AORTA Responds to Former Client AFL-CIO’s Reckoning with Sexual Harassment Allegations

On November 7, 2017, Bloomberg News broke a story about allegations of sexual harassment at two major forces in the labor movement, AFL-CIO and SEIU. AFL-CIO hired Anti-Oppression Resource and Training Alliance (AORTA) in 2015 as consultants to evaluate where the AFL-CIO stood in terms of addressing issues related to power and oppression within the policies and day-to-day operations of the federation. We share the following statement in solidarity with efforts to challenge sexual assault and harassment as well as racism and other forms of discrimination and exclusion in organizations across the country within the progressive movement.

AORTA member Lydia Pelot-Hobbs said, “We want workers to have collective bargaining power. And we know that to strengthen the labor movement we must tackle issues of sexual harassment, racism, and xenophobia head-on.” AORTA stands with the workers of the AFL-CIO and all workers who understand that economic justice is inextricably linked with gender and racial justice. We know which way the compass points: we support the right of all workers to unionize and we believe changes within the labor movement are of paramount importance to progressive movements on all fronts.

When the AFL-CIO brought us in as a consulting team, we surveyed and trained hundreds of staff members. Based on our findings from the surveys and the stories shared during the training process, we wrote an extensive report with key recommendations intended to support AFL-CIO’s organizational transformation. Two years later, we are heartened to learn that staff concerns are coming to light and have the opportunity to be openly addressed. In our experience, the issues being exposed at AFL-CIO are not unique. They are systemic, yet too often ignored.

AORTA believes this moment is an opportunity for the AFL-CIO and the broader labor movement to reckon with its past to forge a more just future. Now more than ever, labor movements must be uncompromising in their support for gender and racial justice. Not only did the president win an election after it was made public that he shamelessly boasted about sexually assaulting women, but the Trump administration has rolled back progress in gender equity; diverted state resources from poor and working class people to the 1%; wielded racism and xenophobia to pit us against each other; and attempted to crush our already embattled labor movement. It is time for the labor movement to act with courage by taking a principled position against sexual violence and harassment in all its forms. It is only through such steps that we can build movements for collective liberation that have the power and vision to win.

About AORTA
AORTA is a worker-owned cooperative devoted to strengthening movements for social justice and a solidarity economy. We work as consultants and facilitators to expand the capacity of organizations through education, training, and planning.

For further information contact Jenna Peters-Golden, Worker-Owner
email: jenna[at]aorta.coop