Union Women: #MeToo & #TIMESUP Movement
The final months of 2017 have brought mass national attention to an issue which has plagued working women for decades, that of workplace sexual harassment and assault that has come to be known as the #MeToo movement. Last night (January 7) the #TimesUP initiative gained notoriety at the Golden Globes Award telecast. Activists such as Sara Jayaraman, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United President and a speaker at CLUW’s recent Convention and Ai-jen Poo, the director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance were invited guests, broadening the conversation to the large number of industries where women are subjected to this type of workplace violence. The Time's Up Legal Defense Fund (administered by the National Women’s Law Center) will provide financial support for legal representation and public relations services for some individuals experiencing workplace sexual harassment or related retaliation.
Sexual harassment is an expression of power and CLUW is committed to putting our collective power to fight for real and measureable progress.
CLUW’s Adopted Convention Resolution No. 17 states, “the workplace can be a critical place for responding to gender based violence and building systems that protect survivors of abuse.” Unfortunately most workplaces are not living up to the standard we demand. However, thanks largely to the brave women across industries who have been coming forward to boldly share their stories and seek justice, we could be in the middle of a welcome culture shift. With TIME magazine awarding “The Silence Breakers” its Person of The Year Award, profiling several determined union women in the process, the time is clearly ripe.
In an article by the Washington Post, Sara Nelson, International President of the Association of Flight Attendants who spoke at the 19th Biennial CLUW Convention, was asked along with fifteen other leading women in different industries to share what she thought was the most important next step towards ending the harassment in her field. She pointed out, “The most effective thing that could be done now is a series of public service announcements from airline chief executives. It would be powerful to hear these men clearly and forcefully denounce the past objectification of flight attendants, reinforce our safety role as aviation’s first responders and pledge zero tolerance of sexual harassment and sexual assault at the airlines.”
The importance of worker collective action and union contract protection is discussed by Lane Windham, Associate Director of Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative and co-director of WILL Empower (Women Innovating Labor Leadership) in Portside on December 7, 2017 with these examples: “ The hotel workers union in Chicago found that well over half of hotel workers reported harassment from guests; their #handsoffpantson campaign demands that management equip hotel maids with panic buttons and ban guests who sexually harass a worker. After many female janitors in California found themselves alone at night in empty buildings alongside abusive male managers, the United Service Workers West won contract language and a law requiring cleaning and security employers to offer training on sexual harassment.” She goes on to say, “Women union members can — and should — take a leading role, and sexual harassment is an issue through which they can build power for all working women, not only the 10 percent who hold a union card…. The question is whether women will be able to turn their next-generation solidarity into a broad-based and inclusive movement that can win enduring workplace transformation.”
“Top 10 Things Unions Can Do Right Now to Address Sexual Harassment in the Workplace” includes ideas such as, “Create channels for members, union staff and others to report harassment quickly, before it escalates, without having to resort to formal mechanisms. Most women who suffer sexual harassment are not interested in filing complaints or engaging in legal battles; they just want the harassment to stop. Instead of forcing women into formal complaint mechanisms that put the onus on her to prove a case, unions should adopt informal resolution mechanisms that address the offensive conduct when it takes place. Women should be included in developing these resolution mechanisms.”
We also have to recognize what needs to be done to clean our own house. SEIU and the AFL-CIO have both ousted top male staff for workplace sexual abuse recently. AFT President Randi Weingarten said, “The AFL-CIO should lead, not follow, when it comes to workplace safety, which means not just reacting but creating an anti-harassment culture. Working women and their families must be able to have confidence and trust in their unions.”
While we have much to fight for, Union women will undoubtedly be at the forefront of progress towards just workplaces free of harassment. CLUW is ready for action.
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Page Last Updated: Jan 09, 2018 (08:51:50)