In 2015, the Frontline documentary Rape on the Night Shift exposed the widespread vulnerability of women janitors to sexual assault and rape on the job. As an organization that represents janitors, we at Service Employees International Union-United Service Workers West (SEIU-USWW) had to ask ourselves where these cases were, and why weren’t women coming forward to report to them to the union? Our janitor leaders, many of whom were survivors of rape and assault, developed a plan to screen the documentary with union members across the state to open up a dialogue. What they found was that many of the survivors of rape and sexual assault faced significant barriers when trying to report these crimes. These janitor leaders realized that they were in a unique position to change the industry because they understood the particular issues that janitors were facing. They called themselves Promotoras and said “ya basta” to rape on the night shift.
Early employment experiences shape future career pathways. For young workers, adolescent girls in particular, early experiences of workplace sexual harassment can have negative ripple effects throughout their careers resulting in changed career paths, lower lifetime earnings, and increased vulnerability to workplace harassment and violence in the future.
Top 10 Things Victims of Workplace Sexual Harassment and Violence Can Do
Unions were established to promote dignity, equality, and respect for all workers. As such, unions have an important role to play in creating safer, and more supportive and accountable workplaces. Unions are in a unique position: they have the power to influence how employers address harassment in workplaces where they have collective bargaining relationships or where they are organizing.
Odds are employees you work with have been victims of sexual harassment at some point in their work life. Here are 10 tangible ways to create a better, safer workplace.
Perpetrators of sexual harassment do not act in a vacuum. Harvey Weinstein certainly did not commit his decades of sexual harassment in covert isolation. It was an “open secret” for many in and outside of the industry.
National Resource Center Relaunched on 23rd Anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act
We are proud to work with a coalition of anti-violence advocates, union leaders, worker advocates and women worker leaders—the Ya Basta! Coalition—to advance the workplace safety and dignity of women and other workers vulnerable to experiencing sexual violence and harassment in the janitorial industry, and improve conditions for all workers.
Passionate disagreements are a normal and acceptable part of our discourse. But harassing, intimidating, or threatening a colleague is wrong, even within the throes of political debate. The use of abusive tactics of fear and intimation to scare an opponent into agreement cannot be tolerated.