Paving the way for change on Worker’s Memorial Day

Woman's face

Today is Worker’s Memorial Day, and here at FUTURES we’re joining the labor movement in honoring workers who have been killed or injured on the job. We cannot allow their voices to be drowned out; we must stand in solidarity to fight for both safe work environments and the creation of resilient workplace communities that prevent and respond to violence.

We spend more time working than any other waking activity.

And with millions of women experiencing domestic violence, sexual violence, harassment, and stalking each year, the workplace can be a critical juncture for responding to gender-based violence and building systems that help protect victims and survivors of abuse.

Low-wage workers, immigrants, and workers in non-traditional environments are particularly vulnerable to exploitative and coercive sexual violence incidents. Many workers receive inadequate information about their rights; feel reluctant to speak up for fear of losing their jobs; or lack the financial security that allows them to take time off from work to seek legal recourse or recover from injuries.

Additionally, many low-wage workers— such as those who work in the restaurant or service industries—rely on tips to earn a living, thus making them especially vulnerable to exploitation from customers. In order to earn the money necessary to support themselves and their families, tipped workers are often forced to endure sexual harassment in order to please their customers, or advances from supervisors to keep favorable shifts.

The lack of any paid leave and other vital support structures limits any recourse to incidents of domestic violence, sexual violence, and stalking experienced by these workers, whether it be home or at the job. No woman should have to choose between her personal safety and supporting herself and her family.

Prevention of violence against women in the workplace requires a broad-based cultural shift.

Employers, industry leaders, and business associations must strategize and work together with labor unions, anti-violence advocates and workers’ rights organizations to develop compassionate, proactive responses to workplace violence that empower all workers regardless of their gender, wages, or immigration status.

These guiding principles are the foundation of our Low Wage, High Risk pilot project which works collaboratively with worker and community associations, employers, and leading anti-violence advocates to develop and promote replicable promising practices that prevent and respond to gender-based violence.

FUTURES stands with the labor movement because the fight for fair wages and other protections is inextricably linked to the fight for safety for all workers. Resilient workplace communities are safe zones of strength and recovery. On this Workers Memorial Day, let’s stand in memory of those killed and harmed on the job, stand in compassion with survivors of violence, and stand in advocacy for vulnerable workers who deserve protection.