UFCW Bosses Should Resign

From newsrooms to boardrooms, from college campuses to church campuses, and from Hollywood studios to the halls of Congress, powerful men are being called to account for alleged sexual misconduct. But somehow, Mickey Kasparian, a United Food and Commercial Workers International vice president, has managed to keep his job in spite of the scandal swirling around him. Both Kasparian (who is also the president of UFCW Local 135) and Marc Perrone, the UFCW International president, have handled the scandal very poorly; and both of them – leaders of a union in which women make up a majority – should resign.

Kasparian’s scandal began in December of 2016 when Sandy Naranjo, a former UFCW employee, accused him of gender discrimination, retaliation, and wrongful termination. In her lawsuit, Naranjo alleged that “Kasparian created a work environment that was particularly hostile toward women”; she had previously viewed her job as a “dream job.”

Just days after the first lawsuit was filed, a second former UFCW employee, Isabel Vasquez, broke her silence and accused Kasparian of something much worse – demanding she have a sexual relationship with him. Fearing for her job, she had complied with his humiliating demands, eventually retiring early. Kasparian kept an inappropriate picture of Vasquez behind his desk, and only removed it around the time she filed her lawsuit.

In April of 2017, a third former UFCW employee, Anabel Arauz, filed a lawsuit against Kasparian alleging discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. In her lawsuit, Arauz referred to the union and Kasparian’s “demonstrated animus, bias, and discriminatory intent/conduct against women.” Last December, Melody Godinez, who is an SEIU member and a union executive board member, filed a lawsuit against Kasparian alleging that he had repeatedly sexually assaulted her. At her deposition, Godinez expressed a fear of Kasparian, whom she once viewed “as a friend and mentor.”

It appears that the allegations against Kasparian have been costly. It was recently reported that the legal expenses for Kasparian’s union local were more than four times higher than usual this past year. In recent years, his union has spent an average of $203,000 on legal representation; last year, it spent over $829,000. At the same time, the amount of money the union spent representing its members was lower last year than it has been in more than a decade.

Earlier this month, Perrone, the UFCW International president, responded to a UFCW member who wrote an open letter to him begging him to take action against Kasparian. In his reply, Perrone made it clear that he has no intention of lifting a finger to oust Kasparian. Instead, Perrone made excuses, writing, “You have made suggestions that the International can freely remove a local union president based on accusations made by others… Please understand, the UFCW International Union does not have this authority.”

Perrone is trying to mislead with his statement. He would like for us to believe that there is nothing that the International Union can do, but that is not the case at all. In fact, according to the UFCW International Constitution, the UFCW Executive Committee has the authority to both suspend and remove any officer “whenever the activities of any… officer of a chartered body involve, in the judgment of the International Executive Committee, an emergency situation injurious to the welfare or best interests of the International Union or a chartered body…”

After more than a year’s worth of embarrassing headlines and protests, it seems that Kasparian’s scandals are sufficiently serious to enable the Executive Committee to punish him. Just who is on this Executive Committee which has the authority to decide whether or not to suspend or remove union officers? Perrone and four other UFCW International officers. So if Perrone wanted to fire Kasparian, he would only need two of the other four members of the Executive Committee to vote with him.

For the good of UFCW members, both Kasparian and Perrone should resign. Kasparian, already a divisive labor figure, has been accused of discrimination and/or sexual harassment by multiple Hispanic women from the labor movement; his union has paid enough to settle lawsuits against him already. For over a year, Perrone has refused to take action against Kasparian, and now Perrone has tried to mislead claiming that his hands are tied. His inaction and dishonesty make him unfit to lead.

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