By Doug Porter*
Four years after the Bob Filner scandal, little has changed with the leadership culture in the centers of power on the left in San Diego–namely labor and the Democratic party.
The enablers and apologists for workplace sexual improprieties, gender discrimination, and retaliation continue to use the political clout and cash flow of their organizations as a shield, preventing them from answering for their behavior or learning from their mistakes.
Engaged women are leading the resistance to what portends to be an era of oppression and repression. They can’t fight the good fight locally or nationally if women within this movement are subjugated by abusive men in powerful positions. They cannot be expected to roll up their sleeves to make changes only to realize the institutional power they need amounts to more of the same.
Watching the situation with Labor/Democratic leader Mickey Kasparian play out has been painful. It has become obvious these institutions have neither a mechanism nor the political will to shift their own patriarchal, abuse-ridden structures.
The new Chair of our San Diego Democratic Party has told people she believes we would be better off if Mayor Bob Filner had remained in office the two years the legal cases against him worked their way through the courts. Mickey Kasparian, against whom similar claims of a pattern workplace sexual improprieties, gender discrimination, and retaliation have been filed, was one of those who powerfully fought to keep Filner in a position to abuse additional women and tear the party apart from within.
It’s time for these games to end.
This is not an argument against due process. It’s just that, outside of the courts, there is no system for any kind of process within our own institutions. Meanwhile, the women who have come forward suffer humiliation, being blackballed from their professions, and are effectively ignored.
Nearly four dozen activists, all of whom are now or have been involved with the Democratic Party, have decided to formally go public and demand action. This follows a similar letter from the Democratic Women’s Club and an editorial in City Beat.
What follows is letter posted by them on Wednesday, February 1st.
(*h/t to Sara, whose Facebook post on this subject provided much of the language I used in this introduction. PS- I and other SDFP editors would have signed this if asked.)
To the Executive Boards of UFCW Local 135, the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, the San Diego County Democratic Party, and the California Democratic Party:
Close to the end of December 2016, two lawsuits were filed that made serious allegations against Mickey Kasparian, a powerful and influential force in Labor and the local Democratic Party. The lawsuits describe activities and situations allegedly created by Mr. Kasparian that violate moral, social, and legal norms as pertains to the treatment of women, as well as stand contrary to progressive and Democratic values. More than a month has passed, and despite a third complaint being filed against Mr. Kasparian and UFCW Local 135 for hostile workplace conditions and retaliation, leadership of UFCW Local 135 and the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council have only issued denials of the allegations.
Out of deep respect for the institutions from which Mr. Kasparian derives his political power and position in the community, we opted to wait and give those organizations – namely the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, UFCW Local 135, and the San Diego County Democratic Party – the opportunity to address these allegations themselves. However, after the absence of any action by the leadership of these groups to address these issues, it has now become clear that if we do not insist upon it, the complaints of these women may be dismissed and diminished in a manner that does not allow them any due process in their own workplaces.
We, the signers of this letter, call upon these named organizations to conduct a prompt independent investigation into the claims that women are suffering or have suffered sexual harassment, retaliation, and bullying in the workplace at the behest of Mr. Kasparian. We urge these organizations to protect current employees during the investigation(s) by placing Mr. Kasparian on administrative leave until the situation is resolved, as a claim has already been filed by Anabel Arauz, a current employee of UFCW Local 135 who expressed sympathy for Isabel Vasquez, that alleges Mr. Kasparian has taken retaliatory measures against employees who may not corroborate his version of the stories.
In the case of the San Diego County Democratic Party and the California Democratic Party, we ask that they take up for consideration whether it is appropriate for someone who has been accused of such serious and disturbing allegations to be representing us as a delegate to the Democratic State Central Committee.
In the current political climate, when we are actively engaged in resistance against a federal administration led by a man whose hallmarks are his blatant and well-documented sexism, his public admission to sexually harassing women, his bullying of those who are weaker than himself, and his retaliatory behavior against those who disagree with his views, it is more important than ever that we maintain moral clarity regarding issues such as the ones confronting us now. Because of Mr. Kasparian’s standing in the progressive community, our ability to stand up against cultures of discrimination, bullying, and harassment is compromised, unless we are able to resolutely acknowledge that we hold ourselves to the same standard that we demand from the nation’s President and his supporters. While the named organizations may claim that this is an internal matter, we would argue that it is a matter that tests the moral fortitude of our progressive institutions and therefore is of concern to all members of the progressive community in this region.
We believe in Mr. Kasparian’s rights to due process for these allegations. And we strongly urge you to participate in that due process by conducting a prompt and comprehensive independent investigation into the veracity of these very serious allegations.
David Alvarez, San Diego City Councilmember, Victoria Barba, Democrat, Livia Borak Beaudin, Democrat, Laurie Black, Democrat, Cory Briggs, President, Briggs Law Corporation, Marcus Bush, Democrat, Bernadette Butkiewicz, Democrat, Carolyn Chase, Democrat, Max Cotterill, Democrat, Olga Diaz, Escondido City Councilmember, Masada Disenhouse, Environmental Activist, Gabriela Dow, Owner of Mora Dow Consulting, Ansermio Estrada, Democrat, Daniel Firoozi, Democrat, Marco Gonzalez, Democrat, Ben Katz, Community Activist, Sara Kent, Democrat, Carol Kim, Democrat, Rachel Laing, Democrat, Mary Latibashvili, Democrat, Rev. Richard Lawrence, Tom Lemmon, Democrat, David Little, AD77 Delegate, Joan Little, AD77 Delegate, William Moore, Democrat, Vivien Moreno, Democrat, Fayaz Nawabi, AD77 Delegate, Gretchen Newsom, Democrat, Mona Rios, National City Councilmember, Pedro Rios, Immigration Advocate, Jose Rodriguez, AD80 Delegate, Ramla Sahid, Democrat, Lori Saldaña, former Assemblymember, Lisa Schmidt, Democrat, Cori Schumacher, Carlsbad City Councilmember, Nick Segura, Sweetwater Union High School District Trustee, Stephen Shepherd, Democrat, Kevin Smith, Democrat, Arturo Solis, Sweetwater Union High School District Trustee, Cesar Solis, Democrat, Alejandra Sotelo-Solis, National City Councilmember, Martha Sullivan, Founder and Proprietor, Grassroots Oasis, Shawn VanDiver, Democrat, Nora Vargas, Southwestern Community College District Trustee, Codi Vierra, Democrat, Michael Wray, Democrat
San Diego Free Press Articles:
(Since certain people on social media keep saying nobody’s writing about it.)
Donna Frye and Irene McCormack Show Solidarity with Kasparian’s Accusers
Campaign Against Labor Leader for Sexual Harassment Charges Heats Up – Protest to Call for Mickey Kasparian’s Resignation – Wed., Jan. 25th
Community Campaign Against Accused Sexual Harasser Mickey Kasparian Continues
We Stood With Sandy and Isabel!
Democrats Vote for Change in ADEM Elections As Labor Council Infighting Continues
Councilman Alvarez: “I am disgusted by the allegations” About Sexual Harassment by Labor Leader