CHICAGO (CBS/WBBM) — Aldermen held another hearing Tuesday morning on reports of sexual harassment at two Ford Motor Company plants in Chicago, and how those complaints were handled.
Suzette Wright, a former worker suing the company for sexual harassment, said she started working at a Ford plant in 1993, and from the start faced groping, sexual taunts, and other harassment. She said she also faced retaliation when she filed a complaint.
“It was a high price to pay for a paycheck that was taxed by the oppression and forced silence, which takes a toll on your self-respect and your self-worth,” she said at a City Council Finance Committee meeting on Tuesday.
Ford worker Christie Van described facing similar harassment and retaliation.
“People of power, when they come together, they retaliate. They eliminate. They make sure you go without. They put you out,” she said.
The Ford Motor Company sent a letter to the committee stating it has a zero tolerance policy, and will stamp out the problems, but attorney Keith Hunt, representing 50 other women in a class-action lawsuit against Ford, said the company has a history of protecting harassers, not victims.
“Ford claims they have a zero tolerance policy, but in truth they have no tolerance for complainers. They have no tolerance for people who raise concerns of sexual harassment,” he said.
Both said union representatives helped sexual predators at Ford, not their victims, so women who work there are in fear.
Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) said she was horrified to hear some of those protecting the harassers were female executives and union representatives.
“I heard you say that it’s not just men, it is women as well, and for those individuals that cover up harassment the way that they have covered up at Ford, they actually should be ashamed of themselves to even be women,” she said.
In addition to Ford employees, women who work at city hotels also attended the meeting and spoke of sexual harassment on the job; thus allowing city council members to a put a face to some of the #MeToo victims.
In response to the #MeToo movement, a social media hashtag aimed at demonstrating the prevalence of sexual assault and harassment in the workplace, the City Council plans to require anti-harassment training for all city employees.
Ford’s CEO has publicly apologized to the victims of sexual harassment.