#MeToo Legislation Leads the Way with Help from Unions

The #MeToo movement has empowered women (and men) from all walks of life to speak out against the sexual harassment they’ve endured. The movement originally rose to prominence in the wake of the inescapable headlines revealing the trauma and abuse workers were enduring in Hollywood. But unfortunately, those silence breakers are only a fraction of working people suffering day to day from abuses on the job.

Most victims of sexual assault do not have access to a public platform. In fact, many suffer in silence, terrified of the consequences they may endure for speaking out. This is especially true for low-wage workers who are vulnerable to exploitation. Historically, unions have been the strongest advocate for vulnerable workers in all industries. This year, unions made it a priority to protect all California workers from these abuses.

Unions were on the frontline for working people in the Capitol this legislative session to ensure that the #MeToo movement gives all women a voice no matter their industry or socioeconomic status. Unions successfully pushed groundbreaking legislation protecting workers against sexual harassment and other abuses on the job.

Jennifer Beuthin writes in The OC Register:

“Over the Labor Day weekend, the California Labor Federation’s legislative director tweeted a host of legislative victories this year alone that resulted from workers standing together in their unions. Many of these advancements would provide tangible and real protections for all workers against harassment and discrimination called out in the #metoo movement.”

Our bills are incredibly vital in the fight against sexual assault in the workplace and with an upsurge in forced arbitration across the country, bills like AB3080 (Gonzalez Fletcher) are both groundbreaking and absolutely necessary to protect California workers.

Alexia Campbell and Alvin Change wrote in Vox:

“The rise of mandatory arbitration has made it nearly impossible for workers to seek legal justice for wage theft, overtime violations, and job discrimination. This secretive system also has the potential to hamper the #MeToo movement. Women are coming forward, often for the first time, with stories of widespread sexual harassment at work, only to discover that they’ve been shut out of the court system because they signed an arbitration agreement.”

In the era of #MeToo and #TimesUp holding harassers accountable, California can’t miss the opportunity to lead on this important issue. That is exactly why unions have been the key drivers on the critical issue of workplace sexual harassment. Here’s a list of legislation on sexual harassment that unions have pushed to pass:

AB 3080 (Gonzalez Fletcher): One of the most important #MeToo bills in the country, AB 3080 protects working women and all workers against a host of abuses including sexual harassment and wage theft by barring employers from forcing workers to sign rigged arbitration agreements as a condition of employment.

AB 3081 (Gonzalez Fletcher): Joint liability for companies using temp or contract workers when workers are harassed and creates a presumption of retaliation when workers are fired after reporting sexual harassment.

AB 3082 (Gonzalez Fletcher): Creates training materials and data collection to address sexual harassment of homecare workers.

AB 2713 (Rodriguez): Creates an annual public report about sexual harassment complaints in state agencies.

SB 1223 (Galgiani): Creates a construction industry specific training and prevention program to stop sexual harassment and discrimination.

AB 2358 (Carillo): Creates protocols for training, prevention, and handling of discrimination and harassment claims in apprenticeship programs and allows unions to deny apprentices to employers who do not protect them from harassment or discrimination.

AB 2079 (Gonzalez Fletcher): Creates an advisory committee to prevent sexual violence and harassment in the janitorial industry, including peer to peer training.

We’ve made incredible progress, but the fight is far from over. These bills are on the governor’s desk but have yet to be signed. We’ll continue pushing for these measures to become law and exploring other options to create a safe workplace for all working people. We urge Governor Brown to sign these critical bills without delay to offer much-needed protection to workers.