New York, NY – This week’s walkouts in support of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and the growing list of other women accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual abuse, once again underscored the hostile environment many of our mothers, daughters, sisters, wives and girlfriends continue to be subjected to in the workplace.
Recently, the Building Trades’ #CountMeIn campaign against so-called “open-shop development” expanded to include demonstrations outside National Football League offices and venues in an effort to pressure the NFL to bounce Miami Dolphins owner and Related developer Stephen Ross from the league’s Social & Racial Justice Committee.
Why? Because the Building Trades maintain that Ross is an embarrassment who silently condones entrenched racism, sexism and union busting on his construction sites.
In August, former non-union construction worker Tierra Williams, 29, told LaborPress that she couldn’t take a break while working as a laborer on a Ross development without a lecherous foreman trying to follow her into the bathroom.
“Not only was I exploited as a worker, but as a woman,” the Flatbush resident said. “I experienced a lot of sexism as far as my voice not being heard and my opinions falling on deaf ears.”
Construction worker LaFrondra Brown told LaborPress a similar story four years ago, after walking off her non-union job site in the Bronx.
“I get all kinds of crap from the senior supervisors,” the mother of two told LaborPress. “One of them grabbed my ass and I almost fell off the scaffold.”
Another manager at the site allegedly exposed his penis to Brown after several attempts to touch and fondle her – while another supervisor reportedly told the veteran ironworker that because she is an African-American woman, she is “lucky” to have a job at all.
“I get all kinds of stuff,” Brown added. “You name it, I get it. But after [tolerating it] for so long, you can’t take it anymore.”
As the Kavanaugh case demonstrates, women subjected to sexual abuse in and around the workplace often choose to remain silent out of very real fears about retribution and shaming at the hands of entrenched patriarchal powers.
I get all kinds of crap from the senior supervisors. One of them grabbed my ass and I almost fell off the scaffold. — Construction worker LaFondra Brown
Women in the restaurant industry saddled with a sub-minimum wage and forced to rely on tips to survive have long endured heinous conditions specifically built straight into the economic system.
“The system actually forces women to tolerate whatever consumers might do to them because the consumer pays their bills and not the employer,” ROC-United Director Saru Jayaraman said at a 2014 City Hall rally aimed at revoking the sub-minimum. “And in states like New York that have a lower wage for tipped workers, management is three-times more likely to encourage these women to actually objectify themselves – show more cleavage, dress sexier – to get the income in tips.”
Two years ago, a newly-issued report found that 40 percent of fast food employees — mostly women of color — have been sexually harassed on the job.
“Sexual harassment is corrosive to an individual’s sense of safety,” Sonia Ossorio, president of the National Organization for Women, NY Chapter said at outside a Broadway McDonald’s in October, 2016. “We demand protection for workers. Whether it’s hardhats on a construction site…we have to demand an end to sexual harassment to protect people’s safety. It’s not just wrong — it’s illegal.”
Last week, fast food workers at McDonald’s in some 10 cities nationwide were still calling for an end to sexual harassment on the job when they held a headline-grabbing one-day strike.
And this week, Ley Tucker, an actor and office worker in the Financial District, told LaborPress why she joined others in walking out of her workplace on Monday in a show of solidarity with Kavenaugh’s accusers and the #BelieveSurvivors and #WhyIDidn’tReport campaigns.
“I felt it was necessary to stand with my fellow women and applaud Dr. Ford’s strength,” the young mother of one said.
In the face of all this sits Donald Trump — a man who, himself, stands accused of a series of sexual abuse charges stretching all the way back to the early 1980s.
Instead of, at the very least, acknowledging the devastation sexual harassment has had, and continues to have on women and girls in this country, the current POTUS Tweets, “I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents. I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time, and place!”
The #CountMeIn movement is calling on Stephen Ross to resign from his position on the NFL’s Social & Racial Justice Committee for his ongoing failure to address alleged sexual harassment on his development sites. Cries of “Step Down Steve” go up at all the rallies and could start yielding some tangible results. Isn’t it time for trade unionists everywhere to start shouting, “Step Down Don!”