EXCLUSIVE: The former business representative of IATSE Local 480 in Santa Fe, NM, has accused the local’s president, Liz Pecos, of “unwelcome sexual advances” and of creating a “sexually hostile work environment” – allegations that Pecos and the local deny “in the strongest terms possible.”
Stephen Geass, who resigned as business rep on June 30 after only a month on the job, also accused Pecos of misusing union funds for her own “political and financial gain” – allegations that Pecos and the local also “categorically” deny. Pecos, who serves on the executive board of the New Mexico Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, was elected co-chair of IATSE’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee in November.
It’s the second time in three years that a Local 480 leader has been accused of sexual harassment. In 2018, Jon Hendry, the local’s longtime business agent, and president of the New Mexico Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, was accused of sexually harassing three of the local’s female staffers. Hendry resigned as the local’s business agent, and was ousted as president of the state’s Federation of Labor, in March of that year. Two of the lawsuits stemming from those allegations were settled by the local last summer.
Geass – who also goes by the name Stephen Benavides – made the allegations against Pecos on July 2 in what he called his “Report on Business Representative’s Resignation.”
Attached to his resignation report is a draft of a complaint he says he intends to file with the Human Rights Bureau of the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions detailing his sexual harassment allegations. Geass also accused Pecos and Marisa Frantz, the local’s secretary-treasurer, of interfering and prohibiting him from doing his duty as the local’s top executive officer.
In a statement to Deadline, the local said:
“IATSE Local 480 and its President Liz Pecos and Secretary-Treasurer Marisa Frantz have been accused of interference and sex discrimination by Steven (sic) Benavides (Geass), the Local’s recently hired Business Representative. Benavides resigned on June 30, after 30 days on the job. Benavides demanded substantial money from the Local and implied he would publicize his claims if the Union did not concede to his demands. When the Local did not concede, its members and the media were flooded with anonymous emails containing his claims. The Local categorically denies Benavides’ claims in the strongest terms possible. Benavides claims he has filed an inquiry with the New Mexico state civil rights agency. Consistent with its practice in pending legal matters, the Local will have no further public comment.”
In the draft of his complaint to the state’s Human Rights Bureau, Benavides claimed:
“On or around June 22, 2021, I was invited for drinks after the workday by IATSE Local 480 President Liz Pecos. This was our first meeting after I moved to the state for a new position. The meeting place was the Two Fools Tavern located at 3211Central Ave NE, Albuquerque, NM 87106. Over drinks there was discussion of ongoing work, but that conversation was steered towards more personal matters related to my marriage and her recent breakup with a former partner, to include discussing the dating scene and future plans as it relates to sexual relationships. This conversation was uncomfortable and set the theme for another post-work meeting on or around June 25, 2021.
“On or around June 25, 2021, I was again asked to go out and have drinks by President Liz Pecos. Due to my uneasiness in being put in this situation again, I urged her to invite the Secretary-Treasurer Marisa Frantz. Marisa agreed to meet up with us at a bar and restaurant called 423 Vintage located at 8000 Paseo Del Norte Blvd NE, Albuquerque, NM 87122.
“After two drinks, Marisa Frantz left. Her leaving coincided with a significant change in the tone and direction of the conversation back towards inappropriate subjects involving dating life, the small dating pool in New Mexico and discussion on having children.
“Once the check was closed, we left together and headed towards the parking lot. Liz Pecos directed me towards her car as we walked. Once we were by the door she moved in towards me in an apparent effort to kiss me. I retreated, caught off-guard and said goodnight. I then walked to my car and drove home.
“After this unwanted attempted sexual contact, my ability to carry out my duties and responsibilities as an employee of IATSE Local 480 were severely hampered and created a hostile work environment. Based on this incident, the environment created by it and other difficulties in being able to carry out my duties, I decided to resign my employment effective June 30, 2021.”
In his resignation report, he also accused Pecos of misusing the local’s funds to promote her re-election as president.
“As Business Representative, I was required to participate in numerous conversations related directly to the President’s upcoming Local 480 campaign,” he wrote. “These conversations occurred as a regular part of day-to-day business of the union and took place on union property and using union equipment. The content of these conversations included personality profiles on potential opposition candidates, perceived allies and opponents on the Local 480 Executive Board, mentions of active members who were considered ‘dangerous’ and/or ‘unstable’ and a detailed review of posts and comments on a campaign Facebook page, which was gained using a ‘mole.’ This local union campaign work was woven into conversations that touched on the New Mexico Film Office, the tax incentive program, and my efforts to address the ensuing labor shortage.”
He further claimed that “the use of my paid time as Business Representative of Local 480, in addition to the use of union property and equipment for the express intent to benefit an officer’s union campaign, is a misuse of alliance and membership funds for political and financial gain,” adding that “The misuse of alliance funds is prohibited under the IA Constitution. It clearly states that, ‘The funds of this alliance shall not be used for other than its legitimate purposes.’”
He concluded his resignation report by saying that he was “honored and humbled to have been selected by the Local 480 Executive Board and the Local 480 members to operate in the role of Business Representative. It was, or would have been, one of my most valued experiences in my more than twelve years on the front lines of the labor movement. Sadly, due to the reasons laid in this report and other minor reasons not detailed here, that valued experience did not come to pass. It was a severe disappointment to be brought into a position of leadership and then be prohibited from fulfilling that function. It was also eye opening to see prior reformers of a corrupt union begin down their own trail of power consolidation and advocacy of individual agendas, at the expense of a dedicated and hardworking membership. I wish all of you the best of luck in your future endeavors and hope that the union grows stronger and more resilient over time.”