Former UFCW Local 135 employees Isabel Vasquez and Sandy Naranjo have settled civil cases involving sexual harassment and political retaliation claims against labor leader Mickey Kasparian.
Since the initial claims were made by the women Kasparian has left (or was removed by the AFL-CIO, depending on who is speaking) the leadership of the local labor council, but remains as president of the UFCW.
He created a breakaway labor coalition whose financial clout discouraged attempts by activists to pressure the Democratic party and many local politicians to distance themselves.
Kasparian and his defenders have maintained throughout that his legal woes were being used by political/labor opponents to discredit him. The fact is he got his political enemies the old-fashioned way: he earned them.
Meanwhile, a needed conversation about sexism and misogyny hasn’t happened in San Diego. The women were real, not tools of other unions. Their pain was real, just as real as the moles on a man’s penis, as described in a plaintiff’s deposition.
An attempt by progressives in the Democratic party to get him suspended from the Central Committee of the San Diego Democratic Party last winter failed, as did a subsequent effort to oust Kasparian for failing to attend sub-committee meetings.
The leadership of the party simply wasn’t interested in distancing themselves from a major source of funding, defending criticism of their position via personal attacks on those asking for change.
Following the filing of the third lawsuit by Melody Godinez, alleging six incidents of sexual impropriety and violence, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez called for Kasparian to resign from the San Diego County Democratic Central Committee. Days later he resigned from that body, citing a busy schedule involving UFCW-employer contract negotiations.
District 9 City Councilwoman Georgette Gomez issued a statement via Facebook applauding the move, and in doing so named a total of nine women who have made “serious accusations” against the UFCW president.
Recently disclosed depositions from the lawsuits, including an additional accusation of sexual harassment, certainly did little to bolster forceful denials of wrongdoing by the defense.
It certainly appeared to me there was some fire underneath all that smoke. I’ll bet the UFCW’s insurance company saw it that way, too.
Retired Judge Ron Prager was brought in to mediate the cases. Dan Gilleon, the San Diego attorney for the accusers, told the Times of San Diego he could not discuss terms of the settlement.
Gilleon also took a shot at state and local leaders who in his mind haven’t properly denounced Kasparian.
“I wish I could say more, especially given the recent, public comments from people like [Assemblyman] Todd Gloria, [State Sen.] Toni Atkins, [county supervisor candidate] Lori Saldana and Dale Kelly Bankhead [secretary-treasurer and CEO of Kasparian’s breakaway San Diego Working Families Council].
“If the public knew what I know, those ‘leaders’ would be paying a hefty political price for carrying Mickey (and his wallet) around on their hips,” he said.
I can’t fault the women who settled with Mickey Kasparian; their resources and personal bravery have limits. Rumor has it that additional settlements with other women are forthcoming.
Meanwhile, those who used the “due process” argument against even temporary consequences have achieved their goal. As an executive of a non-governmental organization, Kasparian was able to withstand public pressure.
His ability to influence politics in San Diego remains mostly intact. Next up we’ll likely see heaping servings of Mickey-style revenge for those who failed to demonstrate enough loyalty.
In an era of #Metoo and an existential threat to basic human rights, a political logjam is what we’re going to have in San Diego. As is the case in Washington DC, the protecting the power of one man supersedes the needs of the rest of us.
It’ll be a great time for the Kevin Faulconers and Chris Cates of our city; not so good for those without enough power and privilege to fight for more than crumbs falling off the table.
This is how a city whose political leadership claims opposition to the administration’s immigration and trade policies ends up financing protection with taxpayer dollars for the private contractors building prototypes for Trump’s border wall.
So, be warned. Some of the local political institutions that women’s groups and Indivisible chapters have allied with in other parts of the country are tainted and untrustworthy.
There is now a greater responsibility to make good and thoughtful choices on the part of the grassroots movements that have arisen over the past year. Pragmatism and political alliances need to go beyond ‘this is the way business gets done’(local Democratic party leadership) and ‘my way or the highway’(in Kasparian’s case).
Are you ready for “The Falsies?”
The Trump administration is so inept it had to move an imaginary award show back a week and a half. pic.twitter.com/9mGaZWChTp
— Adam Best (@adamcbest) January 7, 2018
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