Blog | Sexual Harassment

Working People Stand Together Against Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment event

The AFL-CIO brought allies and union leaders together yesterday with the aim of ending sexual harassment in the workplace. When working people join together in union, we can listen to each other, mobilize our co-workers, speak with a unified voice and fight together to win justice in the workplace.

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler said, "Unions have an important role to play in ending sexual harassment because fighting for dignity and respect on the job is fundamental to the work we do in the labor movement."

The breadth and depth of today’s national focus gives us a new opportunity to fight for justice. Gender equity has been a labor issue for generations, but our movement acknowledges that we, too, have been part of the problem. Our union movement is determined to be part of the solution, which is why the AFL-CIO Executive Council and the AFL-CIO Working Women’s Committee came together with representatives from allied organizations for a real conversation about solutions.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said:

Together, we can create an America where every single person can work free from sexual harassment.

This meeting is so important. We need men and women working together to end sexual harassment in the workplace. And some of us are in positions of power to influence the culture in our organizations and workplaces. That’s right. I want to acknowledge my privilege.

I came from humble beginnings. And I’ve worked hard to get where I am today. But there is no denying I am a white man in a position of power. Social and cultural norms have been specifically enforced to benefit people like me.

When I go to work, I don’t have to worry about someone touching me inappropriately or judging me by what I’m wearing. I don’t have to live in fear of harassment or reprisal. When I speak with passion and conviction, no one calls me bossy.

Let me assert another hard truth.

Labor has been part of the problem.

The sexism and misogyny in our ranks has been tolerated for far too long. Some of you have personally experienced it. The looks. The comments. The innuendo.

This old boys’ club mentality must die, and it must die today.

Here is the good news: Labor is part of the solution.  

We are still the greatest force for social change in America.

We can combat sexism with solidarity. We can tear down misogyny with movement building. We can use our contracts to discourage bad behavior and punish bad actors....

No worker should be treated like a piece of property.

No one should be touched, bullied, harassed, assaulted or discriminated against on the job.

We must do everything in our power to protect working people from sexism, misogyny, racism, xenophobia, transphobia and homophobia. And we must hold abusers accountable.

Every single person who lives and works in America has the right to do so safely.

And we have a special responsibility to make that happen.

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