AGMA’s recent history of failure to take meaningful action regarding sexual abuse and harassment alarms me for a number of reasons.
AGMA has fallen far short in addressing this crisis in our industries. We are in desperate need of new leaders who will address sexual harassment and abuse with the seriousness it demands. This matter requires urgent attention, not neglect and excuses.
We must acknowledge the union’s past unresponsiveness and lack of leadership in this area. The lack of strong leadership in this area became apparent to me this summer, when I met with AGMA leaders to address issues of workplace safety and started a dialogue about developing clear sexual harassment policies. One of the issues I brought up was that my report of sexual assault was never acknowledged. This was because it went to a Spam folder that was never checked by the AGMA official responsible for receiving these reports. The union’s response to this was to develop a general email called “reporting” to receive complaints. They said that, going forward, this email account would be checked by three people, but have failed to name those people publicly. I don’t believe any victim would feel comfortable emailing an anonymous entity about sexual abuse or harassment. That this has gone unresolved months after I called attention to this problem makes it all the clearer to me that AGMA’s incumbent leadership does not believe this issue deserves urgent attention.
While only an employer can establish an anti-harassment policy, it is AGMA’s duty to demand that these policies be put in place. Furthermore, AGMA should facilitate the development of these policies with our signatories so that the policies put into place conform to best practices and stand the best chance of being properly enforced. They should disclose the steps that will be taken when members report incidents of harassment or assault to ensure that members will know what to expect after filing a report and be able to hold AGMA to account if the promised response does not take place, develop strategies to contend with such incidents swiftly, and fight for strong policies of non-retribution. To the best of my knowledge, AGMA has not spent a single dollar on a dedicated anti-sexual harassment campaign.
Finally, AGMA should lead this effort, not be a mostly-silent, apologetic bystander. Token gestures are not good enough. Lip service is not good enough. Weak action is not good enough. Many members’ attempts to report have gone unanswered and the support that victims need has not been readily available. The time to change that is well overdue.
As we survivors know, recovery is an ongoing and unrelenting process. Those who represent us must acknowledge that and work relentlessly to provide fierce and consistent support. I stand with my fellow V4A candidates because all of us know that the time for lip service is over. We demand action. We demand accountability. We are ready to fight for lasting change to the culture of our industries and are confident that AGMA’s members are ready to join in this effort.