By Ken Stone
A merger vote between San Diego and San Bernardino County labor unions was called off Wednesday, raising questions about the fate of local labor leader Mickey Kasparian.
According to Joe Duffle, acting president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1167 of Bloomington, votes next week at both sites were canceled after Local 1167 President Scott Bruer resigned Tuesday for medical reasons.
Bruer was signator to the merger agreement with Mission Valley-based UFCW Local 135, Duffle said in a phone interview.
“With him no longer here, the agreement’s not valid,” he said.
Local 135 President Kasparian informed his membership via Facebook, saying: “The meeting scheduled for July 16th has been postponed.”He noted that he was in Rite Aid negotiations, “but I will make sure to keep you updated.”
Duffle, who has been secretary-treasurer of 18,000-member Local 1167, declined to say whether he would renew the deal for a merger — which Kasparian critics have labeled as a way for him to preserve his job.
“I’m not making a comment on any of this,” Duffle said. “I really can’t. … We’re just trying to figure out where to go from here.”
He said he’d “rather not discuss” whether he’d had recent communications with Kasparian.
“It’s pretty devastating for us here at the local,” Duffle said of the sudden departure of Bruer, whom he called a very close friend.
On Facebook, critics of Kasparian had been expressing suspicions about the Monday merger vote — which was to be the scene of a planned protest.
“We all know that this merger that Mickey is trying to push down our throats is a desperate attempt to hold on to his power as president,” Local 135 member Jessica Lopez said in an email appeal to UFCW International union President Marc Perrone.
“I ask you to look into why he is only giving us one date and one time (during high traffic time) to vote on this merger,” she wrote. “I ask you to question why he was having his reps tell members when asked about talks that a merger were going to take place, that the rumors were lies made up by disgruntled ex-employees.”
On Monday, UFCW Local 135 Vice President Todd Walters, an opponent of the merger, posted on Facebook that “it seems like the harder our leadership presses for the merger, the harder you all push back.”
Saying the number of merger foes was “growing at a staggering rate,” he added: “I have been talking to members every day and answering questions about what is going on.”
According to union rules, Kasparian must call an election before the end of the year — when his term runs out.
Embattled after several years of sex and harassment scandals — lawsuits settled with four women — Kasparian has seen his clout wane as a Democratic power broker in San Diego County.
He did not immediately respond to questions about the merger vote except to say: “It’s been postponed.”
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