Tuesday, October 22, 2013

CAASE co-pilots workplace sexual violence curriculum

By Sheerine Alemzadeh

This past Sunday, CAASE co-piloted a full-day training called "Ending Workplace Sexual Violence: A Know Your Rights Curriculum and Guide for Community Educators." The training was hosted by Latino Union of Chicago in Albany Park and led by CAASE staff attorney Sheerine Alemzadeh. The room was packed with 30 people, including not only representatives from the Latino Union and CAASE, but also Rape Victim Advocates, Mujeres Latinas en Acción, the Chicago Coalition of Household Workers, ARISE Chicago, Fight for 15, Chicago Community and Workers Rights Center, and the United Food and Commercial Workers' Union.

The goal of the training was to provide learning tools to organizers and activists in Chicago’s worker rights community to combat workplace sexual violence. Sunday's training included sexual assault 101 training and an introductory module for workers centers, as well as two advanced training modules: for workers experiencing sexual violence and a module on bystander intervention for allies. Participants were also provided with an organizer's legal guide on sexual assault laws in Illinois and English and Spanish know your rights brochures for workers.

The day started with participants sharing the labor of their mothers and grandmothers, and learning about the historical connection between workplace sexual violence and economic inequality. Later, audience members role-played making a report of sexual harassment to their employer, and intervening in support of co-workers experiencing sexual harassment. Presenters also discussed how the legal definition of sexual harassment does not protect workers against a wide range of sexual violence in the workplace. Elisa Ringholm of the Latino Union said, "This training opened the door towards a shared vision in the workers center movement to prioritize ending sexual violence in the workplace."

The curriculum pilot is part of a larger effort by CAASE to build bridges between the anti-rape and labor rights movements, drawing on the transformative work of each movement to build a stronger, more holistic, and more organized response to workplace sexual violence. The curriculum was a labor of love, produced over the past year by a CAASE-led coalition of worker rights organizers, attorneys, government officials and rape victim advocates. The coalition has met monthly since the fall of 2012, discussing ways to educate workers on sexual violence in the workplace and brainstorming intersections for activism in the labor rights and anti-rape movements. In the next year, CAASE hopes to provide training and education to the rape crisis community on labor rights and activism in Chicago.

CAASE would like to thank the Skadden Foundation for its generous support of this initiative.  It would also like to thank its outstanding coalition partners, including LAF-Chicago's Illinois Migrant Legal Assistance Project, Rape Victim Advocates, Mujeres Latinas en Acción, the Latino Union of Chicago, the Chicago Coalition of Household Workers, Pillars, ARISE-Chicago, ROC-Chicago, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos, USDOL-OSHA, and the YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago.

Learn more in CAASE's Know Your Rights brochure on sexual harassment, available here in English and here in Spanish (PDF links).