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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.