Boston, MA (WorkersCompensation.com) - The Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH) joined a new alliance with janitors, factory workers, farmworkers and other low-wage workers to launch of “Our Turn,” a new alliance to put a halt to sexual abuse and harassment, with a special focus on low-wage and vulnerable workers.
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, over 50% of women report having experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. In a recent MassCOSH conducted study of 58 Latina workers, MassCOSH not only found that all of them had experience some kind of sexual harassment or bullying, but also felt unable to speak out about these injustices for fear of retaliation.
“Unfortunately, any gains made as a result of the #metoo movement have almost been cancelled out for immigrant workers because of the current political and anti-immigrant climate,” said Jodi Sugermn-Brozan, Executive Director of MassCOSH. “Whether it is their documentation status or the need for the job to support their families, these women feel stuck. That is why we are proud to join a movement focused on raising the voices of vulnerable workers and immigrant workers against sexual harassment.”
Our Turn will unite workers, community allies and organizations across the country who are fighting for – and winning – new protections against abuse and harassment in union contracts, state laws, municipal ordinances, and company policies.
“The Our Turn is a much needed and long overdue network resource for vulnerable workers who experience high rates of sexual harassment at work,” said Roxana Rivera, Vice President of 32BJ SEIU, the largest property service union in the country which has been advocating on behalf of Logan Airport workers who have experienced sexual harassment on the job. “From airport workers to janitors, low-wage workers in particular are facing sexual harassment on the job at higher rates, but are often scared to speak up because of the economic impact it could have on their families. It is indeed workers' turn to have the attention and resources needed to address the pervasive sexual harassment within their industries.”
Our Turn was convened by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH), the nation's leading grassroots advocate for workplace safety. Following a kickoff Assembly earlier this month, attended by more than 100 impacted workers and organizations, over 100 additional organizations and individuals have already signed on to the Our Turn “Commitment to Unity and Action,” including U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards. Our Turn founding members are inviting the public and organizations to sign on and lend their support by visiting the website, OurTurnatWork.org.
“For far too long, sexual harassment and other forms of abuse have been rampant in workplaces of all kinds,” said Senator Warren. “I'm glad to stand side-by-side with working people committed to ending it.”
The Our Turn steering committee includes representatives from advocacy groups, labor unions, women's organizations, and community-based organizations. Commitments include a pledge by participating organizations to:
Support workplace, community, and political organizing;
Advocate for laws and policies that protect workers and provide tools for prevention of abuse and harassment;
Elevate stories of workers who have fought back against abuse;
Hold government agencies and employers accountable for harassment and violence in workplaces they oversee.
“Low-wage workers are fed up are saying loud and clear, ‘We will not tolerate abuse as a condition of earning a living,'” said National COSH co-executive director Jessica Martinez. “This is a basic issue of workplace safety. Every worker – regardless of race, gender, income or sexual orientation – has a fundamental right to a workplace free from abuse and harassment.”
The Our Turn initiative, said Martinez, will build on the decades of experience engaging workers as leaders, united with labor and community allies, in organizing and winning critical safety protections in workplaces and public policy arenas across the country. The new coalition will mobilize members and allies to promote workplace organizing, legislative advocacy, and hands-on training and also serve as a national clearinghouse for best practices and policies to prevent workplace sexual violence and abuse.