Community Expresses Solidarity in Support of These Brave Women
By Brent E. Beltrán
This past Saturday friends, family, labor, and community came together to support Sandy Naranjo and Isabel Vasquez in their quest for justice. In mid-December they both filed serious complaints against Labor Council President and UFCW Local 135 President Mickey Kasparian.
Naranjo’s complaint was filed based on gender discrimination whereas Vasquez’s complaint was for sexual harassment. A third complaint by Anabel Arauz, based on retaliation, was filed the same day as people gathered for the action.
The solidarity picket took place during the ADEM election for the 80th district at Machinists Hall in Chula Vista. Hundreds came out to vote with many of them standing in solidarity with these brave women. It takes a lot of guts to stand up against the most powerful labor leader in San Diego.
Just the day before Councilman David Alvarez became the first, and so far only, elected official to have the guts to make a statement regarding the allegations: “I am disgusted by the allegations that Mickey Kasparian harassed women and abused his power. Harassment and mistreatment of women is wrong. I will always use my voice to stand up against harassment, no matter who or how powerful the harasser might be.”
The reason this site was chosen for the demonstration was because Sandy Naranjo was running for one of seven female seats to represent the 80th district at the California Democratic Party convention. Prior to the filing of her suit Naranjo was on a slate put out by the Labor Council. Two weeks after filing she was removed from that slate.
“The community was super upset that the powerhouse [Labor Council] had dropped me [from their slate] because of my serious allegations,” said Naranjo to the media. “[The community] came out here in support of me to show that not only are they here to support women’s rights but they’re here to make sure the Democratic Party hears and listens. And that it becomes a party that represents all people, particularly women.”
She went on to say:
“The pattern of all the women he’s fired is because they are women and they are vocal. It’s 2017 and it’s time that women are treated as equal as men and that sexual harassment no longer happens. That it’s something of the past. It’s unfortunate that it’s not only still happening in other workplaces but that it’s happening in a labor union. It shouldn’t be happening anywhere.“
Those standing in solidarity with Sandy and Isabel weren’t just members of the Democratic Party. There were people there from different progressive groups and community organizations outside of the party.
All of those there in support appreciate not only the union organizing work that Sandy Naranjo has done but also her commitment to community causes. Sandy stood tall with Barrio Logan community members during their battle to gain a new community plan update. And the community came out to return the favor.
Enrique de la Cruz of Colectivo Zapatista stated, “I’m here to stand in solidarity with women workers that have been disrespected, that have been exploited due to a corrupt, shady union boss named Mickey Kasparian. There’re also other shady bosses here that have also exploited their workers from other unions as well. And we’re here to say enough is enough. We’re not going to stand for exploitation or harassment of any kind. We stand with Isabel, Sandy, and all workers that are exploited whether the bosses are union or not.”
Rafael Bautista of the San Diego Socialist Campaign was there to show his support for Sandy and Isabel as well as his disdain for people that abuse power.
“I think the abuse of power that’s in place right now needs to go. I think that allowing Mickey to stay and say the things he’s been saying, even after the allegations from very credible women in the community, I think they’re basically slanderous,” said Bautista. “They are wrongheaded and an example of the bad politics and bad use of power that has come out of that office for way too long.”
Other people came out to show their support for these women and their contempt for Kasparian as well, including former staff members at UFCW Local 135.
“Working for Mickey Kasparian was the worst experience of my life,” said retired Local 135 staffer Claudia Gonzales.
In the end this demonstration of solidarity was more about helping Sandy gain one of the seven seats than it was about Kasparian, though the allegations against him provided the backdrop for the action. When the votes were tallied Sandy had won the most out of all the women running. Her vote total was 229 with the next closest being newly elected City Councilwoman Georgette Gomez with 194.
The complaints filed by Sandy, Isabel, and now, Anabel, will wind their way through the civil court process. In the meantime progressives within labor, the Democratic Party, and the various community nonprofits and organizations that are doing social justice work should consider stepping up and publicly declare where they stand when it comes to sexual harassment and gender discrimination. Even if it’s one of the most powerful persons in labor being accused. Because an injury to one is an injury to all!