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Stopping Sexual Harassment

As women tell their stories about sexual harassment, unions work hard to keep their workplaces safe

Kate Hogan's picture
by Kate Hogan on
Oct 16, 2017

Over the last few weeks, a spotlight has been shown on one of the worst and most underreported workplace violations, sexual harassment. While UCOMM covered the fallout from Fox’s Roger Ailes history of sexual harassment, the revelation that Hollywood big whig Harvey Weinstein was a serial abuser has shed more light than ever on the topic. While these two-high-profile cases have uncovered this epidemic, the prevalence of harassment in the workplace is much larger than many men might think. As unions organize more and more female dominated workplaces, they have seen the scope of the problem and have taken action to stop it.

One industry that has extremely high rates of sexual harassment is the hospitality industry. A survey that was done by UNITE HERE Local 1 in Chicago found that women who work in Chicagoland hotels and casinos face a higher level of sexual harassment, mainly from male guests. According to the survey, 49% of housekeepers have had guests expose themselves, flash them, or answer the door naked. Of the casino workers that were surveyed, 65% of cocktail servers have had guests grope, pinch, grab them, or try to touch them in an unwelcome way.  This led the union to start the #HandsoffPantson campaign, which sought to pass an ordinance to protect hotel and hospitality workers in Chicago. Thanks to Local 1’s work, hotels will now be required to provide panic buttons for all workers who have to enter into guests’ rooms or bathrooms and will protect employees who file sexual harassment claims against guests. This second part is extremely important, as many victims fear retribution for filing a claim. It is important that women feel safe in the workplace. On October 11th, with the Weinstein scandal in full force, the Chicago City Council approved the ordinance. The problem is so widespread that UNITE HERE is pushing for these ordinances in multiple cities that are major tourist destinations.

After the scandal with Harvey Weinstein, actress Alyssa Milano tweeted, “Suggested by a friend: If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote "Me too" as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem. If you've been sexually harassed or assaulted write 'me too' as a reply to this tweet." If you have been on Facebook or Twitter today, you have probably been shocked by the sheer number of women and men who have reported being sexually harassed.  By Monday afternoon, over 25,000 people have used this hashtag to post their experiences on their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram profiles and the number continues to grow.  The problem of sexual harassment of actresses and actors in Hollywood is so bad that their union SAG-AFTRA has a 24-hour hotline set up to report instances of sexual harassment on set. “Unfortunately, it is more prevalent than our industry acknowledges and many times victims are afraid to tell anyone,” said SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris. “Those who do come forward empower themselves and others to speak out.” By telling their stories, these brave women and men regain their power and provide a source of strength for those looking to share their experiences but don’t know how.

Even male dominated industries, like the construction trades, are doing their part to stop sexual harassment. As the number of women in the trades has grown, so too has the education about what is and isn’t appropriate to do or say. The Multi-Craft Core Curriculum, the curriculum that is the standard for union apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship training programs, requires sexual harassment training. This training is treated as importantly as OSHA and CPR training. Women in the trades report that this training is working, as was reported by the Today Show.

While progress has been made, especially in union workplaces, these scandals continue to show that sexual harassment is a real problem that needs to be dealt with now. If these stories on social media have taught us anything, it’s that this is a problem for every person. It is happening to men and women, both young and old, and it needs to be addressed.


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