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Workers, Safety, Labor and Women’s Groups Say It’s “Our Turn"

Tuesday, June 26, 2018
Press Contacts: 

Roger Kerson, roger@nationalcosh.org, 734.645.0535

San Diego – Janitors, factory workers, farmworkers and other low-wage workers joined with safety, labor, anti-violence and women’s rights advocates to announce today the launch of “Our Turn,” a new alliance to put a halt to sexual abuse and harassment, with a special focus on low-wage and vulnerable workers.

“It’s inspiring to see movie stars and media celebrities talk about the terrible incidents they have faced in their workplaces,” said Veronica 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.”

Our Turn will unite workers, community allies and organizations across the country who are fighting –and winning – new protections against abuse and harassment in union contracts, state laws, municipal ordinances and company policies.

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

Our Turn was convened by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH), the nation’s leading grassroots advocate for workplace safety.  Following a kickoff Assembly earlier this month, attended by impacted workers and organizations,  more than 100 organizations and individuals have already signed on to the Our TurnCommitment to Unity and Action.”  Our Turn founding members are inviting the public and organizations to sign on and lend their support by visiting the website, OurTurnatWork.org.

Lagunas reported an incident of stalking and harassment in her workplace and found herself transferred to another location while her abuser experienced no consequences.  She joined with advocates who successfully lobbied to pass legislation in California in 2016 requiring companies employing janitors and other property service workers to conduct in- person sexual violence and harassment prevention training for workers and supervisors.

The Our Turn steering committee includes representatives from COSH groups, labor unions, women’s organizations, and community-based organizations.  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;
  • Hold government agencies and employers accountable for harassment and violence in workplaces they oversee.

“The movement to end sexual violence is growing – and Our Turn brings together workers’ rights, women’s rights, and anti-violence organizations to support survivors and workers in taking back their workplaces,” said Linda Seabrook, General Counsel and Director of Workplace Safety & Equity for Futures Without Violence, a national social justice organization dedicated to ending violence against women. “We need to assist survivors of sexual harassment and violence -- and all workers -- as they advocate for lasting changes to workplace culture.”

"Workplace sexual harassment is a pervasive problem in nearly every industry and occupation. Through the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, we have heard from thousands of women confirming that this systemic problem needs systemic solutions,” said Emily Martin, General Counsel and Vice President for Education and Workplace Justice at the National Women’s Law Center, which houses and administers the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund through its subsidiary, the National Women's Law Center Fund LLC. “The Time's Up Legal Defense Fund connects survivors of workplace sexual harassment to legal resources so that they can hold offenders accountable. But we also need to prevent harassment and abuse in the first place. Our Turn promises to create new tools to share strategies to change workplace policies and culture, strengthen our laws, and support workplace, community and political organizing."

“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.”

The Our Turn initiative, said Martinez, will build on the decades of experience engaging workers as leaders, united with labor and community allies, in organizing and winning critical safety protections in workplaces and public policy arenas across the country.  The new coalition will mobilize members and allies to promote workplace organizing, legislative advocacy and hands-on training, and also serve as a national clearinghouse for best practices and policies to prevent workplace sexual violence and abuse.

For more information, visit OurTurnatWork.org.  The Our Turn pledge is available at http://coshnetwork.org/our-turn-pledge

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National COSH links the efforts of local worker health and safety coalitions in communities across the United States, advocating for elimination of preventable hazards in the workplace. For more information, please visit coshnetwork.org.  Follow us at National Council for Occupational Safety and Health on Facebook, and @NationalCOSH on Twitter.