Saldaña: Flip, or Flop? Depends on the Day

In December 2016, Sandy Naranjo filed litigation against Mickey Kasparian for gender discrimination and retaliation. Kasparian is the President of United Foodservice and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 135, and at the time was also the President of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council.

One week following the filing of Sandy’s lawsuit, former UFCW Local 135 employee Isabel Vasquez filed a second lawsuit, alleging years of quid pro quo sexual harassment. From the complaint: “The sexual abuse committed by Kasparian included occasional demands for oral sex in his office at Local 135, sexual intercourse in hotels paid for by Local 135, and similar acts at Local 135 events (e.g., in his car outside the event).”

Kasparian claimed these suits were spurred by other labor unions, and denied all claims.

Within the weeks following, UFCW 135 employee Anabel Arauz began experiencing retaliation for her support of her former mentor, Isabel Vasquez. She was demoted, had her status as union delegate removed, sent to out-of-town branches of UFCW and told she would be fired if she couldn’t obtain last-minute childcare to do so, and became increasingly isolated at work.

On February 1, 2017, I helped organize and send a letter, which was signed by 46 San Diego Democrats and Progressives, to the Executive Boards of UFCW Local 135, the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, and the San Diego County Democratic Party requesting an independent investigation into the claims against Kasparian.

Lori Saldaña was a signatory to this letter.

February 10, 2017, San Diego Free Press posted this piece that I authored, with further detail of the allegations and relevant details at that time: In This Post-Filner Era, the Democratic Party and the Labor Council Need to Do Better.

March 24, 2017, Anabel Arauz was terminated from her employment at UFCW Local 135. She filed claims of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation shortly thereafter.

May 8, 2017, after months of investigation by the AFL-CIO, Mickey Kasparian and Dale Kelly Bankhead were removed from the San Diego Labor Council. The same day, they announced the formation of the splinter group, the “Working Families Council,” which included SEIU Local 221. 221’s Executive Board was not included in this decision, and several members, including Executive Board member Melody Godinez, were shocked and angry at the announcement.

One June 16, 2017, San Diego Free Press published another piece I wrote, detailing a more comprehensive timeline: The Mickey Kasparian Scandal, Six Months Later.

On June 25, 2017, at the monthly meeting of the San Diego Labor Democratic Club, Lori Saldaña joined the club to argue against the Labor Unity Resolution, which was passed at that meeting and included this language: “THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the San Diego Labor Democratic Club reaffirms its recognition of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council as the sole legitimate collective voice of the local labor movement.”

I spoke with Saldaña after the meeting, expressing my opinion that the time to address Party failures to address issues of sexual harassment within the ranks is in a non-election year. She disagreed, saying it was an election year, and asserted that the women who were protesting the Party’s inaction regarding Kasparian were “weaponizing their victimhood” and would never heal if they kept up their vocal opposition to his positions of leadership. I responded that Kasparian had never admitted any guilt – that they couldn’t heal if the issue was just swept under the rug by our community, and that the legal system was inadequately slow when so many women were making similar claims against one powerful man. We did not reach any agreement.

In December 2017, Melody Godinez filed her own lawsuit against Kasparian, alleging sexual assault, which seems to have been the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. Several elected officials, including Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, expressed concern at the allegations in that litigation, and called for Kasparian to step down from leadership positions.

Shortly thereafter, Kasparian resigned from his leadership position with the San Diego Democratic Party, stating he had a lot of work to do focusing on his own union.

The political scene has become increasingly interesting during this electoral endorsement season, with Josh Steward of the San Diego Union Tribune establishing a spreadsheet and contacting several local Democratic candidates to ascertain their position on Kasparian, the Working Families Council, and whether they would accept contributions or endorsements.

On January 4, 2018, Stewart posted his spreadsheet, which indicated that Saldaña would accept donations from the Working Families Council. In response, she tweeted: “the chart is incorrect- I have no plans “to accept a contribution, an endorsement, or other types of campaign support from UFCW 135 or the Working Families Council while Mickey Kasparian is president.””

All litigation has now been settled out of court, and the terms of each settlement are believed to be confidential. Kasparian continues to head the Working Families Council and UFCW 135.

February 9, 2018, Saldaña appeared on the Voice of San Diego podcast. This is a partial transcript:

Andrew Keatts, VOSD, re: Saldaña’s stances when others were calling for fomer Mayor Bob Filner’s resignation: “Also, around that time, you were pretty outspoken in saying…”

Saldaña: “Women needed to come forward… and eventually, they did. Because I didn’t want the same thing that happened when I spoke up and women refused to come forward out of professional fear that they would lose their contacts with his office, they would lose professional relationship with his staff, so I made it very clear: these women have to come forward. And, just like the #MeToo movement, until and unless women are willing to speak up and say, ‘This happened to me,’ … the legal system and the court of public opinion tends to disregard the allegations.”

Keatts: “And also during the proceedings, as the situation heated up you also were pretty oustpoken about saying, ‘He nonetheless deserves due process, and he should not be forced out, forced to resign’…”

Saldaña: “It became highly politicized. And we’re seeing that again this year. And my concern was: If you force someone out without a process, then you have no process going forward to force other people out. Because it’s just done on their own volition. And we’re seeing that exactly in Sacramento. There has now been a ‘Hurry Up Measure’ put forward in the Senate to how do we extend a suspension of a measure because Tony Mendoza, a man I served with, has not been playing ball there. He’s supposed to be on voluntary suspension and he’s still carrying out his duties. So if you don’t have a very strict procedure, and I’m a community college teacher. And I’ve been in the district here in San Diego for decades. We have very clear policies on how you handle these types of complaints and disputes. And the reason is to protect everyone involved. So there’s no question, there’s no ‘Well he left, so it’s okay.’ It’s like, no, it’s not okay. If he leaves voluntarily and we never get to the root of how this happened, then it’s going to continue to happen. So that was why I said, “We need a process.” It was as much to protect future women from having a similar abusive relationship where they could say, ‘Well, last time that guy left on his own terms, it’s happening again, do I have to wait until he leaves on his own terms?’ It’s like, no, we need procedures that protect people proactively.

Keatts: “Okay, so, during the latter stages of the Filner saga, your concern was really around the process it, it wasn’t that you were standing by him.”

Saldaña: “Absolutely not. And that’s where it does – unless I have time, and I’m grateful for the chance here in the podcast to sit, explain why I wanted procedure, it’s because it protects people proactively, going forward, the next time someone… and we know, there always is a next time. I mean, we see it now. Now we can say, “Well look. Here’s the things that have to happen. Either to prevent it or to conclusively deal with that person right away and get them out of the (place).”

Keatts: “I don’t know if this has been a conscious thing that has happened in Sacramento, D.C., in boardrooms, and Hollywood and Wall Street, I don’t know if this has been conscious, but it seems to me as an outsider that, and maybe this is your issue, is that people actually prefer if it’s just public pressure that forces a resignation (LS: “Absolutely”); it’s cleaner, there’s no lawsuits, or there might not be a lawsuit, or the lawsuit comes later…”

Saldaña: “So let’s look at that in the Donald Trump perspective. Look what he is accused of now. And look how the community, the public sentiment is. If you had allowed previous Presidents to be paying off people, to make payments to people because of affairs, to acknowledge grabbing women inappropriately, if you had had any previous President acknowledge any of those offenses, the public sentiment would have been markedly different than it is for this President. Why is that? Because we don’t have any firm procedures. It’s just public sentiment. And that’s the danger to all of us. Because if someone can get away with abusing one population, one part of the population…. Even Evangelicals say, ‘Well, hate the sin; love the sinner.’ So that’s why I saw, if we don’t have agreed-upon procedures and a process that we use whatever institutions are there whether it’s legal, judicial, legislative, then it’s up to whatever the majority thinks is okay at the time.”

Keatts: “So, I promise we’ll get to your campaign-related issues.”

Saldaña: “This is a lot about the campaign, though.”

Keatts: “That’s good then. … So let’s lead this into a related discussion that’s going on right now, which is some of the turmoil in the local labor movement (LS: “Absolutely”) and the local party. So, you told me that Mickey Kasparian is the leader for the UFCW. And…”

Saldaña: “We have these two factions.”

Keatts: “… and it’s the UFCW members who should decide whether he is their leader or somebody else is.”

Saldaña: “They elected him. They have a process to get rid of an elected official within their organization.”

Keatts: “Okay, and so, to your way of viewing things, Mickey Kasparian, whatever is alleged to him in these lawsuits, it is UFCW members who make the decision about whether he retains that role.”

Saldaña: “Again, to understand what’s going on, we have to take a step back, and how did this Family Council evolve? Well, there was something going on with the Labor Council…”

Keatts: “Sorry, the ‘Family Council’ is Mickey Kasparian’s splinter group.”

Saldaña: “Right. Well, it’s not a splinter group. I mean, they took 60% of the revenues from the Labor Council when they left because of the size of the unions they represent who went with them. So that’s not a splinter group. A splinter group is the Labor Council that’s struggling to hold on with less revenue, by 60% less revenue. So you have a real battle going on between these two organizations.

And one of the things that astonished me, just as when the allegations against Carl DeMaio came out in 2014, I was one of the only people saying, “Look, this does not meet the smell test. These allegations to me are so outrageous, and used in such a politically motivated way, that we have to be really careful of how we establish their veracity.” And sure enough, after the election was over, Todd Bosnich was found guilty in Federal Court of obstruction of justice. That he had lied, that he had mislead investigators, but it was too late. The election was over.

So in the same way, when these allegations about Mickey Kasparian started coming out, I met with the women, I heard their allegations, I signed the letter of support, and then they went to court and I said: “Okay. From my perspective, they have a process, it’s moving forward.”

Then I started hearing, well, this really was generated from the Labor Council, that these allegations were the result of their being upset about neutralizing a person who walked away with a lot of their money, what they thought was their money, and I thought…”

Keatts: “Well, the allegations came out before anybody walked away.”

Saldaña: “I don’t think so.”

Keatts: “Yeah, no, the Working Families Council was established in February of last year, the first allegation against Kasparian was in December, four months earlier in December 2016…. There was already fissures between the Building Trades and the Labor Council at that point, but there hadn’t, it hadn’t resulted in the Working Families Council.” (Sara’s note: The WFC was established in May, 2017.)

Saldaña: “Alright, I’m getting it… I had a busy 2016, so pardon me for convoluting some of these timelines.”

Keatts: “So are you now skeptical of the accusations against Kasparian?”

Saldaña: “I never said I was skeptical of the allegations. I was saying the way they are being handled, and I wrote about this in the Union Tribune, let’s not politicize these allegations. Because then the survivors get pushed to the background. Then you lose track of the people, the human beings whose lives are changed forever by these incidents and instead it becomes a political witch hunt. And you start going after people to weaken them politically as opposed to getting justice, and restorative justice, for the people who have survived the abuse.”

Keatts: “And so this situation culminated recently in the Labor Council had their early endorsement meeting, or their strategic endorsement meeting….”

Saldaña: “What troubles me about those strategic… those came through, well first, I and others had contacted Keith Maddux, who’s the trustee taking over operations at the Labor Council, and said ‘We are interested in your process.’ ‘Well, we’re working it out.’ And I was given a timeline beginning in March of when they would start accepting endorsement applications. Suddenly I get emails from friends saying hey, we’re sitting down today, January 19th, based on recommendations from labor, different labor unions who had strategic candidates.

So I checked with other labor folks and said, ‘What’s going on? This timeline got bumped up by weeks. I never heard a thing about it.’ And I heard, ‘Well, we used to do strategic endorsements, or strategic races, but not endorsements.’ So the Labor Council, under the Building Trades leadership primarily, started following the same process as what the San Diego County Democratic Party did. Where they used to identify strategic races, but not strategic candidates. And then they would let the candidates work out their bonafides that they campaigned.”

(Interview continues.)

Last week, SEIU Local 221 voted to leave the Working Families Council. The news appeared related to the impending announcement of Working Families Council endorsements, which included an endorsement of Lori Saldaña, in direct opposition to 221’s earlier endorsement of Nathan Fletcher for County Supervisor District 4.

As the Working Families Council is under the direct control of Kasparian, Saldaña’s cozying up to him, insulting the Labor Council, criticizing their endorsement process which excluded her, criticizing the San Diego County Democratic Party for also endorsing Nathan Fletcher in an early strategic endorsement – all of these appear directly related to her desire for Kasparian’s endorsement.

The self-proclaimed Champion for Women, Lori Saldaña, is nothing more than an opportunistic politician who will say whatever is needed at a given time for political advantage, regardless of her prior stances on the same issues.

Pointing out another area of hypocrisy via Twitter is MaryAnne Pintar, Chief of Staff for Congressman Scott Peters (initial tweet in response to mine):


There are several tweets in Nov. 2014 in which Lori Saldaña doggedly insists DeMaio’s second public accuser, Justin Harper, was a fake person.

She was repeating DeMaio campaign talking points.

Here is Kelly Davis saying she should apologize for trying to claim this DeMaio victim was fake ( and here is Claire Trageser’s story and Skype video interviewing him: (…/second-staffer-who-accused…/).

As far as I know, she never apologized.

She was trying to erase victims of a high-profile man because it didn’t jive with her revenge efforts against Scott Peters.

She uses survivors constantly, picking and choosing which ones will help her at any given time, and not doing anything but causing re-traumatization for her personal game.

Given that the one constant about Saldaña is self-serving inconsistency, I wanted to capture this latest chain of events at this point in time.

In her own words: “The best indicator of future performance is past performance.” ~ Lori Saldaña



About earthysara

Maine girl at heart, always, living in San Diego. You can take the girl out of the woods...
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One Response to Saldaña: Flip, or Flop? Depends on the Day

  1. Pingback: Survivors are NOT Lori Saldaña’s Political Pawns | Sara's ramblings

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