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New Labor Forum: April 1st, 2019

The New Labor Forum has a bi-weekly newsletter on current topics in labor, curated by the some of the most insightful scholars and activists in the labor world today. Check out some highlights from the latest edition below.

The early successes of the #MeToo movement caught many commentators by surprise. However, despite its notable achievements – including dramatic increases in awareness regarding sexual harassment, as well as the conviction of a long list of high profile offenders – the institutional changes required to prevent sexual harassment and assault are still a long way off. A recent national online survey highlights this fact, finding that 81 percent of women have experienced sexual harassment in their lifetime. This figure is higher than previously cited data because it includes the plethora of verbal forms of sexual harassment, as well as physical harassment, cyber harassment and sexual assault. The survey also indicates that girls and young women experience alarmingly high rates of harassment, with the highest incidence occurring between the ages of 14 and 17.
Establishing and enshrining changes in the workplace, where sexual harassment so often occurs, should be a first order priority for organized labor. Yet, as Ana Avendaño writes in her article for New labor Forum , “with some notable exceptions, the labor movement has been a bystander, or even complicit, especially in male-dominated industries where harassment is most pervasive.” Avendaño examines labor’s troubled legacy, including some unions’ efforts to weaken the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and steer claims of racial and gender discrimination away from the courts. She also describes the effective work by a handful of unions to make their industries more equitable and safe for women workers, and suggests how this work provides a model for organized labor to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace and in its own union halls.
The #MeToo movement has also forced unions and other social justice organizations to reckon with their own internal cultures that enable, and sometimes breed, racial and gender discrimination. A recent case in point is the Southern Poverty Law Center, long admired by progressives for its work in tracking and prosecuting hate groups. We include here a New York Times article that discusses the accusations of racial discrimination and sexual harassment in that organization that have now forced the departure of its top leadership. What next? Reversing decades of weakening labor law and shoring up the fragile prosecutorial footing provided by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act seem like two necessary, albeit uphill, battles that must be waged to stop ubiquitous workplace sexual harassment.
Table of Contents
  1. #MeToo Inside the Labor Movement/Ana Avendaño, New Labor Forum
  2. A New Survey Finds 81 Percent of Women Have Experienced Sexual Harassment/ Rhitu Chatterjee, NPR
  3. Roiled by Staff Uproar, Civil Rights Group Looks at Intolerance Within/ Audra D.S. Burch, Alan Blinder and John Eligon, New York Times
  4. The Rape of Recy Taylor Film Screening/ Co-sponsored by the Women’s Organizing Network

Photo by GGAADD via flickr (cc-by-sa)

New Labor Forum Highlights: September 17th, 2018

The New Labor Forum has a bi-weekly newsletter on current topics in labor, curated by the some of the most insightful scholars and activists in the labor world today. Check out some highlights from the latest edition below.

How far we’ve come since Anita Hill’s riveting testimony during the Clarence Thomas nomination hearings twenty-seven years ago! Now that the woman who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault has come forward, his hasty confirmation appears far less certain. His accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, says she’s willing to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Should she do so, her statements are likely to acquire a heightened credence made possible by the #MeToo movement. With this news in mind, we offer Beyond #MeToo, an article from the current issue of New Labor Forum by social analyst Judith Levine. Levine surveys the working-class branch of the #MeToo movement and assesses the options—from the courts to unions to consciousness raising—available to blue-collar, service, and care workers as they confront widespread workplace sexual harassment.

We also draw your attention to a recent report by The National Women’s Law Project titled, Out of the Shadows: An Analysis of Sexual Harassment Charges Filed by Working Women. This report includes the findings that, between 2012 and 2016, Millenials and Gen Xers filed sexual harassment charges with the EEOC at over double the rate of Baby Boomers; and black women were disproportionately represented among those who filed complaints. Evidence included in the report shows that, although an estimated 87 to 94 percent of those harmed by sexual harassment never file a legal complaint, the tides are now turning.

The National Women’s Law Project has also produced an analysis of The Record of Brett M. Kavanaugh’s Critical Legal Rights for Women, which points to multiple causes for concern to women, people of color, and workers. High on the list of the concerns enumerated in the report would be Kavanaugh’s predisposition toward limiting individual rights. Kavanaugh is quoted saluting former Chief Justice for “stemming the general tide of freewheeling judicial creation of un-enumerated rights that were not rooted in the nation’s history and tradition.” Among those un-enumerated rights, one might argue, are indeed the very constitutional amendments upon which so many of us have come to rely.

Table of Contents

  1. Beyond #MeToo/ Judith Levine, New Labor Forum
  2. Out of the Shadows: An Analysis of Sexual Harassment Charges Filed by Working Women/ Amanda Rossie, Jasmine Tucker and Kayla Patrick, National Women’s Law Center
  3. The Record of Brett M. Kavanaugh on Critical Legal Rights for Women/ National Women’s Law Center

Photo by Charles Edward Miller via flickr (cc-by-sa)

The Chief-Leader Features Murphy Institute Conference on #MeToo

Last Friday, the Murphy Institute hosted a day-long event on labor and community in the age of #MeToo. The event brought together leaders from the labor movement, legal advocacy and gender equity work — with thought-provoking and actionable results.

For a round up of some of the discussions and panels from the event, check out The Chief-Leader’s coverage of the event by reporter Crystal Lewis here. From the article:

“The fact that we’re still talking about sexual harassment six months after #MeToo shows this isn’t a moment: it’s a movement,” said Maya Raghu, director of workplace equality at the National Women’s Law Center during a March 23 panel on sexual harassment at the Joseph S. Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies.

Students, union members and advocates attended the panel at the Murphy Institute’s headquarters in Midtown to learn and discuss strategies that labor and community groups could use to combat sexual harassment in the workplace. Once allegations surfaced last October that movie producer Harvey Weinstein sexually assaulted or otherwise harassed dozens of women in the entertainment business, the #MeToo movement triggered accusations of sexual misconduct in other industries.

Read the full article here.

New Labor Forum Highlights: Nov. 13th, 2017

The New Labor Forum has a bi-weekly newsletter on current topics in labor, curated by the some of the most insightful scholars and activists in the labor world today. Check out some highlights from the latest edition below.

While important revelations of workplace sexual harassment committed by men in the entertainment industry continue to come to light, we take this occasion to consider the ubiquitous and nearly invisible harassment faced by the women who are most tethered to their jobs and least able to access legal remedies. They labor in fast food joints, hotels, secretarial jobs, farms, hospitals, and night shift janitorial jobs. For a host of reasons, their sexual harassment, assault and rape go largely unreported.* This abuse sometimes motivates them to organize, says New Labor Forum Editorial Member Kate Bronfenbrenner,  “But it can be a reason women don’t organize,” she explains in a Boston Globe article on sexual harassment within unions. Lin Farley, journalist, author, and coiner of the term “sexual harassment,” suggests that employers may also use sexual harassment to fend off union drives: “You have young girls, working-class kids for the most part, trying to get jobs in fast food places, because they have to work. And you have fast food managers systematically using sexual harassment to keep turn-over high, so they don’t have to unionize, they don’t have to give high wages. . . . Its one of the huge scandals going on in America today.” Continue reading New Labor Forum Highlights: Nov. 13th, 2017