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.
As individuals committed to advancing the safety, well-being, and economic security for survivors of gender-based violence, 2018 was a roller coaster ride filled with highs and lows. From accountability for perpetrators of workplace sexual harassment, to survivors finally being heard and believed, there was much to celebrate. But at the same time, we also witnessed failures by employers to meaningfully respond to the momentum of the #MeToo movement.
Top 10 Things Victims of Workplace Sexual Harassment and Violence Can Do
Think Progress: In what seems like a turning point for America, more and more public figures are being outed as serial harassers. But what does this look like in the workplaces with less public scrutiny where every day Americans are still experiencing harassment?
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.
If someone asked me #HowIWillChange when I first joined FUTURES and the movement to end gender-based violence, I would have responded “I don’t need to change. I’m a black and gay civil rights attorney. I know something about oppression and violence.”