Taking Back Local 135

Grocery workers belonging to UFCW Local 135 heard the music of AC/DC and Led Zeppelin on Tuesday as Todd Walters revealed his slate challenging Mickey Kasparian as president of the powerful union.

Walters, a North County resident, is joined by secretary-treasurer candidate Grant Tom of Mira Mesa, a Local 135 member since 2001 known for his web skills. Tom aims to replace Richard Barrera, the San Diego Unified school board member.

Walters’ 12-member slate includes nine women and two other men — all profiled on the newly launched takingbacklocal135.com created by Tom.

Bruce “Todd” Walters, candidate for UFCW Local 135 president, is shown seated at right. Grant Tom (seated left) is candidate for secrertary-treasurer and Maribel McKinze (center) is running for recorder. The others are vice president candidates. Image via Facebook

A “Mission” page (complete with logo featuring an eagle) opens with: “We will restore honesty, ethics, & integrity back to our Union. … We will finally allow all members to have a voice, to be involved in the direction of this union.”

Kasparian, who earlier announced a Dec. 14 election date, didn’t respond to a request for comment. Neither did Barrera.

But nine days ago, Kasparian rejected a rumor that he was seeking a job with another local of the United Food and Commercial Workers.

“It’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard — a rumor clearly started by those who must be delusional,” he said via email. “The only thing I want to do is represent the amazing members of Local 135.”

Monday night, a YouTube video was posted that opens to the strains of the 1975 classic “Kashmir” by Led Zeppelin. It introduced Walters, Tom and their recorder candidate, Maribel McKinze of El Cajon, a current Local 135 vice president who addressed members in Spanish.

Nine vice-presidential candidates are listed on the new site: Sandra O’Brien, Theresa Jacques, Chris Lopez, Esther Lopez, Bethyl Mitchell, Deanna Clark, Tamara Long, Lindsey Bensinger and Christina Palmieri.

A little after noon Tuesday, Walters posted an apology on Facebook: “Due to extremely high traffic to our newly released website, our website server crashed.” The site was down only briefly.

The site includes links to media accounts of Kasparian’s legal troubles — cases settled with four women — and a document alleging that $670,000 in union dues was spent on legal expenses defending the longtime president and Democratic power broker.

“Hells Bells” by AC/DC plays in the background of the endorsements page, which contains hundreds of names. The union has about 12,200 members.