“Doing nothing is not an option for people of good conscience.”
By Brent E. Beltrán
On a cold Wednesday evening in Kearny Mesa prominent San Diegans Donna Frye and Irene McCormack joined community members to show their solidarity with Sandy Naranjo, Isabel Vasquez and Anabel Arauz and call for the resignation of the President of UFCW Local 135 and San Diego and Imperial Labor Council, Mickey Kasparian.
Naranjo, Vasquez, and Arauz filed separate lawsuits against Kasparian accusing him of gender discrimination, sexual harassment, retaliation, and other misdeeds. Also named in all three complaints are the union itself and in Arauz’s filing, Richard Barerra, executive assistant of the local.
McCormack was the chief communications aide to disgraced, former mayor Bob Filner and the first of many women to accuse him of sexual harassment. Former City Councilwoman Donna Frye, alongside lawyers Cory Briggs and Marco Gonzalez, was the first person to come out publicly to condemn Filner and call for his resignation.
Both women showed up at the Labor Council’s monthly delegates meeting at Machinists Hall to share the following letter calling upon Kasparian to resign:
January 25, 2017
Dear UFCW Local 135 Members and San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council Delegates and Board Members,
Serious and disturbing allegations have been made against Mr. Kasparian in his capacity as President of UFCW Local 135. Mr. Kasparian also serves as the President of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council.
Lawsuits have been filed against Mr. Kasparian alleging sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation to name but a few. According to media reports, “a handful of former employees have stepped forward to say Kasparian policies union staff and the San Diego political landscape through bullying and fear, and that he mistreats women specifically.” Mr. Kasparian denies the allegations.
To the best of our knowledge, since the filing of these lawsuits by Sandy Naranjo, Isabel Vasquez and Anabel Arauz there has been no independent investigation by either UFCW Local 135 or the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council regarding the allegations of Mr. Kasparian’s gross abuse of power.
It is our belief that the appropriate remedy is for Kasparian to resign. At a minimum, we urge you to conduct an independent investigation regarding these allegations against Mr. Kasparian. We also urge you to take the actions necessary to protect the current employees, such as placing Mr. Kasparian on administrative leave until this is resolved.
Doing nothing is not an option for people of good conscience.
Unfortunately, they were both denied entrance to a meeting that is normally open to the public and were asked to leave the premises.
“We have letters that we wanted to give to the delegates to let them know what we thought of Mr. Kasparian’s gross abuse of power,” stated Donna Frye.
“When we walked down to talk to some of the folks outside of their meeting we were told rather abruptly that we were not welcome, we were not allowed on the property, and we were not allowed to do any sort of hand billing. Which is quite ironic given this is a labor union.”
In addition, a news crew from Fox 5 and reporters from San Diego CityBeat and Times of San Diego were also stopped from going into the building.
“I always pledged to support women who are in this position,’ said McCormack. “I believe them. And I also believe Mr. Kasparian should resign. Or in the least the [Labor] Council [and UFCW] should allow him to go out on administrative leave to see if these charges are true. No one should be put in that position of having to work with somebody with serious allegations against him.”
As Frye and McCormack were denied entrance protestors from the We Stand With Sandy, Isabel and Anabel community campaign started to gather with signs demanding the resignation of Kasparian.
Anabel Arauz was present at the protest. A little over an hour before the meeting she was told by Kasparian that she was no longer a delegate to the Labor Council and could not attend the meeting. She showed up anyway, was denied entrance and let loose in a video posted to Facebook.
“This isn’t right. We’re a union. I work for a union. I worked very hard to get where I’m at,” said Arauz. “It’s time to stand up and speak out. And say that this isn’t right. This has to stop.”
Donna Frye also commented that [Kasparian] “is in control and he is in charge and so we have to rely on other people to take action because clearly Mr. Kasparian is not going to do anything. And is going to do everything in his power to keep people away from expressing their point of view.”
“We need to understand what its like,” she continued. “Until its happened to you, until you have been in the position where you are powerless, where your job depends on somebody who is sexually harassing you, where you feel that you have no recourse, and no remedy, it’s the most awful feeling in the world. And the women deserve our support and we are here to let them know that.”
In addition to Irene McCormack and Donna Frye over twenty community members, activists and friends of the accusers came out to show their solidarity with these brave women. They stayed until the meeting was over, making sure delegates saw them on the way out. Including Kasparian who was hiding behind his phone as he was driven away from the meeting.
This is the fourth in a series of articles on Kasparian and his accusers by the author: