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By Miriam Raftery

Photo:  UFCW Local 135 on Twitter

May 10, 2017 (San Diego) — The San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council is breaking up.  Eight unions announced last week that they will withdraw from the region’s most powerful labor organization.  The action came a day after the AFL-CIO’s national office took over control of the group and dismissed president Mickey Kasparian, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. Kasparian was facing lawsuits alleging sexual harassment and discrimination, but has denied guilt.

The ousted labor leader promptly announced that he is starting a new organization, the San Diego Working Families Council.  Kasparian will be president and Dale Kelly Bankhead, who was also fired by the AFL-CIO, will serve as secretary-treasurer.

Kasparian will lead the new San Diego Working Families Council as its first president, and he’ll be joined by his colleague from the Labor Council, Dale Kelly Bankhead, who will be the secretary-treasurer. Both labor bosses were dismissed from their leadership positions in the Labor Council on Monday after the AFL-CIO seized the council’s operations.  Kasparian so remains the head of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 135.

“The San Diego Working Families Council is a coalition of the largest and most powerful unions in San Diego County,” Kasparian said at a press conference, Times of San Diego reported. “We remain focused on standing behind working families and fighting day in and day out for social and economic justice.”

The new organization’s members include UFCW, Service Employees International Union Local 221, Teamsters Local 542, Office of Professional Employees International Union Local 30, Amalgamates Transit Union Local 1309, Laborers International Union Local 89 and the Communications Workers of America Local 9509.

Lawsuits against Kasparian prompted an internal rift, with calls to remove Kasparian from the union leadership coming from supporters of the women who have claimed workplace harassment and retaliation.

Debbie Principe, a retired benefits specialist at Local 135 who worked under Kasparian, has criticized the move, stating, “It’s completely self-serving. It’s for his own political needs,

But San Diego County Democratic Party Chair Jessica Hayes issued a supportive statement following the labor council shakeup.   

“With strong leadership and a substantial membership of workers throughout the county, the new San Diego Working Families Council will be a powerhouse from day one,” Hayes predicts. “At the same time, with more than 125 local unions, the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council is alive and well.”

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