By Doug Porter
San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council Secretary-Treasurer Richard Barrera announced his resignation via a press release on Tuesday.
Barrera simultaneously announced he would be starting at the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) on February 1st as Executive Assistant and Secretary-Treasurer.
Here’s what was said in the press release:
“Richard has succeeded in building a strong and united Labor Council to advance a pro-worker agenda at the bargaining table and the ballot box. We are grateful for the thoughtful and skilled leadership he brought to the Council and look forward to him bringing his passion and talent for organizing to UFCW 135,” said Labor Council President Mickey Kasparian, adding “The labor movement isn’t about one person – it’s about working people standing together for a common purpose. When we raise the minimum wage and hold our progressive majority on the San Diego City Council next June, it will be because nurses, teachers, electricians, grocery clerks, postal workers, bus drivers, homecare providers and other working people decided to change the rules.”
Article VIII of the Labor Council’s bylaws outline the process for filling the Secretary-Treasurer role, which would be voted on in the regularly scheduled April 2016 election of Executive Board Officers. In his statement, Barrera advised the appointment of an interim Secretary-Treasurer, namely Labor Council Chief of Staff and Political/Legislative Director Dale Kelly Bankhead.
No reason was given for the change. Sources told me Barrera’s resignation was the result of a desire to be more directly involved in organizing workers and unrelated to his tenure on the San Diego Unified School Board of Trustees.
Video of SDPD Shooting Released
Earlier today, San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis released a private surveillance video capturing the police shooting claiming the life of Fridoon Rawshan Nehad.
The officer-involved shooting took place in late April in the city’s Midway district. SDPD Officer Neal Browder failed to turn on his department-issued body-cam. Early news coverage of the incident painted the image of a mentally ill homeless man threatening the officer with a knife.
The knife didn’t exist (it was a pen). Later on we learned Nehad wasn’t homeless. Nehad suffered from a long struggle with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after being imprisoned by the Taliban and was diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
An employee of a nearby business contacted various media outlets, concerned that footage from his company’s camera in the possession of the SDPD was going to be suppressed.
From Voice of San Diego:
The incident became all the more questionable when we learned that there was a video that recorded the whole thing. And the video, according to someone who saw it at least 20 times, wasn’t good.
That person was Wesley Doyle. He was an employee of the boat equipment business whose surveillance camera taped the shooting. He watched the tape over and over the morning after the shooting.
First, Doyle called a bunch of local politicians to tell them the video was disturbing. Then he said two SDPD homicide detectives came to interview him even though police already had a copy of the footage. After that, Doyle spoke anonymously to television stations about the video because he feared repercussions.
WARNING – GRAPHIC CONTENT
Release of the footage came after U.S. District Court Judge William Q. Hayes agreed with a media request to lift a protective order. He gave the city and the officer a week to appeal his ruling before it took effect. By today, Dumanis told the media, it was obvious that no appeal would be forthcoming.
From the Union-Tribune:
District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis on Tuesday released a copy of a video that captured the fatal shooting of a man in the Midway district by a San Diego police officer that has been kept secret by authorities since the April 30 incident.
The video released by Dumanis, who ruled that the shooting of Fridoon Rawshan Nehad by San Diego officer Neal Browder was justified, means the public will be able to see a portion of what happened when Browder encountered Nehad in an alley behind an adult book store off Hancock Street.
The district attorney said she would release other information including photos, additional videos and documents from the investigation because the security video presents an “incomplete picture of what happened that night.”
Ms. Dumanis was very determined that the media ‘get’ her version of what happened.
From Voice of San Diego:
The video, which is graphic, shows Browder arriving, exiting his police car and, shortly afterward, shooting Nehad. Nehad appears to have been slowing and might have been stopped when he was hit. The shooting occurs around the 4-minute, 20-second mark in the video. The original surveillance video had no sound, but Dumanis edited the video to include police radio traffic communicating that the suspect had a knife. We did not edit what Dumanis provided…
…On Tuesday, during an hour-long news conference Dumanis reiterated that Browder had a reasonable belief that he was threatened and provided a host of information supporting her view. In addition to overlaying the video with police radio traffic, Dumanis showed surveillance video prior to the shooting that she said showed Nehad was threatening people with what they believed was a knife. She also showed video of Nehad stashing a knife sheath — though the officer wouldn’t have known about that that before the shooting — a photo of the pen Nehad had on him at the time of the shooting and an unrelated video of a man demonstrating how a butterfly knife worked in an attempt to show how the officer might have been led to believe Nehad had a knife.
