SAN DIEGO – In November of 2012, after years of rigorous campaigning, Bob Filner was elected mayor of San Diego. But Filner didn’t win without help. Labor unions are a big reason that he was elected.
In fact, “labor” has been Filner’s biggest contributor in every election since Filner was elected to Congress in 1997, as unions have used PACs to contribute over $2 million to his campaign coffers. And labor unions continued to support Filner throughout his mayoral campaign as the National Womens Veterans Association, the AFL-CIO’s San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council (which includes 135 affiliated labor groups), and unions representing any other occupation you can imagine backed him in 2012.
Since the mayoral election in 2012, 18 women have charged Filner with sexual harassment, and the San Diego Sheriff’s Department has even set up a hotline to take calls from Filner’s victims. Recently, an anonymous letter revealed that while Filner was in Congress, many women in D.C. would refer to him using nicknames like “Filthy Filner.” “Mr. Misogynist,” “Nasty Narcissist,” and even “Bobo”. Now, a campaign to recall Filner has begun amid new calls for the San Diego mayor to resign.
In just a few months, “America’s finest city” has become “America’s biggest joke” as Gary Paquette, a San Diego resident and CEO of InControl Technology, says that he has clients call from all over the world to talk about San Diego and its mayor. “Just last week, I had clients from Europe call me to joke about ‘Filthy Filner’”, Paquette said.
But all jokes aside, sexual harassment is a very serious matter, and it’s something that labor unions fight against incessantly. The American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees AFL-CIO’s webpage includes an article titled ”Sexual Harassment – A Union Issue,” in which the union president writes that “sexual harassment remains a serious workplace problem” and “AFSCME must play a key role in preventing sexual harassment.” Most other labor unions have similar statements which also support the idea that sexual harassment should not be tolerated.
And yet, the San Diego Union Tribune reports that “Labor continues to back Filner” as labor unions like AFSCME (which donated $400,000 to “San Diegans in Support of Bob Filner for Mayor” in 2012) refuse to rescind their support. The San Diego and Imperial Labor Council, which contributed $2 million to Filner’s campaign along with campaign supplies, released a statement which begins, “The allegations against Mayor Filner are incredibly serious and, if true, demonstrate a pattern of behavior that is completely unacceptable in any workplace,” but continues without a serious condemnation of Filner himself.
Tom Lemmon, the business manager of San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council, also refused to denounce Filner citing the fact that “It’s an awkward situation, but we have a lot invested in him.”
If labor unions are truly determined to fight sexual harassment, it seems that ending their support for Filner would be prudent. Better yet, unions could help to fund the “Recall Filner” movement to show the unacceptable nature of sexual harassment in the workplace. After all, when even Hooters publicly opposes Filner, one must question why organizations that stand against workplace harassment have yet to withdraw support for a sexual harasser.
If unions really want to fight against sexual harassment, they cannot continue to support a man who is infamous for sexually harassing his colleagues, and they must join the 72% of voters who want “Mr. Misogynist” out of office.
Unions have largely declined to end their support for the San Diego mayor. Unions continue to support sexual harassment incarnate in San Diego’s City Hall.