The #MeToo hashtag campaign sparked by the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault allegations has spread to the Democratic Party of Orange County and the OC Labor Federation, with nearly half a dozen women posting allegations on social media.
It began when OC Young Democrats President Danielle Serbin issued a press release on Tuesday, which was first reported in TheLiberalOC.com. In it, Serbin said:
As part of the #metoo campaign on Facebook, several young women have bravely stepped up to alert the public about their experiences being sexually harassed and abused by men in power in Orange County Democratic and allied organizations. Specifically, women are speaking out about men in power at the Democratic Party of Orange County and/or the Orange County Labor Federation who have tried to undress young women in the workplace, sent young women pornographic images and memes, and joked about porn with young interns.
Serbin’s press release said “It is time to call out the harassers, name them and shame them, and remove them from positions of power in our community” and called on the affected organizations to “Investigate the accusations. Fire the harassers. Clean house and get rid of a culture that condones and encourages harassment in the workplace.”
Serbin said she “acknowledge[d] that Orange County Young Democrats itself has, in the past, had leaders who were involved in such harassing behavior, and our organization is taking steps to put systems in place to make sure it never happens again.” Despite urging other organizations to “name them and shame them,” Serbin did neither.
OC Weekly Reports OC Labor Federation Executive Director Julio Perez Accused of Sexual Harassment
Yesterday, Matt Coker of the OC Weekly named Erik Taylor – who was the executive director of the OC Democrtic Party until leaving this spring to manage 39th Congressional District campaign of Democrat Phil Janowicz – as one of the culprits:
UPDATE NO. 1, OCT. 18, 12:19 P.M.: Two powerful Democratic Party men who alleged, unnamed victims say sexually harassed them are Erik Taylor, the former executive director of the DPOC, and Julio Perez, the executive director of Orange County Labor Federation.
Coker reached out to Janowicz for comment and ultimately received this reply:
Asked for reaction to his campaign manager Erik Taylor being outed for alleged sexual harassment while executive director of the Democratic Party of Orange County, 39th Congressional District candidate Phil Janowicz was brief.
So brief that the challenger for the seat held by veteran Orange County lawmaker Rep. Ed Royce (R-Brea) did not mention Taylor by name.
“Whenever there are allegations of sexual harassment, they must be taken very, very seriously,” Janowicz tells the Weekly. I stand with my fellow OC Democrats in condemning inappropriate actions in the workplace and with them pledge to protect all of our campaign workers, interns, and volunteers. There must be a zero tolerance for any assault or harassment. Period.”
Earlier in the day, a progressive political activist posted this on her Facebook page. OC Daily was provided with a screenshot of the post, but are withholding the identity of the individual:
Yesterday morning, OC Daily e-mailed Perez and the OC Labor Federation asking for comment on the allegation, but have had no response yet. Perez is also a member of Anaheim’s Homeless Policy Working Group, headed by District 3 Councilman Jose F. Moreno.
Also yesterday, prior to Coker’s article, the Democratic Party of Orange County posted this statement on sexual harassment on its Facebook page – seemingly out of the blue, untethered to any public or specific allegations and naming no names:
On Monday, October16, two days before these allegations broke, Janowicz praised the #MeToo hashtag campaign on his Twitter account:
— Phil Janowicz (@PhilforHouse) October 17, 2017
Last night, the OC Register reported that as many as half a dozen women have come forward with allegations of sexual harassment and assault at the hands of Democratic Party and union officials in Orange County:
A half-dozen women said on social media that they were victims of sexual abuse and harassment while working as interns or employees of the Democratic Party of Orange County and the Orange County Labor Federation.
The women, who made their allegations as part the #MeToo campaign on Facebook, said the incidents took place between 2014 and ’15, Danielle Serbin, chairwoman of the Orange County Young Democrats, said Wednesday.
The women’s accusations were lodged against two men. One now works as a campaign consultant for a Democratic congressional candidate and another holds a leadership position with the Labor Federation.
Unlike Coker’s article, the OC Register story does not name the two men.
Reactions from Democratic Leaders
OC Democratic Party Chair Fran Sdao, in the media and on the party’s Facebook page, pledged to investigate:
“People should feel when they come to support the party as a volunteer or intern that this is a safe place and that their dignity and personal safety are secure,” Sdao said.
“We want to be very clear, if there is a violation we have procedures about how we will react to it. If it warrants that criminal charges have to happen, then that has to happen,” Sdao added.
In a comment on the DPOC Facebook page, Santa Ana City Councilman Jose Solorio expressed support for the #MeToo accusers:
Barbara Bacon Nelson, former campaign manager for Democratic Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, commented on the DPOC post with a link to a June 7, 2017 OC Daily article similar accusations against long-time Democrat Latino activist Benny Diaz:
Bacon called on Sdao to remove Diaz from the DPOC Central Committee.
Echoes of Weinstein Scandal
This unfolding controversy bears a striking resemblance to the Weinstein scandal, in which it turns out knowledge of the powerful producer’s behavior was widespread even as those with knowledge remained silent about it. Rumors about Perez’ behavior toward female colleagues have been circulating for months. According to the OC Register, they were counseled by other Democrat activists not to act against their harassers:
The woman, who isn’t being identified because she may be a victim of sexual assault, told the Register that she didn’t notify Democratic Party officials or file a criminal complaint because she felt powerless to do so.
“I was advised by friends and mentors in Orange County politics (that) no one would take action and no one would care,” the woman said.
Feminism and women’s rights are core parts of Democratic Party values, making such counsel of inaction and silence all the more striking in contrast to Democratic attacks on Republican politicians accused of similar transgressions.