those who are capable of sharing and desirous to share their good fortune through philanthropy. It is estimated that more than four million Los Angeles County residents have directly or indirectly benefited from monies raised from charity golf tournaments and similar events.
Second, Mr. Pringle would like the reader to believe that charity fundraising events should resemble the clientele that is ultimately being served, which is an utterly ridiculous statement. How many philanthropists are anxious to visit a nursing home for a rousing game of chess and gourmet hospital food? It is absurd to even suggest such a thing.
Third, any business accountant will tell you that the term “accounts receivable” exists for a reason. In many cases, and especially in fundraising, all of the funds contributed or committed have not been received by the end of the reporting period. However, all of the expenses are typically due up front. Therefore, an accurate determination of loss or gain can’t be made without knowledge of all fiscal sources. Here I reiterate, Mr. Pringle did not state that the fundraiser wasn’t successful. He instead, attempted to influence the reader to believe that such was true.
Lastly, Mr. Pringle attempts to make the reader conclude that the efforts of Eric Dickerson and Jackie Slater are less than honorable. In truth, these men have dedicated their time and celebrity to help a meritorious cause. Our former US Presidents receive up to $1 million per appearance for causes that are often times much less worthy. Other Hall of Famers are compensated at $25,000.00 to $100,000.00 per day. These compensation amounts can be made to seem excessive but are usually commensurate with the funds raised. Given the resources, how many of us would gladly spend the funds necessary to enjoy an opportunity to meet and fellowship with our heroes? Michael Jordan receives $25,000.00 per person for his fantasy camp and other celebrities, athletes, and dignitaries receive similar appearance fees. Here, however, Mr. Slater’s and Mr. Dickerson’s efforts have both short-term and far-reaching effects. The funds they help raise directly and immediately impact the lives of under-employed workers in Los Angeles County. Moreover, they facilitate exposure to philanthropic interests; paving the way for their involvement with the program today and into the future. Therefore, the value of their celebrity can not be measured by mere numbers over the course of one reporting period.
Perhaps the centerpiece of Mr. Pringle’s article was his blatant attempt to unjustifiably discredit the union’s selection of service providers based on family involvement. For years, we have fought to eliminate the practice of unethical nepotism and to this day we question such practices. It fascinates me that Mr. Pringle would write this article when we have a US President that facilitated an extremely large sole-source contract to a company that is intimately associated with the Vice President and this act virtually went unnoticed.
Remember, in the United States, we don’t have an issue with nepotism. We have an issue with unethical nepotism. If an individual is well qualified, charges a reasonable fee for services, and offers the best combination of quality, price, and effectiveness, than it doesn’t matter what their relationship is to the principal. This example is evident in major companies throughout the United States: Anheuser Busch; Ford; JW Marriott; and Trump Industries are just a few examples. In the case of Mr. Freeman, it makes sense that Ms. Pilar Planell would offer a more attractive package than other companies and reduce her personal compensation to below market rate in order to ensure the success of the union to which she is deeply committed. Having personally seen the work that she provided to the union and having contracted similar services, I can fully attest that the fees paid Ms. Planells’ company were much less than those charged by other companies for comparable services.
Moreover, Mr. Pringle is comparing an individual salary with a company’s accounts receivable and trying to trick the reader into believing that the two items are the same. The intelligent reader would at least demand that he compare profits to salary, but neither is appropriate. Also, Mr. Pringle insinuates that Ms. Planell is not qualified to provide production services simply because she transitioned from a secretarial career. Thank goodness he wasn’t giving advice to Susie Buell Tompkins, Suze Ormann, Mrs. Fields, Martha Stewart, or any of a host of successful entrepreneurs who elected to leave their formal career and pursue their passion.
Taken together, Mr. Pringle’s story represents the highest level of irresponsible, sensationalistic reporting. He presents commonly accepted practices in such a manner as to create a perception of impropriety, makes inappropriate comparisons, conveniently fails to disclose pertinent and relevant information, causes the reader to make invalid assumptions about Mr. Freeman’s salary, insinuates that the union’s fundraising practices differ from similar agencies and are unethical, and simply attempts to crucify Mr. Freeman in the court of public opinion by lying on the figures.
It is a privilege to report for a respected and time-honored media outlet such as the Los Angeles Times. Unfortunately, Mr. Pringle dishonored the newspaper and his profession by writing this article in such an irresponsible and unfair manner. We were warned that there would come a time when people will think that is good is bad and what is bad is good. It is my sincere hope that Mr. Pringle’s readers are intelligent enough to discern his deceptive presentation and refuse to allow this to be that time.
Charisse Bremond-Weaver is president and CEO of the Brotherhood Crusade.