Published on March 4, 2014
Labor Movement Meets Women’s Rights By Craig Leedham February 27, 2014 Women in the labor movement are beginning to tackle longstanding problems in the workplace. Among these are paid sick days and sustainable care-‐giving models. More importantly, they are gathering support for these movements at unheard of rates with explosive organizing models. Women in the workplace justice campaigns will keep the women’s movement traveling forward, rather than stalling. Both movements, the women’s movement and the labor movement, could benefit from having more women in the leadership. Combining these two movements for the sole purpose of abolishing rape and sexual assault in the workplace could have a tremendous outcome. The combined power will open up avenues for marginalized voices, broaden the anti-‐rape movement to include economic justice issues, and reframe the anti-‐rape movement under the eye of labor. This alliance is beginning already. For the past year the Coalition Against Workplace Sexual Violence (CAWSV) and Rape Victim Advocates met once a month in Chicago. Labor organizers in Chicago, like the Chicago Coalition of Household Workers, the Latino Union, ARISE-‐Chicago, and Centro de Trabajadores Unidos have been meeting with anti-‐rape activists and government officials to connect the anti-‐rape and labor movements with conversation, collaborative education for workers and activists, and resource sharing. When the Coalition Against Workplace Sexual Violence (CAWSV) was founded they were very fervent in their desire to bring attention to sexual violence towards their members at work and at home. In the beginning it was just a place to share
resources and referrals to other organizations for help. Slowly they began to form strong relationships with other anti-‐rape organizations and with them created a forty-‐page curriculum on workplace sexual violence. They launched the curriculum last year in the offices of the Latino Union. Feedback from the launch was mixed, some very positive, and other felt like they needed to do more. The launch promoted discussion between the women’s rights and labor advocates as they worked out what the real goal of the program was. Was it to educate workers about workplace sexual violence so they could take preventative action or was it to offer a place of healing for survivors? Could they do both? Both organizations ultimately agreed to work on the healing and empowerment of survivors while showing respect for the ideas and concerns of their cross movement counterparts. The combined powers of women’s rights and labor advocates has helped to combat the problems of sex inequality and sexual violence against low wage workers. The energy and speed with which the labor movement has been operating is now infiltrating rape crisis centers and spreading the word. The key to the whole movement is the more empowered the worker, the less likely they are to put up with sexual violence. Craig Leedham currently resides in San Diego, CA. His professional career spans work in academic research and sociology, as well as professional experience in applied research and organized labor. Leedham co-‐authored three editions of a leading undergraduate textbook in sociology, as well as applying his academic interests in social movements and social research in a number of professional contexts that include work with state government in Washington, two research universities (Colorado State University and Arizona State University), and numerous education labor associations.
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