An open letter from Dr. Fredi Avalos generates discussion on SDFP’s role in critiquing the Left and movement building
By San Diego Free Press Editorial Board
How do we reconcile our differences on the Left to more effectively fight a common enemy?
The San Diego Free Press does not publish every work that is submitted. The four daily editors determine whether a submission meets our criteria for quality of writing and compatibility with our mission of providing grassroots news and progressive views.
There have been a few times when we have declined to publish articles that were articulate and authored by respected members of the SDFP community of contributors and readers. When this occurs, it is a result of discussion and a final vote of the full editorial board, in which the majority position is reflected and the contributor is advised of our decision.
A fellow board member asked us to consider an open letter from Fredi Avalos, an adjunct professor at California State University San Marcos, directed toward Mickey Kasparian, president of UFCW Local 135 and president of the San Diego and Imperial Valley Counties Labor Council.
The letter expresses her anger and deep disappointment over the failed mayoral bid of Democratic Councilwoman Olga Diaz in Escondido. While Avalos points out a number of causes for Diaz’ loss, she focuses on the role that Kasparian played in that election. The letter is published in its entirety below.
The decision to publish the letter is a reflection of a compromise hammered out at our most recent editorial board meeting. We agreed to publish the letter and to provide transparency to our readers about our internal debate on the issue.
The parameters of the debate were broad, encompassing the specific and situational as well as the historical. There were a number of compelling reasons given for publishing the letter. It met our basic standards for publication and therefore shouldn’t be treated differently than other submissions that we routinely publish.
SDFP also has a responsibility to call out the insensitivity directed toward the Latino immigrant rights community and demand an end to it.
There were also compelling reasons for not publishing the letter. SDFP provides a much needed infrastructure for movement building on the Left. Is there a benefit in publishing the conflicts within and among the communities of interest on the Left, including labor, which has been the historical backbone of progressive politics?
Some of us felt that there isn’t a benefit from publishing these conflicts in a public space that includes readers who are hostile to the Left and are actively involved in subverting efforts to unify its diverse elements. Full throated discussions about those conflicts needs to take place and should be carried out among the actual stakeholders.
A great deal of work goes into the ongoing publication of the San Diego Free Press. Beyond what readers see on the page are seven editors with deep personal convictions who share a common vision and don’t always agree upon how to achieve that vision. There are times like this when the editorial process leading to what you see on the page becomes an important part of the story.
Open Letter to Mickey Kasparian
President of UFCW Local 135 and President of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council
What side are you on?
My father was a union man and I am union man’s daughter. Memories of my youth are filled with heated discussions about union politics in my parents’ living room. A former professional boxer he, and his union brothers, taught me that institutions are complicated entities that should never be romanticized and that blind loyalty would leave us all in the dark.
I write this open letter to you in his memory and in the name of those men now all deceased whose memories also inspire this message. They taught me that we must find the courage to speak truth to power and injustice from whatever corner it emerges.
Today, I question the power you, as president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 135 have to destroy and compromise elections in the City of Escondido.
Some have called you a “king maker.” I say the emperor has no clothes.
You owe the young Latino population of North County and their families an apology.
Your decision to spend hundreds of dollars in mailers attacking Olga Diaz who was running for mayor of Escondido was much more than just an ill-advised attack on a fellow Democrat and union supporter. It was also a crushing blow to a city and a region riven by racial tension. Diaz was the first Latina mayoral candidate in Escondido in over 150 years.
What you failed to consider is what was at stake for Latinos who live in Escondido and in the entire North County region. Latinos have been targeted and maligned in Escondido, a city that has made no apologies for its anti-Latino and anti-union policies. In Escondido and in other North County cities, Latinos make up 50% or nearly 50% of the population.
Over the last few years, we have endured an invasion of white supremacists and Minutemen who often with the tacit approval of law enforcement, have tried to silence and harass us. The social and economic divisions between the white and the growing Latino population are deep and unequal.
We cannot afford to have a man who controls a powerful union destroy what so many have worked so hard to build. You also serve on the Democratic Party’s Central Committee and yet you stood in opposition to a woman and fellow Democrat, who has restored a sense of hope and inclusion to a beleaguered Latino population.
Olga Diaz and her candidacy was much more than just a mayoral race. It is the culmination of years of struggle to finally establish a foothold and political presence in a region that some have called Mississippi with palm trees.
For the first time, young people became energized and worked tirelessly for her campaign. This election was about a new vision for their future.
Your attack ads helped to elect Sam Abed, the notorious anti-union candidate that Olga Diaz was trying to beat. He has been a strong supporter of ill-fated policies that have targeted Latino residents in his city. Abed has made it clear that he wants unions and their influence out of Escondido. Abed despises unions and worker’s rights.
Did your decision to try and destroy Diaz’s campaign benefit the union brothers and sisters you serve? The answer is no. Did your decision to spend hundreds of dollars from union coffers help to secure more union jobs in Escondido? The answer again is no.
It appears that you do not like anyone, particularly young Latinas, who refuse to pay you homage. You may be thinking you take no prisoners. But, Mickey, the prisoners you take are the Latino population of Escondido who continue to exist under the dictates of a racist and unjust city council.
For this reason, I must ask again: What side are you on, Mickey?
In truth, you have already answered the question. Please in the name of the many men and woman on whose backs the labor union was forged, stay out of the way of a new generation of Latino men and women who are no longer afraid to speak their truth to political parties, religious leaders, and powerful union men like you.
You may have won the battle in Escondido but, the war will be won by the growing legion of young Latinos who, like the great Mexican Revolutionary,Emiliano Zapata, would rather die on their feet then live on their knees.
Fredi Avalos, Ph.D.
Director of the Difficult Dialogues Project of North County and Local Educator