NOW Women-Friendly Workplace Campaign Soaring

NOW NYC Smith Barney protestNOW New York City President Anne Connors, NOW President Patricia Ireland and Gloria Steinem lead a protest outside the Wall Street headquarters of brokerage giant Smith Barney. Photo courtesy of NOW New York City.

by Monique Doussard, NOW Intern, and Mira Weinstein, Press Secretary

The alarm clock blares. You stumble out of bed, dress and see your daughter off to school before dashing out the door. On the way to work, you mail a package at the post office. After a hard day of work, you treat yourself to strawberry ice cream.

Sounds like a typical life, but you may have unknowingly supported five organizations targeted in NOW's Women-Friendly Workplace Campaign for a variety of alleged workplace abuses (hint: clothes, school, post office, strawberries and ice cream).

According to the National Law Journal and numerous other studies, at least 50 percent of all women who work outside the home will experience sexual harassment on the job. As NOW President Patricia Ireland puts it, "Harassment and discrimination in the workplace are rampant. They are against the law. And they must be stopped."

Thanks to NOW members from Contra Costa, Calif., to Middlesex County, N.J., it's becoming clear that NOW means business when it demands zero-tolerance of sexual harassment and an end to sex discrimination and other workplace abuses.

In celebration of Women's Equality Day, Aug. 26, NOW chapters rounded out a spring and summer of action with grassroots activities in a dozen cities. From coast to coast, NOW activists sent the message that this was just the beginning.

Tacoma (WA) NOW, Arizona State University - East Valley (AZ) NOW and Tompkins County (NY) NOW distributed Women-Friendly Workplace Campaign information and collected Consumer Pledges at Women's Equality Day activities in their communities. San Antonio (TX) NOW conducted a "Toxic Work Environment" action at the the San Antonio District Post Office to protest alleged sex and race discrimination, and Dallas area chapters picketed J.C. Penney.

Jefferson County (KY) NOW targeted a conservative U.S. Representative for her opposition to fair workplace legislation, while NOW New York City continued the momentum with an August picket at Smith Barney headquarters.

Ireland and Gloria Steinem had joined a chapter protest there in May. Throughout the spring and summer, similar actions were held at Smith Barney branches by Minnesota NOW, Indiana NOW, Johnson/Wyandotte Counties NOW and Capital City (Washington, D.C.) NOW, and NOW activists targeted offices in Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Memphis and Seattle.

A Win On Mandatory Arbitration

Capital City NOW also demonstrated against the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD), one of the governing bodies of the securities industry. And on August 7, the Women-Friendly Workplace campaign celebrated a victory with a vote by the board of the NASD to eliminate mandatory arbitration of statutory discrimination claims.

"The NASD took one small step for justice on Wall Street," Ireland said. "We call on industry giants like Smith Barney to follow the NASD's lead and change their policies."

Chapters protested other private companies and industries, especially local businesses, accused of workplace abuses. Texas NOW picketed J.C. Penney in protest of the department store's mandatory arbitration policy.

Members of several California NOW chapters Contra Costa, Lompoc, San Jose and Tri-Valley helped organize on behalf of strawberry workers in Watsonville, Calif. Among the issues are workers right to organize and to work free of sexual harassment and sex discrimination. (See "Strawberry Pickers Campaign...")

Seattle NOW targeted Asymetrix, a high-tech software firm, on allegations of sexual harassment and sex discrimination. Middlesex County NOW demanded that Haagen Dazs provide a serious investigation into sexual harassment charges.

Mitsubishi Pickets Resume

Ireland joined Chicago and Illinois NOW activists for a protest in Chicago against Mitsubishi over charges of harassment, discrimination and retaliation at its Normal, Ill., auto manufacturing plant. Pickets had been suspended after Mitsubishi officials pledged to "create a model workplace." But after their failure to keep their promise to respond "fairly and rapidly" to allegations of pervasive sexual harassment, Mitsubishi was officially named a NOW "Merchant of Shame."

Government agencies and public institutions were not exempt. El Paso del Norte (TX) NOW demonstrated against the United States Postal Service in front of the U.S. Supreme Court for charges of pregnancy discrimination. And South Orange County (CA) NOW targeted the Federal Aviation Administration, after more than 100 allegations of sexual harassment and sex discrimination were aired publicly.

Columbus (OH) NOW publicized concerns over gender inequity in the athletic department of Ohio State University on a giant outdoor billboard (see photo at NOW Acts).

Kudos go to the many chapters returning Women-Friendly Consumer and Employer pledges. Indiana NOW and Racine (WI) NOW have even honored local businesses that deserve recognition for their outstanding treatment of women. While it may be difficult to avoid every business targeted by NOW chapters across the country, it's easy to join in the Women-Friendly Workplace Campaign either by signing pledges, working with companies to end discrimination or recognizing businesses that already are women-friendly.

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