By Ken Stone
A recent video features San Diego labor leaders Mickey Kasparian and Richard Barrera hailing a union-organizing drive of 52 local CVS stores as one of the best in San Diego history.
Singled out for praise is Anabel Arauz, who helped bring nearly 1,000 new workers into the United Food and Commercial Workers union.
“Anabel Arauz and Jerry Singh — they went out seven days a week, all hours of the day, to talk to CVS workers,” Kasparian says in the video posted on the Local 135 website.Wednesday night, Arauz and two dozen others were out picketing her boss, Michael “Mickey” Kasparian.
They called on him to resign as president of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, where he was overseeing a monthly meeting.
Arauz, summoned to the meeting via email Monday, said she was told less than two hours before it began that she was not welcome.
Arauz called it retaliation for siding with two former UFCW workers — Sandy Naranjo and Isabel Vasquez — whose lawsuits accuse Kasparian of sex harassment or a hostile work environment. And also for filing her own retaliation/discrimination claim.
“No reason given to me why,” said the 35-year-old Chula Vistan. “He just said I’m no longer a delegate, and I’m not needed at tonight’s meeting.”
Arauz said that despite the wildly successful nine-month effort to unionize CVS workers, she was yanked from the field.
“My job [now] is to sit behind a computer [at] my desk 8 to 5 from now on, where I had not been doing that for the past five years,” she said.
Times of San Diego sought comment from a labor council spokeswoman, but received no response Wednesday night.
Former Councilwoman Donna Frye and initial Filner accuser Irene McCormack tried to pass out letters to labor council delegates.
The 230-word letter, citing “serious and disturbing allegations” against Kasparian, also called on him to resign.
“At a minimum,” the letter said, “we urge you to conduct an independent investigation regarding these allegations against Mr. Kasparian. We also urge you to take the actions necessary to protect the current employees, such as placing Mr. Kasparian on administrative leave until this is resolved.”
The pair concluded: “Doing nothing is not an option for people of good conscience.”
The letter was refused, they said.
“One of the [labor council] gals … essentially handed the letter back to me after she looked at it and told us that we could not leaflet, that we could not be here, that we were on private property,” Frye said.
McCormack said the woman complained that she “was ridiculed last time.”“She doesn’t want anybody to come down there that can say anything because union members ‘don’t know how to act in this situation,’” McCormack said. “That’s what she said. We didn’t understand it.”
Barrio Logan community activist Brent Beltrán said Wednesday’s protest was the third in recent weeks — after picketing at a UFCW meeting a week earlier and an “action” at an earlier Democratic Party elections meeting.
He promised more protests including “possibly at a future Democratic Party meeting and at a San Diego Unified board meeting,” where UFCW executive Barrera is board president.
“We’re out here to put pressure on the labor delegates and let them know that it is unacceptable for an accused sexual harasser, gender discriminator and intimidator to continue [in] this capacity,” Beltrán said.
He said he was open to a Kasparian leave of absence but wasn’t hopeful that the council would challenge its president because the longtime labor boss “doles out” jobs, money and favors.
“And because of this, he has all this power,” Beltrán said. “No other labor union has publicly come out to condemn him. I’ve heard some stuff from certain unions, but to publicly come out is a different story.”
He said other women at the UFCW office in Mission Valley “have dealt with his wrath over the years.”
One sign-holder, Odett McAdams of Alpine, said she was a 38-year union member who nine years ago was among several women wrongly terminated by Kasparian for “falsifying my timecard.”
“I tried to find an attorney,” McAdams said, but never followed through. The statute of limitations has since expired, she said.
Antonio Carrillo of south San Diego, a protester with a graying beard, said of Kasparian’s accusers: “These three people are very respected in the union movement. They’re not fighters. They’re very sweet ladies. But they will fight for what they believe is right.”Beltrán said he had full faith in the credibility of his Barrio Logan ally Naranjo, whose allegations of gender discrimination and political retaliation were called a “pack of outrageous lies and falsehoods” by the union.
“Sandy is a solid individual,” he said in the darkness near the parking lot entrance of the union hall. “She was Organizer of the Year for the UFCW. She has impeccable credentials.”
He said the three women had no reason to lie.
“This is a difficult, difficult thing for them to do,” he said while watching his 5-year-old son Sandino, also carrying a sign.
“For Mickey to say that they’re lying is completely false,” Beltrán said. “I know there are people within that office that know these allegations are true. But they are too scared to come forward.”
McCormack, who as Filner’s communications director was the first to sue the disgraced mayor, echoed that thought.
“Sexual harassment is horrible because as a woman, in many cases, you’re shamed,” she said. “You don’t want to say anything. And the fact that these three women came out and talked about what happened to them shows their courage and their strength.”She said their claims should persuade labor leaders to conduct an independent investigation.
“He should be put on administrative leave so the abuses no longer continue in that office,” she said. “It’ll be better for everybody. He’s under a cloud of suspicion right now.”
McCormack said she didn’t understand how his staff could work under such conditions.
“I know what it was like in Filner’s office,” she said. “It was incredibly difficult.”
Arauz, still employed in the UFCW office, fears the prospect of being fired for supporting “my sisters.”
“I let them know, my leadership know, that I am committed to be part of this organization and work,” she said.But she said no one talks to her at the office anymore — “I’m like the black sheep at work.”
Arauz said she’s tried to defend herself via email, but has gotten no response from colleagues.
“We work in a labor movement and we’re supposed to stand up together and we fight for workers’ rights, and for this to happen to me as a union organizer — it’s quite sad,” she said.
She also said she had planned to make no waves as a labor council delegate — part of a group representing 140 collective-bargaining units and 200,000 workers in the two counties.
“I wasn’t going to go in there and cause any issues,” she said. “I was going to go in and listen. They’re changing the bylaws today. I’m a delegate. I have a right to see what the changes are in the bylaws today. … What is [Kasparian] hiding? Why doesn’t he want me in there?”
The 2 1/2-hour streetside protest ended at 8 p.m. after delegates left through a double door topped with a sign: “First Amendment Spoken Here.”
Beltrán said Kasparian was in the passenger seat of a car “with his head staring at his phone as he passed us holding signs at the entrance.”
Updated at 11:30 a.m. Jan. 26, 2017
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