I had the honor of serving as the secretary-treasurer of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 135 until my retirement in June. I would not have had the opportunity to serve in this capacity had it not been for Mickey Kasparian’s recommendation to our executive board. Not only am I a female, I am a very proud African American.

I could easily ignore all of the articles and media coverage regarding the allegations against Kasparian since I’m no longer a UFCW employee and no longer live in California, but it would be wrong.

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One Union-Tribune article stated that I “reported to Kasparian,” implying that I was his lap dog, weak-minded or afraid to speak up. Anyone who knows me or has worked with me knows that I am very opinionated and that despite being the No. 2 officer, Kasparian often trusted me to make decisions on my own, and we made decisions as a team.

If you were to read some of what has been said and didn’t know any better, you would think the local union was Sodom and Gomorrah, and Kasparian was some type of Svengali and that the staff were mentally beaten down to the point of hopelessness. This couldn’t be any further than the truth.

I worked with strong, like-minded individuals who weren’t afraid to take their gloves off to work, or to put up a good fight. We all got along well and it wasn’t unusual for us to interact socially, including our spouses, significant others and children.

The UFCW I worked for had zero harassment complaints during my entire tenure of approximately 20 years. I had an open-door policy that everyone in the building availed themselves to. I implemented a non-harassment training, covering all types of harassment, which employees completed annually.

I will be the first to say that Kasparian has a strong personality. I observed him to be a man who cares deeply about his family, his staff and his union members. I’ve never observed disrespectful behavior toward women or gender bias. Quite the contrary: He always advocated for equality for women and people of color. Had I witnessed the type of behavior described in two lawsuits, believe me – I would have taken him down personally.

To imply that I as a woman – an advocate for women and social justice, and the second in charge of the UFCW – would allow demeaning behavior toward any being sickens me.

If there is one lesson that this has taught me, it is not to judge people so quickly and wait for the facts.

Rosalyn Hackworth worked for UFCW Local 135 for nearly 20 years and served as secretary-treasurer before retiring in June.

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