Low-Wage Workers Join ‘Our Turn’ to Stop Abuse

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Veronica Lagunas, a janitor in Los Angeles , reported an incident of stalking and harassment in her workplace and found herself transferred to another location while she says her abuser experienced no consequences.

Low-wage workers like Lagunas have joined with safety, labor, anti-violence and women’s rights advocates to announce the launch of “Our Turn” to eliminate sexual abuse and harassment on the job.

The new alliance seeks to put a special focus on low-wage and vulnerable workers, who include janitors, domestic workers, restaurant workers, hotel workers, poultry workers, and farmworkers. “It’s inspiring to see movie stars and media celebrities talk about the terrible incidents they have faced in their workplaces,” said Lagunas, a janitor in Los Angeles and a member of SEIU-United Service Workers West (USSW). “A lot of us who earn a regular paycheck face the same problems, like sexual assault and physical and verbal abuse. It’s our turn to unite and take action to stop the abuse and hold abusers accountable.”

In 2016, Lagunas  joined with advocates who successfully lobbied to pass legislation in California  requiring companies employing janitors and other property service workers to conduct in-person sexual violence and harassment prevention training for both workers and supervisors.

“Low-wage workers are fed up are saying: ‘We will not tolerate abuse as a condition of earning a living,’” said National COSH co-executive director Jessica Martinez. “This is a basic issue of workplace safety. Every worker – regardless of race, gender, income or sexual orientation – has a fundamental right to a workplace free from abuse and harassment.”

Our Turn is a sexual harassment action network that was convened by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH). The coalition is inviting the public and organizations to sign on and lend their support. Commitments include a pledge by participating organizations to support workplace, community and political organizing; advocate for laws and policies that protect workers and provide tools for prevention of abuse and harassment; elevate stories of workers who have fought back against abuse; and hold government agencies and employers accountable for harassment and violence in workplaces they oversee.

60% of women say they experience “unwanted sexual attention, sexual coercion, sexually crude conduct, or sexist comments” in the workplace.

“For far too long, sexual harassment and other forms of abuse have been rampant in workplaces of all kinds,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass). “I’m glad to stand side-by-side with working people committed to ending it.”


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