Workplaces of Respect
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Workplaces of Respect

#MeToo and the Power of Solidarity

By Susan Siemens, Ontario Representative

In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, the social media world has rallied in solidarity over the now infamous #MeToo campaign.

If you haven’t heard about the campaign, it’s an invitation for people to post this hashtag as their status if they’ve ever been sexually abused, raped, sexually harassed, or assaulted, as a way to show the magnitude of this often unspoken problem.

Sadly, I wasn’t surprised at the huge number of #MeToo statuses that appeared on my Facebook feed in the last several days, mine included. What has been the most impactful part of this campaign for me is the unthinkable stories that people have finally been able to share, prompted by this simple act of online solidarity. It is both encouraging and tragic to see.

What strikes me about the Harvey Weinstein scandal is that it is a workplace story. While most of us cannot relate to the experience of a Hollywood actor, we are familiar with the common story of men in the position of power exploiting those who work with and for him. A few days after the Weinstein story broke, a similar campaign called #MyHarveyWeinstein encouraged people to share their own experiences of sexual harassment in the workplace, and the stories came in abundance.

As a representative for CLAC, helping to create and maintain workplaces of respect has become increasingly important. In workplaces where this is not the goal, there are inevitably more grievances, terminations, resignations—and I’m sure much more that I don’t get to see or hear about.

Recently, I sat with a stewards’ committee from a healthcare facility that I represent, and they recounted the daily experiences they have with a particular resident. They told stories of inappropriate comments he would make about their bodies, innuendos he made as they were bathing him, and things he would ask them to do for him while giving personal care.

Somehow, they had come to see this as acceptable and laughed it off because it was “part of their job” and he was just an older, lonely resident. They had become accepting of this behaviour for years, and never thought anything of it.

I’ve heard anecdotally from colleagues about women trying to succeed in male-dominated workplaces, and the unique challenges they can face from prevailing attitudes about women in their workforce.

It’s not just about sexual harassment, though. The Harvey Weinstein story, if nothing else, gives us the opportunity to think about the ways we are creating or contributing to environments where people can feel empowered and safe to share their experiences, without fear of repercussion or being dismissed by others as dramatic or too sensitive.

The #MeToo campaign gives us the opportunity to think about the power of solidarity and raising our voices together. If you are someone who has never experienced sexual violence, harassment, or have never been victimized in any way, you now have the opportunity to think about ways in which you can be an ally: listen to and believe victims, and call out your friends and co-workers for inappropriate comments, gossip, and disrespectful language.

I hope that our members hold CLAC to the highest possible standard when it comes achieving workplaces of dignity and respect, and that all of our workplaces would be free from harassment of any kind.

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