will be publicly humiliated, no matter how fancy you are,
no matter how well dressed, well educated, and poised you
are. And I thought, “I could never do what Anita did.” ...
Sometimes—especially through the media and the conversation that we have been having—there is an impression,
given that these are issues that women in tech face, these
are issues that high-wage workers face, and that this is an
issue of white women in entertainment. But we really also
have to recognize that we still continue to see the largest
segment of victims to be low-wage workers who have the
least ability to bring these issues forward.
Eastern Washington has some of the largest farms in the
state and the conditions of the workers can sometimes be
conditions of work
are very controlled
by the supervisors.
People live in small
communities where, if
they come forward and
speak up, the backlash
comes in so many different forms. Women,
by telling their truth
or their situation, become an object of observation. Suddenly,
everybody knows this intimate trauma that the women have
Their community is aware of this. If they’re married, that
carries its own set of circumstances, and shame most of the
time. Relatives, sometimes, are also in supervisory positions.
So they don’t want to get involved because they don’t want to
have repercussions in their own job positions. So they [would]
rather not talk about it, not discuss it, not acknowledge it. So
the woman’s place, and her testimony, or her claims, sometimes have no external support.
We want to create a hotline so people have a very direct
way to communicate their complaints, staffed by a person
who is bilingual—Spanish and English to begin with—but we
also recognize that there are women from other nationalities
and language needs that possibly could be addressed in
the future. And as we talk about women, and farm-worker
women, I also want to mention that another segment of
population that is often overlooked is domestic workers.
Women who work in private homes are very invisible to
the rest of society and, unfortunately, there’s a lot of abuse
that occurs behind those closed doors. Sometimes it’s
[abuse] that we would say, how can that even happen here?
"We talk about #MeToo, and the
movement as if it’s a monolith,
and it’s not."
JAMAL N. WHITEHEAD
My mom is a domestic worker in Chicago and she has a lot
of friends who are undocumented, and the conditions under
which they work are horrendous.
My mom [has had] to sneak phones to her friends behind a
fence so the women could have contact with the outside world.
If the employer says you’re not going anywhere, and they lock
the doors, the women have absolutely no way to get the help
or the assistance they need. So that’s another segment of the
population that we don’t acknowledge, or talk about, but they
are incredibly isolated.
My mom tried to join labor unions, and tried to reach out
to organizations to get help for some of her friends, and it was
incredibly difficult. The language was a barrier.
Farm workers sometimes live in the farms where it’s completely
controlled by the employer. The farmer provides the housing,
the farmer provides the food, so people are not even allowed to
go themselves to the store, but there [are] buses that take them
to the store and bring
them back. So it’s a very
I’m going to transition
into Jamal. I know
you’ve also had expe-
rience with sex-abuse
cases with farm workers,
So a plaintiff’s attorney would, generally (for our community
members who are not legal practitioners) would be a lawyer
who would be in private practice that you would bring your
issue to, and the plaintiff represents the employee. What is it
going to take to be a plaintiff?
Also talk about the benefits and negativities of class action.
How do we pull communities around the plaintiff?
JAMAL N. WHITEHEAD:
This is a really important issue, and there’s a real public reckoning that’s taking place right now around sexual harassment,
in that harassers are being called to account. But it’s not as if
sexual harassment or these issues are at all new. We all know
that this has been a pervasive issue for a very long time. I look
at the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Title VII, which outlaws
discrimination on the basis of sex.
You’ve got Supreme Court cases in the late-70s [and] in the
mid-80s, outlawing the creation of a hostile work environment
on the basis of sex. So the question then becomes what is it
about this moment that things have gained such traction? … I’m
thankful that we’ve gotten to a place where people are coming