In a previous blog I posed the question: “Question 1: In your own words, why should the constituents of House District 5ive vote for Crisanta Duran?” to Luis Espinosa, campaign coordinator with the United Food and Commercial Workers. In case you’re tuning in for the first time, the conversation started here.
Luis, to acknowledge your downfall comment: I hope you don’t encounter retaliation for your sincerity. Especially from the UFCW. If someone from the UFCW or the community takes exception or disagrees with what you’ve written, they’re more than welcome to come on here, address the merits of your arguments (in comparable tone), and defend their position. That’s what this blog is for.
Regardless, Luis, you’re welcome to continue contributing to this blog.
Below is his response.
Here is my response to question 1. Sorry if it has taken my long, but I have found myself pretty busy lately. The second question which is about the labor movement and the UFCW (very lenghty subjects) will come hopefully by tomorrow night. I will also probably will not be debating the first question much further for the same reasons as you.
On Crisanta Duran:
First off, there is an unspoken question that needs to be addressed. You didn’t ask, but it is fair to assume that you and your readers might be wondering why I am such an outspoken defender of Crisanta. Supporting her is easy if you like her politics, but defending her out loud in this poisoned climate is something few people are willing to do. Let me clarify, I have never received any benefit from my friendship with Crisanta or her family. I have always maintained a healthy distance from Local 7 and its leadership. In fact, I only set foot in the local twice (and for less than two-hours each time) during the time that the Duran’s were in charge: one was during the ICE raids, and what I saw them do was consistent with what a labor leadership that cares about workers should do, regardless of where they come from or how they got here. The local provided representation for workers detained and submitted a writ of habeas corpus in federal court to make sure the Federal government wouldn’t violate workers constitutional rights. I was part of that effort, and assisted attorneys at the detention center in Aurora. The important thing is that there are many who came to the Duran’s to seek financial support for their projects. Several causes and organizations found in the Duran’s and the former leadership at UFCW Local 7 the legitimacy they needed to receive other endorsements, contributions, etc. I’m not referring only to politicians, but to very progressive causes and organizations that past leadership supported to the benefit of our community. Now, it seems, their silence is notorious. Many might even be reading this blog, still shaking under their beds feigning amnesia.
I have responded to your anti-Duran, anti-labor movement attacks on principle. You know our organization is not monolithic and more than one person in our midst might prefer that I stay silent. It could be the case that being outspoken about this issue now could be my downfall. Who knows, and I don’t care. Like you, I also have options. At the very least, I made a living as a Medical Lab Tech between the ages of 18 and 26, before I came to this country, and I am still able to describe the enzymatic reactions of the creatin kineasa and its use as a marker for myocardial infarction. The point is, whatever can be said about the mistakes of the former UFCW Local 7 leadership, there were many good things they accomplished and supported, and if everyone else has run for the hills, then I’ll be happy to be the one stepping up to the plate, to point out the positive, even at the expense of sleep, personal time, and career stability. You have always been critical of the Duran’s and for whatever this criticism does for you, I respect that. I do not respect those who were Crisanta’s friends only while the weather was fair.
So now, with regard to question number one, let me give you a two-fold response; first half principled and second half pragmatic: First, Crisanta has the right values and politics that I believe we need in a legislator at the State Capitol. For the work that must be done, I trust she would carry the right principles to not only be accountable and push for progressive legislation but do it aggressively and have the power to lead her own democratic colleagues. Her current boot camp training notwithstanding, pressure can only make her best suited to receive and apply pressure as a legislator. Second, the alternatives are not better. Have you done your homework on the other candidates? You cannot hold Crisanta to the highest standards without using the alternative candidates and officeholders as a frame of reference. Crisanta’s preparation and experience outshines that of many sitting representatives. Crisanta has already lobbied for issues and people that I hope you can agree are friendly to people we care about (i.e. living wages, good benefits, locked out workers, immigrant students, etc). Can you honestly affirm that Crisanta’s principles are inconsistent with the kind of representation we need in the State Capitol to move an agenda not only for workers, but for many progressive issues that affect our different communities? Comparatively, she has already done more than any candidate who is running for HD5. If you disagree with me, I will probably lose you from this point forward, but we have agreed to disagree, so I will continue.
Having established, in my view, that she holds the right values, the next issue at stake is her “scandalous” nature. Let me state my position about the Local 7 election and be very clear: the membership spoke and with whatever numbers, they decided not to give another term to the former Local 7 leadership. I will always respect that. My support for Crisanta is consistent with my support for the membership and my commitment to stand with them and face the challenges that lie ahead for UFCW workers. However, scandal, we both know, is a social construct–a man/woman made phenomenon. Granted it does not happen in a vacuum. Scandal needs incentive and momentum. With this being said, there are two things that are brought up often about Crisanta: whether she deserved the job she had, and whether she took advantage of that job in detriment to the UFCW membership. Both questions are fair, but from my perspective, all facts have not been heard as much of this situation has played out by and for the mainstream press and the lines have been bloodied with emotions and faulty accusations.
First, Crisanta was not doing just any kind of job, she was legal counsel for the union and in order to be able to do that, she had to hold a law degree from an ABA accredited school of law, which incidentally, she possesses. Did she have an unfair advantage at getting that job than anyone walking in from the street? Most likely she did, and there is no shortage of lawyers out there trying to get a job. Was that advantage detrimental to members? I don’t think so. I am a strong believer that, whenever possible, rank-and-file members should be in decision-making positions in unions. Of course, this is not a position where the pool of rank-and-file applicants is big. She had to litigate, undertake legal research, lobby, help draft policy, etc.– tasks for which she had the skills and was properly educated.
And so we get to the last question that is implied in your challenge: did she take advantage of her position as legal counsel for the union in detriment to the membership? Let’s take in parts.
Crisanta’s salary was comparable to what many attorneys make in many other unions and companies. Yes, some attorneys make less than that, and there are attorneys that make more. You can get me started about the legal priesthood and the niche they have created in society for themselves if you want, but the fact is that in this place and time attorneys are compensated as a very specialized trade. Furthermore, when confronted with the reality of a potential strike, she gave back a big portion of her salary to the strike fund. That doesn’t make her a saint, but it makes her actions consistent with the values she represents.
As for the accusations of misused funds: there was a complaint filed with the Labor Department, and so far they have not been able assert that any funds were misused. If they had, they would be pursuing at the very least fines, but at worst prosecution. Is the investigation over? It depends who you talk to, and the government bureaucracy is notorious for taking its time. The fact is that if there were any irregularities in the government audit, they would have already issued charges. Anyone can make accusations, yet the presumption of innocence remains a very standard value of any civilized society. Demonizing Crisanta over this very serious allegation without merit does not advance any worthy cause. It is mere character assassination without formal charges or prosecution.
Finally, you can argue that the whole two party system is broken, that nothing in the current electoral system advances the cause of workers, and that the relationship between labor and the democrats is not what gives workers power. That would be a valid argument. However, the debate would be a different one, and it would not be fair to center that on Crisanta either or her candidacy for HD5. It would require a more global analysis of what it is really needed to bring real social change.