CLUW Commits to Broadening Fight Against Sexual Harassment on the Job

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

The Coalition of Labor Union Women is committing itself to broadening the fight against sexual harassment and exploitation on the job, a new statement on its website says.

That includes working with the National Women’s Law Center, the Restaurant Opportunities Center and other individual unions to spotlight the frequent sexual exploitation of woman workers in industries other than movies and politics, and use of power by supervisors at all levels.

“Sexual harassment is an expression of power and CLUW is committed to putting our collective power to fight for real and measurable progress,” the organization, an AFL-CIO affinity group, added.

CLUW’s decision came as two prominent woman labor leaders, Ai-Jen Poo of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and Saru Jayaraman, were at the Jan. 7 Golden Globes Awards – where empowering women to fight such exploitation was a major theme.

In solidarity with exploited women, and the #MeToo and #TIMESUP movements, all but three of the women at the Golden Globes wore black. 

The battle against exploitation was also the clarion call of Oprah Winfrey, who received a lifetime achievement award – ironically named for a racist movie director -- and gave a ringing address against exploitation that not only brought the house down, but started speculation that she might run for the Democratic U.S. presidential nomination in 2020.

“The final months of 2017 brought mass national attention to an issue which has plagued working women for decades, that of workplace sexual harassment and assault,” CLUW said. Jayaraman and Jen-Poo shone the spotlight on two low-paying, heavily female professions that feature rampant sexual exploitation: Domestic service and restaurant work.

 

That “broadens the conversation to the large number of industries where women are subjected to this type of workplace violence,” CLUW said. Then it suggested exploited women can use the National Women’s Law Center as one way to fight back.  

“The Time's Up Legal Defense Fund,” which the center runs, “will provide financial support for legal representation and public relations services for some individuals experiencing workplace sexual harassment or related retaliation,” CLUW explained.

While workplaces are now scenes of gender-based violence, they can also be sites for “building systems to protect survivors of abuse,” CLUW said. “Thanks largely to the brave women across industries who have been coming forward to boldly share their stories and seek justice,” including determined union women, “we could be in the middle of a welcome culture shift...The time is clearly ripe.”

CLUW also offered other paths for woman workers to take to combat sexual exploitation on the job. One is to “create channels for union members, union staff and others to report harassment quickly, before it escalates, without having to resort to formal mechanisms.”

“Most women who suffer sexual harassment are not interested in filing complaints or engaging in legal battles,” CLUW explained. “They just want the harassment to stop. Instead of forcing women into formal complaint mechanisms that put the onus on her to prove a case, unions should adopt informal resolution mechanisms to address the offensive conduct when it takes place. Women should be included in developing these resolution mechanisms.”

CLUW also warned unions they must “clean our own house,” and cited recent ousters of top male staffers and supervisors at the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees after female workers documented sexual exploitation and harassment.

Though CLUW did not say so, the federation acted just before its workers’ union filed a grievance over the harassment. And the SEIU official whom President Mary Kay Henry forced to quit led the “Fight for $15 and a Union” campaign – a drive benefiting low-wage, mostly female and often sexually harassed exploited workers. 

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Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work