To say the #MeToo movement has dominated conversations about the workplace over the last year would be a huge understatement.
It has brought down the careers of high-profile actors, producers, journalists and more.
But there is a problem with the movement. While we are celebrating the takedown of the Harvey Weinsteins and the bravery of the Rose McGowans out there, we are ignoring a huge part of the problem.
The ability to speak out.
There are so many women in low wage jobs who experience harassment and are unable to speak out due to race, class and income mobility.
According to a recent study by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, sexual harassment happens more frequently in industries dominated by low-wage workers. They found that half of the women working in the restaurant industry experienced “scary” or “unwanted” sexual behaviour. Another study found that 40 per cent of women working in the fast-food industry has experienced unwanted sexual behaviours on the job.
In the restaurant industry, where servers rely on tips, men and women have to put up with a lot.
“This reliance [on customers for tips] makes them vulnerable to having to endure sexual harassment, really, as the price to be paid for a tip,” explained Kaitlyn Matulewicz in an interview with CBC News. She is an organizer and researcher with the workers’ rights advocacy organization
This can be made even worse for migrant workers, who often don’t have the ability to speak out against harassment.
Grace Vaccarelli is a human rights lawyer and pointed out in an interview with CBC News that ‘for migrant workers, confronting the boss can mean being sent back to their country of origin — and failing the family members back home who depend on their Canadian wages.’
Basically, they are left silent.
“You’re repatriated, you’re kicked out. No employer’s going to want you back, and the program may not want you, because you’re a complainer.”
When you are part of a union, you can reach out to a Shop Steward or Business Agent you feel comfortable sharing the issue with. If you are not yet a part of a union, calling one and finding out what your rights are is also an action you could take.
Trade unions are there to stand up for all of your rights as a worker and ensure that you are working in a safe and healthy work environment – that includes being free of sexual harassment in the workplace.