UFCW headquarters site of protest in support of brave Latinas
By Brent E. Beltrán
The relentless campaign being waged by supporters of Sandy Naranjo, Isabel Vasquez, and Anabel Arauz continued Wednesday night at the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 135 office in Mission Valley for the quarterly membership meeting.
Naranjo, Vasquez, and Arauz filed separate lawsuits against UFCW Local 135 president Mickey Kasparian accusing him of many things including gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation. Also named in all three complaints are the union itself and in Arauz’s filing, Richard Barerra, secretary-treasurer of the local.
About two dozen supporters came out on a cold weeknight to champion the cause of these brave women. Each protestor held a homemade sign showing solidarity with their union sisters or contempt for the man accused of harassing them.
This was the second of many protests and actions to come. The first took place at the ADEM 80 election at Machinists Hall in Chula Vista on January 7. The next will happen this coming Saturday as supporters will march with Sandy, Isabel, and Anabel as a contingent at the San Diego Women’s March. And next Wednesday, January 25, We Stand With Sandy, Isabel and Anabel will be at the Labor Council’s Delegate meeting demanding the resignation of Mickey Kasparian.
UFCW protestors talked with the few rank and file union members that showed up to the sparsely attended membership meeting. Retirees of the union, who are normally allowed to attend membership meetings, were turned away at the door. All of the retired members were there to show their support for the accusers and to demand the resignation of Kasparian.
Retired UFCW staffer Odette McAdams came out to support Isabel, Sandy and Anabel and to ask Mickey Kasparian to resign.
“He’s taking advantage of a good union. He is a disgrace to our union Local 135, the sexual harassment, intimidation, bullying, demeaning women. It needs to stop. We need Mickey to resign,” she said.
Fellow Local 135 retiree Claudia Gonzales stated: “I think unions should be for all employees not just the few select. Mickey Kasparian runs a very oppressive and hostile office. And I think that no labor leader would ever really do that, not a true labor leader. If you are a real labor leader you are for employees no matter where they are. You don’t try to control people, keep them in this hostile, oppressive environment.”
Gonzales’ husband Johnny also attended the protest.
“A union is supposed to protect not only its members but also be a union within the office. What Mickey has done is horrible and goes against everything that every union member has ever done. People lost their lives. People have fought. But what he does: intimidation, harassment, sexual and office harassment, and its horrible.”
Former UFCW employee Will Johnson claimed, “We know that political retaliation happens in this union. We understand that. It needs to end. We can’t deal with this any more. This violates our unionist principles, our very principles that created these institutions. It just needs to end. We need new people in there.”
“I’m embarrassed to say that I ever worked for this union,” said Terry Hunt, another former UFCW staff member and fiancée of complainant Isabel Vasquez.
Inside UFCW headquarters employees stared at protestors, reading the handmade signs that said MK Has Got to Go, Solidarity With Our Sisters, Fire The Liar, No More Tricky Mickey, and Dump the Egomaniac among others.
The stairs leading up to the locked, glass doors were blocked off with caution tape. A measure ignored by protestors.
Community folks again came out to lend their support to these bold Latinas who are willing to stand up to one of the most powerful labor leaders in San Diego..
Colectivo Zapatista member, and former SEIU organizer, Enrique de la Cruz was there “to stand in solidarity with mujeres that have dealt with a lot of shit, a lot of bullshit, harassment, discrimination. Serious shit. And what we’re saying is that we are going to stand up to any boss who does that whether union or not. Labor Council, UFCW, whoever it is we’re going to stand up to them.” He continued, “the thing is, if we’re here saying fight for fifteen and stand up against the CEO’s and we can’t stand up against our own? That’s bullshit. That’s fake. Enough of that. We gotta stand up right now. Resign, Mickey.”
Grandmother Gloria Andrade was at the protest with her adult grandchildren because she “heard there’s a lot of injustice going on in this union. I’m very perplexed and angry to tell you. Unions we naturally trust, they’re part of the working class. We hear there’s been shenanigans going on for a long time, makes it very upsetting. I’m glad some people have come out to express that finally to say enough is enough. We need to change.”
As the organizer of this event and one of the leaders of We Stand With Sandy, Isabel, and Anabel I said these words to close out the live Facebook video interviews I did:
“We’re not giving up. This is just the beginning. This is a fight not just for Sandy, Isabel, and Anabel. This is a fight for all people who face gender discrimination. All people that face sexual harassment. This is for everybody. And we are here to let them know, to let the UFCW know, to let Mickey Kasparian know, and the people that work with him that this is unacceptable behavior and that we’re not going to stop until Mickey is gone.”
The fight to seek justice for these three brave women and the removal of Mickey Kasparian has only begun. There are more actions planned, more dirt to dig, more articles to write. Sandy, Isabel, and Anabel have truth, justice, community, and a hell of an attorney in Dan Gilleon on their side. Kasparian only has himself. It’s just a matter of time.
This is the third in a series of articles by the author:
Councilman Alvarez: “I am disgusted by the allegations” About Sexual Harassment by Labor Leader
We Stood With Sandy and Isabel!