/** headlines: 116.0 **/
** Topic: Mitsubishi Sex Harassement/An Industry Problem **
** Written 9:48 PM Jun 2, 1996 by newsdesk in cdp:headlines **
/* Written 8:43 PM May 29, 1996 by labornews in igc:women.labr */
/* ---------- "Mitsubishi Sex Harassement/An Indus" ---------- */
From: Institute for Global Communications <email@example.com>
Subject: Mitsubishi Sex Harassement/An Industry Problem
The drums are beating so loudly about the sexual harassment charges at Mitsubishi Motors that they're drowning out the songs of women throughout the auto industry who have been harassed.
Mitsubishi Motors has acknowledged its problems in the workplace. It has hired a high-profile woman, former Labor Secretary Lynn Martin, to help make improvements.
Now if only the other 98 percent of the auto industry would 'fess up and start fixing their problems. All the automakers from General Motors on down are still places where women are harassed, discriminated against -- or worse.
Auto manufacturing still is a man's world, with three-quarters of the workforce and virtually all the top management male. And auto companies and their suppliers have faced dozens of lawsuits by women and at least 390 sexual harassment complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission since 1991.
The number of charges in auto making companies has more than doubled from fiscal 1991 to 1995, reaching 109 complaints last year, the EEOC reports. This mirrors a general trend of more women reporting lewd, intimidating and harassing behavior since the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings.
Women know they deserve to be treated like workers, not wenches or whores.
Yes, I used whores intentionally, though some readers may think it hyperbolic or offensive. After all, we're talking auto assembly lines, not red light districts. Yet some of the harassment women face seems to come straight from the mean streets.
When Cathie Green refused her boss' offer of a flirtation and diamond earrings, he got angry. Then he got even, she alleges. She says he retaliated by stalking her at work, suspending her on what she says are trumped-up charges and threatening to fire her.
Green had worked at the same GM engine plant in Flint since 1969, but now she's on long-term disability because of stress and related ailments that she believes resulted partly from the workplace harassment. She sued General Motors in 1994, lost the first case but is awaiting an appeals court ruling.
Green has spoken out about the negative and threatening atmosphere at her plant and the harassment she experienced. Because of this, she has heard complaints from other women in auto plants. Among them:
Gloria Woods, president of the National Organization for Women's Michigan Caucus, says she often hears stories like these from women in non-traditional jobs. Said Wood: "It's not just Mitsubishi. They just went public'' because of the EEOC's complaint on behalf of up to 500 women.
I've heard from women at Chrysler, Ford, GM and some suppliers who have experienced harassment and retaliation. Many of them eventually leave the companies.
To be sure, the automakers and the United Autoworkers have policies against sexual harassment. They all say they want to create a workplace that's comfortable for everyone.
In announcing it was hiring Lynn Martin to review and improve Mitsubishi's workplace policies and practices, chairman and chief executive Tsuneo Ohinouye said, "Our new workplace initiative signals an intensified emphasis and commitment to identify and correct any problems we have and to make Mitsubishi an industry leader.''
Perhaps Mitsubishi should choose a better measure for its progress than its immediate peers. Then their song will sound a little like this: Treat all women with some R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
WINGS, Women Involved in Giving Support, 810-437-8091, offers group support, advice, referrals for women. Or call 9 to 5's Job hot line for free advice, 800-245-9865.