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The fall of a union

A union is supposed to watch over its members and carefully monetize assets in their best interest. Swedish trade union Kommunal did the opposite. They abused the trust of their half a million members – and their money. The leaders spent more than 300 million SEK on posh restaurants and conferences and at the union-owned restaurant pornografic shows were held.

Aftonbladet’s Journalist Richard Aschberg revealed how the union squandered over SEK 300 million on operating bars and conference venues and hiring out its restaurant for porn shows. The leaders nurtured a culture of nepotism, lining their own pockets at the expense of their members, and giving senior leaders and other high-ranking individuals perks in the form of luxury apartments. The top leaders enjoyed free holidays, attended luxury conferences, and held parties to the cost of hundreds of thousands of kronor.

Richard Aschberg had dug deep and consistently, and were able to tell a story about almost unbelievable corruption where the headlines say it all:

To make it even more explicit, the union’s members are mostely middle or low wages women. More than 10 000 of the 500 000 members left their union when they learnt about the scandal.

Once Aschberg had done his part, photographer Jerker Ivarsson could capture porn shows and booze parties on film, which reinforced the dramatic element of the exposé.

When asked which of all the stories about Kommunal is the most important Richard Aschberg says:
”That Kommunal used the memebers money on things that are so far from the union’s core and that it above that, made them loose so much money. It was really union style corruption like in the 70:s. I didn’t think that excisted today.”

Aschberg has a clear view on his job and what keeps him going:
”To reveal things that are wrong. That is my job.”

The Kommunal story was awarded Best Scoop in Schibsted Journalism Award 2016. This is the jury’s motivation:
“The winner has uncovered a story with great impact and with so many amazing surprises it’s almost too good and hair-raising to be true. But it is. The scoop is a classic disclosure of abuse of power and the story is handled in a delicate, well-crafted way.”

Watch the nominee video: