#MeToo: Is National AFL-CIO Takeover Of San Diego Affiliate A Portent For OC Labor Federation

San Diego union politics are in turmoil as the national AFL-CIO has taken over the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council in the wake of sexual harassment lawsuits against its now-ousted leader, Mickey Kasparian (who is also president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 135.

Several of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council members unions have seceded and formed the San Diego Working Families Council, according to the Voice of San Diego.

Is this a portent of things to come for the Orange County Labor Federation, where Executive Director Julio Perez has been hit with allegations of sexual harassment by a former intern? The OCLF is conducting an internal investigation, and our sources tell us Perez has been place on administrative leave. At the same time, how transparent and independent the investigation will be is difficult to say since the OCLF is not a very transparent organization. It doesn’t publish the names of the members of its executive board, for example; even plugged-in Democrats this writer has spoken with are uncertain as to who serves on the union’s board.

The second-in-command of the AFL-CIO is Tefere Gebre, who was Perez’s predecessor as OCLF executive director, serving in that post from 2008 until 2013. Perez worked for Gebre as political director, and the alleged harassment took place on Gebre’s watch as executive director – which would make for an awkward situation if the national AFL-CIO took action on the basis of harassment allegations against Perez.

It also raises the question of whether this internal investigation will encompass questioning of Gebre regarding the allegations against his former subordinate. OCEA General Manager Jennifer Beuthin, who is the OCLF media spokesman on this issue, loudly called for an independent, outside investigation of the charges against former County of Orange executive Carlos Bustamante. Shouldn’t she also embrace the idea of the OCLF hiring an outside person such as a retired judge or prosecutor with no ties to the union, to look into these allegations? This would certainly inspire more confidence in the credibility of the investigation’s finding – more so than the tight-lipped, opaque actions and statements to date.

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