National surveys show that one in four women and one in ten men are sexually harassed at work. The spotlight is now on Ford Assembly plant in Chicago, where four women have filed a sexual harassment lawsuit on behalf of the women working there.

Violated in every way

Charmella Leviege, an assembler who has worked at Chicago’s Ford Assembly for 14 years, said that the managers and co-workers touched the women and said inappropriate things with reference to sex, while Christie Van, the main plaintiff said that men would slap women on their behind.

Van also said that when she complained to one of the salaried supervisors, Terrence McClain, he apparently told her that things are run differently in Ford Assembly and that she should forget about such incidents.  Another woman employee said that the women felt violated, groped, and felt on in every way. These types of shenanigans happen in cities that have horrendous economies like Chicago does. Chicago’s high taxes have pushed many jobs to Indiana and Wisconsin. The managers know that the jobs existing for unskilled laborers are few and far between so they knew they could act like fools.

Van was suspended with loss of pay, was threatened by her supervisors, and denied work assignments after she complained of the harassment. One supervisor even showed her a picture of his genitals, she said in her complaint. Van said she was assaulted in February 2013 in the parking lot where her attacker pushed her to the ground and stomped on her back, telling her not to look at him. She alleges that he called her a “black snitch bitc_” and that he would kill her if she came back.

After the company was made to pay $9 million in the 1997 lawsuit, it also agreed to set up harassment hotline and start training classes. One of the electricians, Scott Houldieson, said that it was sad that the company was going through the same process again and the training instituted in 1997 did not have the desired effect, and the management had not learnt anything from it. According to sexual harassment attorneys, in addition to claiming damages, the lawsuit also seeks federal monitoring of Ford for five years.

Training classes did not help because Chicago’s economy has been decimated. This only means this type of abhorrent behavior will continue. Lowering taxes in Chicago and cutting back on the regulations will offer more opportunities for people that live in this once proud city.

No action taken

The women said that they filed a lawsuit because neither the human resources department, nor the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission acted upon their complaints. The lawsuit names Coby Millender, chair of the local’s executive board, as one of the offenders.

Both Millender and the labor relations department representative, Natalie Dehrenger, disclosed the name of the women who had complained against the men. Following this, the men placed pictures of their penises in the work area, according to Helen Allen, who works as a plumber and pipefitter. According to sexual harassment attorneys, this is not the first time that Chicago Ford plant is in the news for sexual harassment. In 1997, plaintiffs were awarded $9 million to settle a lawsuit for sexual harassment at the Chicago assembly plant.

The union’s responsibilities

To prevent repeats of such incidents, management should clearly define sexual harassment and institute training similar to that developed by the United Electrical Workers. To protect probationary employees, the unions should ensure the right to represent them in anti-discrimination grievances.

Employees of the Canadian Auto Workers facing racial or sexual harassment could refuse to work without a loss of pay, as set out in their Chrysler contract. But these are the same type of rules which destroyed GM. Unions and anti-business rules are what put Detroit in a horrific situation and now Chicago is headed in the same direction. Many people believe unions destroy jobs (see the airline, auto, and other industries) and Chicago cannot have any more that.

Bad blood and sexual harassment will remain in Chicago until the leaders of this city pass business friendly laws and stop punishing Chicago businesses just for wanting to be open for business.