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Est. April 5, 2002
December 07, 2017 - Issue 721

Are Only Celebrity
Sexual Harassment Cases
Worth Covering?


"The 'leader of the free world' has
been accused of sexual predations by
multiple women and has not had to answer
for any of the charges.  Meantime, other
celebrities have lost their jobs and their
positions and their potential increasing wealth. 
Trump has gotten off scot free.  Why is that?"

From Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas, to Roy Moore and his child dalliances, there are sexual harassment and assault cases being covered by news media across the nation at breakneck pace, but one thing seems to be necessary for coverage: It must involve celebrities.

It’s right that so much publicity is being given to all the allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault, because the position of power of the perpetrators over the victims is one of the imbalances in any workplace that must be dealt with, no matter what the workplace and no matter where it occurs.

A factor in the recent revelations of sexual predation is that it was taken as almost a given that such goings-on happened, especially among the rich and famous. “That’s the way the men (boys) are” is the attitude that seems to pervade workplaces in the upper echelons of the income brackets. Even if the victims are not rich and powerful, the perpetrators are. They are the ones that the trade papers write about and the television entertainment networks feature them daily.

The flurry of big names who have bit the dust, occupationally speaking, is one small move to try to address such a long-standing and serious problem, but it only starts to chip away at the problem among powerless women (and some men) in all kinds of jobs and workplaces. What has happened in all the publicity is that women have been encouraged to come forth with their stories of abuse or attempts at abuse and they are increasingly unafraid to do so. It is a small start, but it is a start.

Many of the women who have come forth in recent weeks have been reluctant to go public, in some cases for many years, for many reasons, including: naivete, youth, fear of losing a job or promotion, fear of disrupting the operation of the workplace, fear of being blacklisted, or just plain fear of the perpetrator. Some dismiss the issue as “business as usual” and that, in the high-powered world of entertainment and sports, most of the finances of which deal in the hundreds of millions or billions of dollars, and there is bound to be some exercise of that power at some time and some place. In the minds of many, everyone wants to get in on the act, so “that’s what happens…”

Now that the dam has been breached, there will be more women to be heard from and, even though behaviors will change to some degree, the powerful will not likely be chastened and there will have to be some element of fear in the hearts of the powerful. It may be there already.

But, what of the women who do not warrant two minutes on the nightly news? There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions of them, and they face sexual harassment and worse every day of their working lives. Whether it’s field and farm workers, domestic workers, low wage workers in retail, restaurant workers, or any other line of work, they face the same kind of indignities and suffering. They do not keep quiet because of the same fears of those who work with the rich and famous. They do it because they have a desperate need to put food on the table for their children.

In their case, the abuser is not likely to be anyone with wealth or power. Rather, it would be someone who has been given power over the worker by the rich and powerful. They believe themselves to be the surrogates of those with bags of money and, therefore, assume the “privileges” of those who rule. This kind of arrangement can be devastating in farm work or warehouse work or any other kind of low-paid employment. For many of these women, the threat of losing a job can be the difference of regular meals for their children. The job, however low paid, can be the difference between taking a child to a doctor or letting the sickness run its course. It’s a hard decision for a woman. For untold numbers of women workers, it is a constant battle, fending off aggressors who hold the key to their keeping the job, but knowing in the end that they likely will have to accept their fate---feed the kids and lose any semblance of human dignity.

Who is publicizing their plight? There is very little interest in the women who toil in such workplaces, because the readers or viewers are not much interested in hearing their stories. In the case of workplace harassment in the low wage sector, racism probably plays a role, but it is more likely to be classism that does it in most places. Just as racism allows the powerful to see minorities as lesser people, classism allows them to see anyone to be less than human and, therefore, subject to any kind of treatment, including unwanted sexual attention. Who is coming to the defense of this untold number of women workers?

The free press does not give this problem much coverage. If it did, it would have to start covering the conditions of labor of all low wage women: A livable wage, health care for them and their families, decent housing, education for the family, and decent food on the table for all. If news outlets started covering these things, the right-wing would be apoplectic and charge that they were showing their “liberal” bias, so it’s not hard to see why this is not covered.

And, the government is not going to do much about this for the working poor. At all levels, government has not done its job and it’s not likely to do much, especially since the “leader of the free world” has been accused of sexual predations by multiple women and has not had to answer for any of the charges. Meantime, other celebrities have lost their jobs and their positions and their potential increasing wealth. Trump has gotten off scot free. Why is that? On the contrary, Roy Moore, who is leading his Democratic opponent for an Alabama U.S. Senate seat, has been accused of sexual harassment or assault involving underage girls, but the voters in that state are giving him a pass, especially since Trump has seen fit to give another sexual predator his support and endorsement. Because of that, the Republican National Committee has thrown its support to Moore and with that, it is to be assumed, will go political and financial support. Some example for the young people of America.

At the same time the Republicans are doubling down on support for Moore and what he and Trump stand for, the party has secretly written and adopted a tax reform that will see the middle class and working class pay more in taxes for the next 10 years, while the top 1 percent will reap a tax windfall of millions of dollars that they don’t need. The things that would make working women stronger in the workplace and able to defeat sexual abuse are taken from them: A livable wage, fully funded health care, child care, paid family leave, paid vacation, pre-K education and more. The GOP is busy taking these things away, because the rich need that second yacht.

Most of the victims of sexual harassment and rape in the low-income workplaces of America become victims because they feel they have few rights or no rights. One answer to achieving rights on the job is a union contract and, to get one, that workplace needs a union. Unions give workers rights on the job that are clearly spelled out and the contract makes it clear that one will not be fired for refusing sexual advances from anyone, including managers or other bosses with supervisory authority over the worker.

Capital has made an unremitting assault on unions and the labor movement for at least a half-century, and it has been successful. The result is that there are relatively few workplaces that have a union contract in 2017. Although it wasn’t the primary reason that Corporate America and its politicians have been slowly killing the union movement, among the sure losers are the low-wage women workers who are less able to stand up for their rights and ward off unwanted attention or assault without fear of losing their jobs. Unions work because solidarity works. Columnist, John Funiciello, is a long-time former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Contact Mr. Funiciello and BC.




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Executive Editor:
David A. Love, JD
Managing Editor:
Nancy Littlefield, MBA
Peter Gamble

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