By Liz Stuart, Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association (Canada)
This panel focused on the issue of violence and harassment in the workplace. The panel moderator, Saru Jayaraman lectures at the University of California Berkley and works for restaurant workers in the United States. Saru clearly outlined the issues faced by workers who rely mainly on tips to earn a living wage. In some states, minimum wage for workers who earn tips is $2.13 an hour. One in 11 Americans work in the restaurant industry and the majority of these are women need tips to augment the pitiful minimum wage. They are also subjected to verbal and sexual harassment with little or no support from management.
Furthermore, when workers are paid a living wage, violence and sexual harassment is cut in half. Phumzile Miambo-Ngcuka Executive Director for UN Women was on the panel and spoke about the broader societal consequences of violence against women including the effect on child witnesses and the physical, psychological and emotional effects. UN women has prepared a toolkit for the Prevention of Violence against Women includes ideas for comprehensive Interventions.
All members of the panel discussed the importance of strong workplace guidelines and supports. Kathy Feingold, AFL-CIO, also added that workers who are supported and unionized are less likely to face workplace violence and harassment because “we are stronger together!”