Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Posts Tagged ‘ILO’

Ending Gender-Based Violence and Harassment in the World of Work

Monday, May 28th, 2018

No one should have to risk their safety or dignity to put food on the table. Yet every day, workers around the world are subjected to sexual harassment and other forms of gender-based violence. On Monday, May 28, workers, employers and governments will come together at the International Labor Organization to discuss a new global standard on violence and harassment in the world of work. This is the culmination of more than a decade of advocacy by the global labor movement. It’s an exciting opportunity to create a binding international agreement to end gender-based violence and harassment in the workplace.

The AFL-CIO, together with partners from around the world, will be on the ground pushing for a binding convention that empowers workers to take collective action to build safe, respectful workplaces. You can follow the action on our Facebook and Twitter accounts, and check out our partners at the Solidarity Center (@SolidarityCntr) and the International Trade Union Confederation (@ITUC).

Why use the term gender-based violence and harassment?

In the United States, the law protects against sex-based discrimination, including sexual harassment, and public conversations generally use these terms as well. Often, sex and gender are used interchangeably. However, there is an important distinction between the two: a person’s sex is tied to their inherent biological characteristics. Gender, on the other hand, is a social construct built around norms, expectations and stereotypes about what it means to be a man or a woman.

In the U.S., and indeed throughout much of the world, there is an entrenched, gendered power hierarchy that values men and a rigid definition of masculinity. The term gender-based violence and harassment reflects this inherent power imbalance. It recognizes the link between the gendered violence that occurs in society at large and the devaluation of women in the workplace. Both are tied to the way people are socialized, and particularly how men are socialized to feel entitled to women’s bodies and to expect deference and compliance. Every social actor has a role to play in breaking down these harmful stereotypes and creating equitable, respectful communities—and when it comes to addressing how this issue plays out in the workplace, unions have an unique and powerful role to play.

How do unions help stop gender-based violence and harassment?

Unions have a critical role to play in ending gender-based violence and harassment. At base, gender-based violence in the world of work—including unwanted touching, sexual comments, requests for sexual favors and even sexual assault—is not about sex, but about power. Unions are dedicated to shifting power relationships and creating more equitable and fair workplaces. Workers, particularly those who have been subjected to mistreatment, must be empowered to take collective action to enact solutions and demand justice.

Economic insecurity, particularly precarious and low-wage employment, makes workers more vulnerable to harassment. Women comprise the majority of part-time and temporary workers in the United States and most of the world, as well as the majority of low-paid workers and those making minimum wage. Many of these workers live paycheck to paycheck and cannot afford even a brief break in employment, making them less likely to report abuse. Precarious work arrangements, like subcontracting or other contingent arrangements, decrease oversight and accountability. Confronting violence and harassment at work requires addressing the underlying conditions that drive abuse—including worker organizing to win living wages, job security and protection from retaliation.

This blog was originally published at AFL-CIO on May 25, 2018. Reprinted with permission. 

About the Author: Cassandra Waters is the global worker rights specialist at the AFL-CIO.

More Than 6 Million Americans Who Want Full-Time Jobs Are Stuck Working Part-Time

Monday, December 12th, 2016

The recovery from the Great Recession has been long, slow and steady. But it has also contributed unexpectedly to an increase in involuntary part-time work, which needs new regulation to protect workers from abuse, according to a new study released this week by the Economic Policy Institute.

Author Lonnie Golden finds that voluntary part-time work has remained more or less stable since 2007, around the start of the recession. But involuntary part-time work has increased by about 18 times the rate of growth of all work, and five times faster than part-time work. Currently, some 6.4 million Americans who want full-time jobs are stuck working part-time hours, according to Golden.

“The increase is almost entirely due to the inability of workers to find full-time jobs, leaving many workers to take or keep lower-paying jobs with less consistent hours to make ends meet,” he says. “In several industries, relying more on part-time work seems to have become the ‘new normal.’”

Employers often play it cautious after a recession, waiting to restore full-time jobs and hiring more part-timers as their businesses pick up. But, as Golden points out in his study, the recession isn’t responsible for the rise in involuntary part-time work. Structural shifts are almost entirely at play in this change in employment.

Golden argues that such an expansion represents a change in the long-term strategy of businesses in four key sectors of the economy, specifically, retail trade, leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, and educational and health services.

He reports that about 54 percent of the growth of involuntary part-time employment since 2007 comes from retail and leisure and hospitality, while the remainder of the growth mostly stems from the other two types of industries.

