NY Times editorial on ending sexual harassment: “14 businesses are part of the [Fair Food] Program; many more should join.”

New York Times editorial board asks, “Has America at last reached a turning point on sexual harassment?”; 

Editorial singles out CIW’s Fair Food Program as national model for “how to change the culture” of sexual harassment in the workplace;

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg: “If you know something is happening and you fail to take action, whether you are a man or a woman — especially when you are in power — you are responsible, too.”

In an extraordinary editorial, the Sunday New York Times took on the issue of sexual harassment, examining its explosive surge into the national conversation, its deep cultural, economic, and legal roots, and possible solutions to the longstanding scourge of workplaces across the country.  And in the process, the Times editorial board singled out the CIW’s Fair Food Program as a model for “foster(ing) work environments where women feel safe and men feel obliged to report sexual harassment.”

After beginning with a discussion of the current wave of awareness sweeping the country, the editorial noted that this is not the first time that sexual harassment has dominated the national news, lamenting that past “opportunities to change America’s endemic culture of sexual harassment,” have been “lost or swept away.”  It then poses the questions that frames the remainder of the editorial:

How do we keep that from happening again?

And how do we ensure that progress filters down to average American workplaces, where sexual harassment occurs all the time but rarely gets media attention?  The answer is part cultural, part economic and part legal.

And that is where the editorial turns to the Fair Food Program as a model for lasting, measurable change:

HOW TO CHANGE THE CULTURE  The key is to foster work environments where women feel safe and men feel obliged to report sexual harassment. “People need to be afraid not just of doing these things, but also of not doing anything when someone around them does it,” Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, told The Times’s Nicholas Kristof last week. “If you know something is happening and you fail to take action, whether you are a man or a woman — especially when you are in power — you are responsible, too.”

But speaking up only goes so far if employers don’t make reporting harassment easy or the consequences for harassers swift and clear. Treating sexual harassment seriously is essential, not to protect against liability or to safeguard the bottom line, but because it’s wrong for anyone to have to endure harassment at work. (Though it sure helps when liability and the bottom line are at stake, too.)

Some of the nation’s largest companies are moving in the right direction. For example, McDonald’s, Burger King, Aramark and Walmart have signed on to a program requiring their tomato growers to adhere to a code of conduct that prohibits sexual harassment and assault of farmworkers, and provides a clear system for the growers’ 30,000 workers to file complaints. Fourteen businesses are part of the program; many more should join.

The editorial is a bold, in-depth exploration of a longstanding social ill, and of the urgent need to make this “the year when the tide finally turned on sexual harassment.”  You can find it in its entirety here.

We will return to this editorial and its significance in the context of the Campaign for Fair Food in a future post.  But for now we will leave you with two tweets by friends of the Fair Food Program that capture two key concepts to emerge from the editorial. 

The first is by Susan Marquis, Dean of the Pardee RAND Graduate School and author of a new book on the CIW, “I Am Not a Tractor: How Florida Farmworkers Took on the Fast Food Giants and Won,” to be published this fall by Cornell University Press:

 

The second is by the SWLA Abolitionists, an “anti-human trafficking group that helps fight trafficking in Southwest Louisiana and globally”:

 

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg would certainly agree.

Check back soon for much more from the Fair Food front, with a round up of the Student/Farmworker Alliance’s big Wendy’s Week of Action and a preview of next month’s “Harvest without Violence” mobile exhibit tour of the Big Apple, including a major action at the hedge fund offices of Wendy’s Board Chair Nelson Peltz!

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