Mickey Kasparian speaks to media at UFCW Local 135 about his new San Diego Working Families Council. Photo by Ken Stone

The recently ousted president of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council announced Tuesday he was forming a new coalition and taking some of the unions with him.

Mickey Kasparian was removed from his position by the president of the national AFL-CIO following a sexual harassment lawsuit, two discrimination lawsuits and months of infighting among labor leaders and Democratic officials.

Kasparian, also the president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 135, made the announcement at a morning news conference in Mission Valley where outside his protesters gathered.

Anabel Arauz, fired by Mickey Kasparian, holds sign against window of office where she once worked as a union organizer. Photo by Ken Stone

He said the newly formed San Diego Working Families Council consists of the UFCW, Service Employees International Union Local 221, Teamsters Local 542, Office of Professional Employees International Union Local 30, Amalgamates Transit Union Local 1309, Laborers International Union Local 89 and the Communications Workers of America Local 9509.

“The San Diego Working Families Council is a coalition of the largest and most powerful unions in San Diego County,” Kasparian said. “We remain focused on standing behind working families and fighting day in and day out for social and economic justice.”

Sandy Naranjo filed a gender discrimination lawsuit after being fired by Kasparian. Retired co-worker Isabel Vasquez filed a sexual harassment claim, alleging sexual misconduct by Kasparian. And recently fired UFCW organizer Anabel Arauz — present at the protest — filed a retaliation/discrimination claim against the union.

A group calling itself “We Stand With Sandy, Isabel & Anabel” demanded the removal of Kasparian from the San Diego labor movement including the newly formed SDWFC, UFCW Local 135 and from leadership positions in the local Democratic Party.

“It has been no secret that recently there have been rifts within the local labor movement,” said Dale Kelly Bankhead, secretary-treasure of SDWFC. “Internal disruption by those placing ego over common good has gotten in the way of our ability to bring the collective influence of the union movement to bear on issues of vital importance to working families.”

San Diego County Democratic Party Chair Jessica Hayes issued a statement regarding the changes in the local labor landscape, calling it a new direction for the labor movement in San Diego County.

“With strong leadership and a substantial membership of workers throughout the county, the new San Diego Working Families Council will be a powerhouse from day one,” Hayes said. “At the same time, with more than 125 local unions, the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council is alive and well.”

— City News Service

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