Involuntary part-time workers are about equally men and women, but workers in other demographic groups—black, Hispanic and prime-age workers, for example—more commonly suffer from not being able to find full-time jobs.

Notably, Golden found no evidence that the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate caused the rise in involuntary part-time work.

Involuntary part-time workers usually work about half the hours of full-timers, get lower rates of pay per hour and fewer, if any, benefits. Workers at fast-food chains and other employers that rely extensively on part-timers also report that managers often reward or punish workers by adjusting the number of hours they are given. Such irregular scheduling of involuntary part-time work can disrupt family life. On the other hand, if workers have control over their schedules, such variation is one of the principal appeals of part-time work.

Golden reports that some experiments in public policy suggest a way of regulating part-time work to improve the prospects for part-time employees. One approach used in many countries and recommended by the International Labor Organization (ILO) is to require employers to provide part-timers the benefits of full-time workers, prorated to the hours they work. The ILO recommends setting minimum standards for hours of work, as the Washington, D.C., city council did recently for janitors in large commercial buildings.

Following the lead of legislation such as San Francisco’s “Predictable Scheduling and Fair Treatment” ordinance, states and cities could enact rules giving part-time workers a right of first refusal if additional hours of work become available. Golden also recommends adjusting unemployment insurance to make sure that part-timers can benefit.

In the end, he argues, part-time work needs to make sense for workers at least as much as it does for employers.

“Although there has been a structural shift toward involuntary part-time labor, we can address it with specific policy solutions that will help workers,” Golden says. “We should use every tool in our toolbox to further the economic recovery and help benefit millions of workers with more stable, better-paying job opportunities.”

This blog was originally posted on In These Times on December 7, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

David Moberg, a senior editor of In These Times, has been on the staff of the magazine since it began publishing in 1976. Before joining In These Times, he completed his work for a Ph.D. in anthropology at the University of Chicago and worked for Newsweek. He has received fellowships from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Nation Institute for research on the new global economy. He can be reached at davidmoberg@inthesetimes.com.

 

G8 Union Leaders Issue Urgent Call to Tackle Jobs Crisis

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

The global union movement is issuing an urgent call for the leaders of the Group of Eight nations to tackle the deepening jobs crisis at their summit meeting in L’Aquila, Italy, next month.

The leaders must develop a coordinated and jobs-orientated international recovery and sustainable growth plan that focuses on creating good jobs and re-regulating the global financial system, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney told a gathering of G8 union leaders today in Rome.

 The global economy continues to deteriorate at an unprecedented rate.  Workers around the world—who are the innocent victims of this crisis—are losing their jobs and incomes.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) predicts that unemployment is likely to increase by up to 59 million worldwide by the end of 2009. Unemployment in the G8 countries—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, United Kingdom and United States—is likely to almost double over the next 18 months, according to the ILO. At the same time, more than 200 million workers could be pushed into extreme poverty, lifting the number of working poor to 1.4 billion.

Earlier this week, President John Sweeney and the union leaders of the world’s top economies outlined a plan to stimulate the global economy. Click here to read more about that plan.

When the global economic crisis is over, said Sweeney, the G8 leaders must ensure there is no return to “business as usual.”

While this crisis was caused by global economic imbalances and financial speculation, it was underpinned by the lack of effective economic regulation over preceding decades. Rather than planning “exit strategies” that are a more brutal version of failed past policies, there is a need to establish a new model of economic development that is stronger and more efficient, socially just and environmentally sustainable.

And this time, workers’ views should be represented in the plan, Sweeney said.

Trade unions and the workers we represent have no confidence that this time governments and bankers alone will get it right.  We are asking for a seat at the table.

About the Author: James Parks’ first encounter with unions was at Gannett’s newspaper in Cincinnati when his colleagues in the newsroom tried to organize a unit of The Newspaper Guild. He saw firsthand how companies pull out all the stops to prevent workers from forming a union. Parks is a journalist by trade, and worked for newspapers in five different states before joining the AFL-CIO staff in 1990. He also has been a seminary student, drug counselor, community organizer, event planner, adjunct college professor and county bureaucrat. His proudest career moment, though, was when he served, along with other union members and staff, as an official observer for South Africa’s first multiracial elections.

This article originally appeared in AFL-CIO Now on June 26, 2009. Re-printed with permission by the author.

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