Richard Trumpka, president of the AFL-CIO.
Richard Trumpka, president of the AFL-CIO. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

In an apparent rebuke to local labor leader Mickey Kasparian, the president of the AFL-CIO has ordered a “limited monitorship” of the regional labor council Kasparian heads.

According to a memo dated March 2, President Richard Trumka says the national AFL-CIO has named two officials to “facilitate a constructive resolution of the issues that are dividing and impeding the operations” of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council.

Those divisions were outlined in a Dec. 28 letter to Trumka in Washington, D.C., from Tom Lemmon, business manager of the San Diego Building and Construction Trades Council.

The building trades council said the *Labor Council, where Kasparian is president, was “failing on its chartered purpose” and gave eight reasons.

Richard Trumka letter to San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council and related memos. (PDF)

Besides two lawsuits against Kasparian by female former employees of UFCW Local 135 and a retaliation complaint by a current employee, Lemmon said Kasparian’s council “works with nonaffiliated and anti-union groups to undermine the [building trades council] in our representation of workers, weaken us politically, and to the detriment of our collective bargaining rights.”

It wasn’t immediately clear what the monitorship entails, but it seems to have grown out of an investigation that included a Mission Valley meeting Feb. 22 with Kasparian and the executive board of the labor council.

A separate letter from Keith Maddox, AFL-CIO affiliate and federation outreach director, clarified that “this is not a trusteeship in which the AFL-CIO would take control of your Labor Council. Your day to day operations will continue to be [run] by staff at the Labor Council and by this Executive Board.”

Dale Kelly Bankhead, secretary-treasurer of the labor council, said in a cover letter that “we continue to work with Keith and Josh [Anijar, AFL-CIO western regional director] to resolve these conflicts.”

Maddox and Anijar will continue meeting with council affiliate unions and leaders to deal with “deep divisions” in the labor council that are “undermining the council’s effectiveness and operations,” Trumka said in his letter, obtained by Times of San Diego.

The silver lining for Kasparian — also president of UFCW Local 135 — is that charges filed by the building trade council “will be held in abeyance,” said the leader of the AFL-CIO, whose member unions represent 12.5 million workers.

Maddox said the monitorship is not an assumption of guilt by any of the parties involved based on any charges that have been filed.

“This is solely an action on behalf of the AFL-CIO to work with you and other leaders to correct the course of disruptive actions that are ongoing within the Executive Board of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council.”

Mickey Kasparian, president of UFCW Local 135 and the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council. Photo via Twitter

He said he and Anijar would continue to spend time in San Diego, seeking a “resolution to the issues that are dividing the labor council.”

“It is extremely important that we all work together to rebuild the labor solidarity that has existed for so long in San Diego.”

Kasparian and Lemmon did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A search of the AFL-CIO website and its constitution did not specify the meaning or scope of “limited monitorship.”

But Maddox closed his letter to the labor council executive board by encouraging its members “to refrain from any efforts to criticize your fellow … members and, most of all, please refrain from publicizing any internal disagreements.”

*Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the building trades council as a rival to the labor council. Many members of the trades council are also members of the labor council.

Updated at 12:20 p.m. March 13, 2017