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
Looking for some action? Check out the Weekly Progressive Calendar, published every Friday in this space, featuring Demonstrations, Rallies, Teach-ins, Meet Ups and other opportunities to get your activism on.
You can now get the Weekly Progressive Calendar delivered to your inbox every Friday. And it’s Free! Subscribe and get an email every time a new article in this series is posted!
Subscriptions to the Starting Line (Monday-Friday) are available:
Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to “The Starting Line” and get an email every time a new article in this series is posted!
I read the Daily Fishwrap(s) so you don’t have to… Catch “the Starting Line” Monday thru Friday right here at San Diego Free Press (dot) org. Send your hate mail and ideas to DougPorter@SanDiegoFreePress.Org Check us out on Facebook and Twitter.
hey, what’s new in the kingdom that holds the power? nothing, or the under-power? nothing either, totalish disillusionment with the democrats too, trying always to elect their “friends” .. friends are good unless yur just fucking with them…or them you…gosh, Doug, doesn’t it get old? dont quit, yur all we have, the others, go ahead and quit…as QElII said in “The Crown,” “a conspiracy of elected quitters” regularly replaced by other quitters… not that Im suggesting a monarchy, but the folks showing up for elected office these days are seriously and tiresomely questionable… you’re the king, for me, Doug
Desde la Logan says
There were four lawsuits (actually five but the one against FAIR was dropped). Two (Vasquez and Naranjo) have been settled. Anabel Arauz (retaliation) and Melody Godinez’s (gender violence) suits are moving forward. Depositions in Arauz’s case begin later this month. It ain’t over until all the cases are resolved and Kasparian is gone from progressive politics in San Diego.
Rafael Bautista says
I still remember when we were running the socialist campaign and mickey sent sara in to destroy the socialist campaign. She said she wanted to run as a socialist but then said that mickey wouldn’t let her run as anything other than a democrat. She still went on to get the endorsement. Hopefully, there is a break between labor and democrats and what it means to be progressive.
Doug Porter says
I spent time interviewing Sarah back in the days when she was wrestling with the decision of whether to run as a Democrat or a socialist. Her background as a union organizer –in my opinion– made her a good choice to run for office in San Diego. We’ve ended up on opposite sides of the Tres Hermanas question, and there’s been plenty of bad blood between people over that.
What I saw in her at the time was somebody genuinely struggling over which path to follow in her life, not some tool of a union boss. And, knowing (personally) MK’s obliviousness to anything or entity outside of his loyalists, I seriously doubt it crossed his mind to “destroy the socialist campaign.”
For the record, my advice to her at the time was to throw her lot in with MK because it would be more beneficial for the community she obviously cared a great deal for. With the benefit of hindsight, I was wrong. The people of the 9th district ended getting a great councilwoman.
I was also wrong to have approved your comment, given that it amounted to a personal attack. I’m gonna leave it up for now as a lesson learned. If you can speak to the issues involved here, I welcome your response. If your aim is to attack people personally, I’ll roundfile it.
Doug Porter says
“sent sara in to destroy the socialist campaign.” And the following sentence, to boot. The story wasn’t about sara; she wasn’t mentioned in the story, yet that’s what he uses to illustrate MK as a bad guy. Sounds like an attack to me.
Mandy Barre says
I support these women 100%. Due process in sexual harassment cases? Not really. They want to drag the women thru the mud and most will not do that. As a lawyer, the settlements speak for themselves- Micky is a dirty DOG and needs to go away. Get with it union membership. There are others who can lead! The minute he settled he should have been voted out!!!!
Annie Mass says
Rafael, it would be nice if you stopped attacking women.
Desde la Logan says
He’s not attacking women. He’s attacking the man that has settled two lawsuits for attacking women.
Annie Mass says
Looks to me like he’s attacking Sarah.
Lisa Nava says
This: S o, 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
We must be wary and forever vigilant . This battle is the people’s battle and our leaders must reflect , unwaveringly, our desires and values.
So, be warned, elected, powerful, money motivated, yr lack of integrity will not go unnoticed. Not in the little or the big details.