Will #MeToo Discussion Turn Up Pressure on OC Labor Fed’s Julio Perez?

It’s been very quiet at the Orange County Labor Federation (OCLF) since allegations surfaced of sexual harassment by its executive director, but more public prodding tonight in Santa Ana could turn up the heat.

Orange County Young Democrats, whose chairwoman publicly pointed to the troubling recollections of a young intern under OCLF Executive Director Julio Perez, dedicates its November meeting to the Facebook #MeToo campaign that sprang from the allegations against disgraced Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and quickly spread to Washington, D.C., Sacramento and, yes Mouseketeers, Orange County.

Danielle Serbin, the Orange County Young Democrats chairwoman, moderates a panel on “A Discussion on #MeToo” that begins at 7 p.m. at Chapter One, 227 N. Broadway, Santa Ana. (Fun fact: Chapter One is where weekly staff meetings were held when OC Weekly‘s editorial crew had no office. Talking story while downing a Slaughterhouse-Five is still much missed.)

“A Discussion on #MeToo” panelists include: Kelsey Brewer, a Cal State University board trustee from 2014-16; Professor Jane K. Stover, director of the UC Irvine Initiative to End Family Violence; and Samantha Corbin, a Sacramento lobbyist who coordinated a bipartisan, anti-sexual harassment campaign by more than 140 powerful California women, including lawmakers, lobbyists and consultants.

Key to what is going on in Orange County progressive circles are the remaining two panelists: Fran Sdao, chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Orange County; and Jennifer Muir Beuthin, general manager of the Orange County Employees Association.

Besides outing Perez as a #MeToo target, Serbin disclosed for the media that Erik Taylor, the former executive director of the Democratic Party of Orange County, was the subject of similar allegations.

That prompted Sdao to announce the DPOC was taking the allegations seriously, launching an internal investigation and instituting reforms up to and including reporting crimes to local law enforcement.

It also forced Phil Janowicz, a Democrat seeking the 39th Congressional District seat held by Rep. Ed Royce (R-Brea), to accept Taylor’s resignation as campaign manager.

Beuthin, who sits on the California Labor Federation board alongside Perez, told the Voice of OC on Oct. 23 that the OCLF executive director is the subject of an internal investigation.

While she would not comment on Perez’s current employment status, including substantiating rumors he has been placed on administrative leave, she did stress in a separate Voice of OC post that at least she took the allegations seriously.

“So as a woman who leads a union in the Orange County labor movement, and that’s an affiliate union to the OC Labor Federation, I have been working since this information came out on making sure that the Labor Federation takes these allegations seriously,” Beuthin reportedly said. “And that we conduct a thorough investigation that will result in taking appropriate action when that inquiry is done.”

Gilbert Davila, the OCLF president, seconds that emotion in the following statement that went up on the OCLF website on Oct. 21:

We take all allegations of sexual assault and harassment seriously. The Orange County Labor movement is taking swift action to investigate any and all allegations that come forward. There is no place for sexual assault and harassment in our county, but it exists everywhere, as evidenced by the #metoo movement. We know that even though we fight against harassment on a daily basis, we are also not immune from it happening in our house.

The investigation Muir speaks of is apparently wrapping up. We’ve been unable to reach Perez, and communications with the national AFL-CIO media team in Washington, D.C., about the Orange County situation were forwarded to the human resources department, which did not get back to us.

It’s unclear whether testimony in the Perez investigation was taken from the poster of this #MeToo message on Facebook:

The posting of that was followed by an email to the Weekly from another former OCLF intern who alleges Perez touched her inappropriately at a Santa Ana bar after work. In a follow-up conversation, she conceded she quit her internship without ever filing a formal complaint with OCLF.

Another source, whose name we’re withholding due to her fears of retribution from her labor union employer, said in an interview that at least two other females did file complaints against Perez after an AFL-CIO Next Up Young Workers program gathering he attended with them. The source claimed she and the two filers were shown the door of their respective labor groups after complaining about Perez, who is the local point person for the Next Up Young Workers program that is aimed at increasing millennial memberships.

Depending on where the investigation into Perez leads—and whether any discipline is revealed by the highly secretive OCLF—it puts the Planned Parenthood award referenced here in a different light:

Perhaps we’ll have to rewrite the definitions for advocacy and women’s rights in Orange County.

Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.

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