National City’s ballot measures for the June 5 election have become a battleground for competing groups in the labor movement, as a splinter labor group led by UFCW President Mickey Kasparian has injected $50,000 into the contest in support of a measure extending the tenure of Mayor Ron Morrison.
There is a gendered subtext to this development, as it can easily be argued this support comes from an organization led by a man with a controversial background and will be used to deny political power to progressive women.
The monies will be used in support of Measure B, which sets term limits for City Council members but creates a loophole resetting the incumbent Mayor’s tenure, allowing him to continue past a voter-approved limit set in 2004. Kasparian’s union put up $25,000, for the effort as an Independent Expenditure PAC, and an equal amount came from Laborers International Local 89.
The two unions are affiliated with the Working Families Council, which formed in 2017 following the ousting of Kasparian and his coterie from the San Diego and Imperial Counties Central Labor Council as the national AFL-CIO concluded a months-long investigation. The UFCW President (who claims he and others quit) was facing mounting accusations of sexual harassment and improper conduct.
Kasparian, who settled four lawsuits earlier this year and continues to deny all allegations of misconduct, is now considered a pariah by many progressive activists.
From the Union-Tribune:
Last year the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 135’s legal expenses rose to more than four times normal levels as it fought against lawsuits that accused its president, Mickey Kasparian, of sexual misconduct.
Expenses reported to the Department of Labor late last month show that Local 135 spent $829,856 on legal services in 2017, up from an average of $203,000 annually over the preceding five years. The same documents show that the union reduced spending to help members with contract negotiations and enforcement and also cut expenses for political campaigns and lobbying.
The union says additional legal expenses incurred in 2017 will be reimbursed by their insurance company. It should be noted the lawsuit settlements occurred after the first of the year, which means those amounts won’t be reported until 2019.
The posting of deposition transcripts taken in those lawsuits has reignited the controversy surrounding the labor leader, as questioning by attornies for the plaintiffs gives credence to earlier suppositions about a dysfunctional organization.
The Service Employee International Union (SEIU) Local 221, which was part of Kasparian’s original breakaway group has departed, voting to rejoin the Central Labor Council on Tuesday.
Endorsements by the Working Families Council are now being treated as a liability in some activist circles. District 4 Supervisor candidate Lori Saldaña has fended off criticisms by saying she sought the endorsement of the group as an affirmation of her previous voting record on labor issues. The only other candidate for supervisor considered by Kasparian’s group was Republican Bonnie Dumanis.
San Diego City Council candidates Bryan Pease (District 2) and Tommy Hough (District 6) have both seen an erosion of support following endorsements by the Kasparian-led group.
Residents of National City, alarmed by what they see as a power grab, have responded with Measure C, preserving the existing term limits or the mayor’s post, while extending them to council members, along with the city clerk, and city treasurer. Additionally, the measure limits elected leaders to a total of six terms for all offices combined as a means of encouraging more residents to run for office.
Measure C has drawn support from PACs associated with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 569 ($5000), Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 230 ($2500), San Diego County Building & Trades Council ($5000) and the Southern California Pipe Trades District Council #16 ($2500). In addition, the IBEW has provided just short of $2400 of legal services.
The contentiousness in National City extends past the ballot measures being considered this year.
Last year the South Bay City joined Oceanside and Escondido in changing rules effectively keeping the women on their respective City Councils from placing agenda items for consideration without approval from their male counterparts.
In National City, both the women councilmembers (coincidentally) were Democrats. Councilmembers Jerry Cano and Albert Mendivil, along with Mayor Morrison have constituted a voting block effectively preventing more progressive agenda items from getting a hearing.
Here’s an example of how that works in practice via a 2017 article in the Reader about a lawsuit filed for alleged violations to the state’s open-meeting laws:
The issue dates back to February 7, when councilmembers and mayor Morrison were asked to approve a draft resolution submitted by staff which would solidify National City’s status as a Welcoming Community for All Residents, a resolution that cities across the state were adopting in response to President Trump’s immigration platform. Staff’s draft resolution was posted on the website and included in the council agenda for the hearing.
However, during the hearing Morrison introduced an amended version of the resolution, one that had not been presented to staff or the public. Morrison read the substitute resolution aloud to council and the public, before handing hard copies to his colleagues. Morrison’s proposal removed a crucial sentence which stated, “City employees will serve all residents, and city services will be accessible to all residents, regardless of immigration status.”
Instead of mentioning “welcoming city,” Morrison’s resolution affirmed that National City will “continue to be a city that serves its residents and visitors with a constitutional right and due process.”
Bound up in Kasparian’s support of Morrison is another issue relating to gender. National City Councilwomen Alejandra Sotelo-Solis and Mona Rios were both signers on a letter calling for the labor leader to step down until matters relating to the harassment accusations were settled.
Here’s a statement from the support group for the women who sued Kasparian:
Why would a Democrat labor leader do such a thing against fellow Democrats? Why does party leadership and candidates still seek his support? And why would he donate so much money to a city campaign with so few (1?) union stores within its limits?
Is he so vindictive against Sotelo-Solis and Mona Rios that he’d waste union member money to fund a repeal of term limits so a Republican mayor can get elected to the detriment of a party he purports to support?
He sure is!
Sotelo-Solis is also running for Mayor this year and was endorsed during her campaign kick-off event by Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher, state Treasurer John Chiang, and the National City Firefighters Association.
Getting Morisson on the ballot could serve as a spoiler in that election, plus it could be considered a slap in the face to Gonzalez-Fletcher since hubby Nathan Fletcher is running for D4 Supervisor with the blessing of the Central Labor Council.
There’s even more to this story, as Councilmember Jerry Cano was recently caught skating on fines relating to unpermitted home renovations dating back 5 years.
I have heard from an authoritative source about claims soon to be filed by multiple women alleging abusive conduct by elected officials in National City.
Whew. Such a big mess for such a small city.
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bob dorn says
Reading this sentence in the column,”Last year the South Bay City joined Oceanside and Escondido in changing rules effectively keeping the women on their respective City Councils from placing agenda items for consideration without approval from their male counterparts…” I’m made to wonder if a minority of men can block decisions made by a majority of the council which happens to be comprised of women.
If the women have to go to the bathroom during a meeting must they ask approval of the men?
Jessica Hayes says
The San Diego County Democratic Party has endorsed YES on Measure C and recommends a NO vote on Measure B. The Party has also endorsed Alehandra Sotelo Solis for Mayor and made her race strategically critical.