Much of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 associate counsel Crisanta Duran's time is being taken up these days with the continuing contractual stalemate between grocery workers and the two largest grocery chains in the area, Safeway and King Soopers. But that's not the only drama in which she's a key player. Her father, Ernie Duran, Jr., the local's president, is disputing the results of a re-election attempt that saw him losing narrowly to Kim Cordova shortly after the airing of a report by Channel 7's John Ferrugia that accused the elder Duran of nepotism, spending irregularities and lots more. And Crisanta has become the public face of Ernie's effort to stay in power.
"We've brought up a variety of election violations," Crisanta says, "and the evidence to back them up is very, very clear."
The Durans' main objections revolve around allegedly defamatory claims made against them by the Cordova slate (and leaked to media outlets like Channel 7), as well as obstacles to election participation by numerous members. "Less than 13 percent of the members actually turned in ballots, and we've had hundreds of people calling in since the election saying they didn't receive a ballot, or they received it after it was due," Crisanta says. "And because that 13 percent was split 7-6, the vote clearly wasn't a mandate, because of the number of people who said they wanted to vote but couldn't. So I think there's good grounds to re-run the election."
A do-over isn't her call, though. "The international union reviews the evidence first, and they decide if they'll do an investigation or re-run the election," she explains. "If they don't make a decision, or they do make one, but we want to appeal it, everything could go to the Department of Labor."
Meanwhile, Crisanta is continuing her campaign to undermine the gist of the aforementioned Channel 7 package, She sent out a letter picking apart the report's allegations, and while Ferrugia shrugged off her points in a blog linked above, she continues to stress their legitimacy. "The documents he showed were stolen, and the way he portrayed them as to how and why union funds were being spent were absolute lies," she contends. "Every single expense had been approved, and they were all for justified for business reasons.
"It amazed me that he had receipts for Starbucks Coffee," she continues. "The coffee was purchased at legitimate business meetings, and Kim Cordova has used union funds to buy coffee at business meetings as well. And several things he aired he didn't give us a chance to respond to."
If that's true, Ferrugia doesn't believe he deserves the blame. He told Westword that Ernie's staff tried to delay an interview until after the election before reluctantly scheduling a sit-down only days before the story was scheduled to air, only to cancel it at the last moment. In response, Ferrugia drove to the union offices and waited for Ernie in the parking lot.
Crisanta doesn't buy that. She characterizes the reporter's actions as "an ambush," despite the lack of footage showing Ferrugia chasing anyone down, and insists that there were ways for Ernie and him to "sit down in a professional setting" only a few days later.
Of course, the debate over Channel 7's piece is mostly academic at this point. More important is what happens to the Durans' protest of the election. If neither the union's international wing nor the Labor Department take action by January 1, the Cordova slate will be put in place, but a new vote could still be ordered down the line. For that reason, Crisanta acknowledges, "This could go into 2010."
Just like the grocery negotiations.