NBC7 included an embedded copy in their on-line coverage of a 15-page letter sent by Dumanis to SDPD Chief Shelley Zimmerman outlining the investigation.
The letter – dated Nov. 9, 2015 – includes statements made by Browder to investigators, offering the first glimpse into what the officer was thinking in the moments leading up to the fatal shooting.
According to the report, Browder shot and killed Nehad 32 seconds after driving into an alley behind the Hi-Lite Adult Bookstore in the 3200 block of Hancock Street.
The officer told investigators he had responded to a report of a man, armed with a knife, threatening people in the area who had last been seen walking down the alley by the bookstore.
The family of the deceased man has filed a $20 million wrongful death lawsuit against the city. Officials with the Department of Justice are are now reviewing the case.
Wage Theft Downplayed in Fraud Case
District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones held a downtown news conference on Monday to announce arrests in the largest ever insurance premium fraud case in San Diego history.
Busted were the owners, along with assorted accomplices, of a janitorial and housekeeping services company used by high-end hotels throughout the region.
Good Neighbor Services allegedly hid the existence of at least 800 hotel workers working at the Hotel Del Coronado, Loews Coronado, La Costa Resort and Spa, the Grand Del Mar, L’Auberge Del Mar, The Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons, Hilton and Hyatt hotel chains.
From the Union-Tribune
“Make no mistake, insurance fraud is not a victimless crime,” Dumanis said. “When cheaters scam insurance companies, and lie their way out of paying premium taxes, ordinary citizens end up footing the bill.”
During the course of the investigation, employees said they were paid with checks that carried the names of other businesses, even though they wore uniforms with the Good Neighbor Services logo and identified the Kwons as the owners, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
The employees also said they did not receive overtime pay or workers’ compensation benefits when they were injured on the job, and they feared retaliation if they reported their injuries. One employee reported that she had to repeatedly ask for medical attention for her injury.
“When she was finally sent to a doctor, she found out later the Kwons sent her to a dentist rather than a physician,” Dumanis said.
Coverage of the event casually mentioned the role of Maintenance Cooperation Trust Fund. In fact, it was a tip in 2010 by this group that led to the investigation.
The watchdog group was formed in 1999 by a handful of union contractors tired of losing contracts to cleaning companies that submit low bids because they don’t pay minimum wage, overtime or payroll taxes or pay for worker’s compensation coverage. Members pay one cent for every hour worked by their employees.
And for all the hand-wringing over the insurance and tax fraud– $3.6 million in workers’ compensation insurance rates and more than $3.3 million in payroll taxes– there was no estimate or even mention of the overtime wages owed to those workers.
A 2014 report by the Economic Policy Institute found that in terms of the amount of money stolen, “[w]age theft is a far bigger problem than bank robberies, convenience store robberies, street and highway robberies, and gas station robberies combined.”
Currently, only 17% of workers receiving judgments for stolen wages are able to collect payment. Research indicates low-wage workers lose, on average, 12.5% of their annual income to wage theft.
A recent survey by the Center for Policy Initiatives and SDSU’s Department of Sociology found persuasive evidence of widespread wage theft, labor law violations and widespread discrimination in restaurants throughout San Diego.
That study found more than three-quarters of restaurant employees surveyed said they’d been victims of wage theft by their employers during the past year, with a third saying it happens regularly.
An investigation by NBC7News found that, since 2010, hundreds of San Diego companies have failed to pay at least $800,000 in wages, overtime and meal breaks to employees
In over 60% of the cases where workers attempt collect back pay after winning in court, employers simply close their doors and become “non-active”, or defunct, to avoid payment.
It took years of lobbying and organizing before the legislature passed SB 588 in 2015. In October, Governor Jerry Brown signed the most comprehensive bill on wage theft to date.
Priorities, people, priorities. The District Attorney runs ads on billboards about workman’s comp fraud…
This is a special edition of my daily column, The Starting Line.
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