By UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada
As we commemorate International Women’s Day today, working women around the world face sexual violence and harassment. They may be targeted in the workplace, on the street, or at home.
Wherever the violence occurs, sexual assault is a human rights issue and it’s a union issue, impacting the health, safety, dignity, and humanity of the (usually) female target and her male aggressor.
Gender-based violence is one of the most prevalent and tolerated human rights violations in the world. More than 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence or both, and between 40 and 50 percent of women experience unwanted sexual advances, physical contact or other forms of sexual harassment at work.
Violence against women is still one of the most under-reported and destructive problems of today’s workplace. It destroys lives and livelihoods. It damages workers and their families. It harms the reputation of businesses and it costs the economy billions of dollars.
As mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, and spouses who have daughters, sons, nieces and nephews, we union members know that sexual violence and harassment are issues that unions must keep fighting every day.
For decades, the UAW has taken a strong stand against sex discrimination. The union demanded equal treatment for women in its collective bargaining agreements long before it was legally required and rolled out a comprehensive member training program soon after sexual harassment was established as a form of sex discrimination in the early 1980s. Because unions are made up of people from the general population, our worksites have the same discrimination problems as society at large. That dynamic means our responsibility to fight sexual violence in all its forms is ongoing and requires us to find new tactics to address the problem in a meaningful way.
That’s why the UAW is proud to join the global campaign “Not in my union, not in my workplace” and work with hundreds of other international unions to help end gender-based violence at work and beyond. Coordinated by the global union federation IndustriALL, the campaign urges UAW members and members of other IndustriALL affiliates to pledge to help stop violence against women.
The need to address gender violence and harassment is urgent and the pledge is clear. To move one step forward toward our goal of violence- and harassment-free workplaces and spaces, we join IndustriALL affiliates around the world:
- To take a public stand against all forms of violence and harassment against women and to condemn all attitudes and actions that perpetuate sexism and violence.
- To take up the issue as a priority in our union and to allocate the necessary resources for activities aimed at preventing and combatting this violation of women’s rights.
- To foster a culture of respect for women within our union by raising the awareness of our members, staff and officials and providing education on the importance of eradicating violence and harassment in the workplace and in our union.
- To encourage our members to actively take a stand against violence and harassment against women, especially in their own workplaces.
- To organize campaigns aimed at preventing and combating violence against women.
- To demand that governments enact and enforce laws to protect women from violence.
- To demand that employers develop policies against all forms of violence and harassment at work, and promote awareness among their employees on the devastating impacts of violence against women and the importance of eradicating it.
- To demand that employers develop concrete policies and procedures to prevent and combat all forms of violence against women in their premises and supply chains, and establish safe mechanisms for women to turn to if they are assaulted or attacked at work.
- To include demands for the eradication of violence and harassment against women in our collective bargaining claims.
Taking the pledge will be easy. Keeping the pledge’s many individual promises will be harder. Sometimes it will be uncomfortable and unwelcome. But it will be worth it. So, please join me. #TakethePledge.
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