A week ago, the Orange County Young Democrats announcement about alleged incidents of sexual abuse and sexual assault exposed the Democratic Party of Orange County (and the Phil Janowicz campaign) and the Orange County Labor Federation to charges that female interns were sexually harassed by men in power.
The Voice of OC reports that internal investigations are being conducted by the DPOC and the OC Labor Fed into the allegations against former DPOC Executive Director Erik Taylor and OC Labor Fed Executive Director Julio Perez. Last week, we reached out to the OC Labor Fed for comment and they have not said a word. Not even “no comment.”
While Taylor and OJ Blogger Vern Nelson were identified by name by accusers as part of the #MeToo campaign, the accusations against Perez could have politically seismic consequences for the Orange County Labor movement.
From the VOC story:
And Perez now also is the subject of an internal investigation, said Orange County Employees Association general manager Jennifer Beuthin on Monday. Beuthin, who is answering media inquiries about the allegations on behalf of the Labor Federation, would not comment on Perez’s current employment status.
“There is no place for sexual assault and harassment in our county, but it exists everywhere, as evidenced by the #metoo movement,” said Gilbert Davila, president of the Labor Federation, in a brief statement issued Friday. “We know that even though we fight against harassment on a daily basis, we are also not immune from it happening in our house.”
As part of the #metoo campaign – a social media campaign aimed at raising awareness of sexual harassment and assault – several women posted accounts on Facebook last week of harassment that allegedly occurred when they were employees or interns at the Democratic Party and Labor Federation.
AnaheimBlog, relishing this issue facing OC Democrats and Progressives, has reported Perez is on paid administrative leave:
The OC Labor Federation has issued no public statements about the Perez controversy. OC Daily contacted both Perez and OCLF President Gilberto Davila (of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 324) for comment almost a week ago, but have received no response.
Perez, an unsuccessful candidate for State Assembly in 2012, has had a target on the back’s of certain elected Democrats from Orange County for a lack of 100% labor purity. But now it appears the shoe is on the other foot. Sources tell TheLiberalOC the investigation into Perez’s charges need to be done independently and that any internal/labor-driven investigation could sweep this entire incident under the rug.
Feeding this concern is Daily Pilot columnist Barbara Venezia’s interview with OCEA chief Jennifer Muir Beuthin who may lead an investigation into the Perez charges while she serves on a state labor board with him.
From the column:
But before Beuthin had a career in labor, she was a reporter for the Orange County Register, and a damn good one at that.
If there’s one person who I feel will get to the bottom of controversy in labor, it’s her.
She tells me she is going to call for a full investigation of the allegations against the O.C. Labor Federation.
When we talked she had just become aware of the Facebook posts in question.
Beuthin has her own opinions on harassment in the workplace.
“I think women are assaulted and discriminated against in a lot of different ways — pay disparity, unequal treatment, harassment,” she says. The “universal way to combat this is to mentor women to high positions.”
She says the labor movement has historically created rules and protections for working people and her organization has played a role.
Historically, unions have been the place workers can go to and expect confidentiality, as they have the ability and tools to fight back, Beuthin said.
But, she admits, “that doesn’t mean we are exempt from the problem.”
Beuthin said labor has taken steps nationally to work where it has influence against this kind of behavior.
I asked Beuthin if she‘d ever been harassed in the workplace, and she said she experienced “varying degrees” in her career.
“I think it’s happened to almost every woman who has worked for a living,” she said.
Reading the #MeToo posts of people she’s worked with, Beuthin said it’s a reminder for all of us that “we need to talk about these experiences. We don’t want this normalized.”
“It happens to so many people, especially in politics, and getting it out there is heartbreaking and constructive,” she said.
Beuthin assured me that as a labor leader she takes these allegations seriously.
“We have an obligation to investigate the allegations, no matter what,” she said.
My money’s on Beuthin to flush out these abusers and kick them to the curb.
Others are not so sure.
Beuthin’s OC Register column address the #MeToo movement, oddly enough, last Saturday. I believe the column was submitted for publication before the allegations against the DPOC and the OC Labor Fed executives became public and her column has no reference to any of the new charges. She does reference the investigation into sexual abuse and assault by former Orange County employee and Santa Ana city council member Carlos Bustamante and how that investigation was botched. If she is to lead an investigation against Perez, we are hoping it is thorough and honest as her reputation as a reporter was.
Beuthin did address the DPOC Central Committee Monday night; I found her words on the #MeToo carefully chosen and more personal about her own experiences, but not nearly as impactful as the press release issued by OCYD.
From her column in the Register, this:
The victims in the Bustamante case were all attractive, smart women. None of them asked to be harassed or abused. They didn’t have the resources to simply leave their jobs or the power to stand up and fight when time after time their experiences were minimized or ignored.
None of this was their fault. And yet they had the courage to do what so many don’t or can’t. They stood up and spoke out for all of us.
With every day that passes without comment from the OC Labor Fed, the worse this allegation becomes. Even a formal statement saying the charge is under investigation and who is conducting it would suffice. This should not be swept under the rug.