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It is undoubtable that one of the cornerstones the fourth wave feminism has been the #metoo movement; a moment which has exposed the wide spread prevalence of sexual harassment and sexual assault, especially in the workplace. The movement has been far reaching, with allegations being made in all industries, from politics, to the church, to sport and the media. Although most of us will have heard of the high profile cases, the focus tends not to be on the experiences of low paid workers…. until today.

A lunchtime yesterday, 18 September 2018, McDonalds workers in the U.S staged a one day strike over sexual harassment at restaurants across ten cities; Chicago; Durham, North Carolina; Kansas City, Missouri; Los Angeles; Miami; Milwaukee; New Orleans; Orlando, Florida; San Francisco and St. Louis. The intention of the strikers is to pressure management to take stronger steps against on the job sexual harassment. Union Organisers have said that this historic strike is the first multi-state strike in America focused on sexual harassment. The strikers will be demanding that the company improve procedures for responding to harassment complaints and for the establishment of a national committee to address sexual harassment.

Such action is courageous, brave and very much needed. It goes without saying that women in precarious and low paid work can feel like they have a lot to risk when coming forward about the harassment they have endured. Nevertheless, actions like this will not only give confidence to those who have experienced harassment, but to service industry workers, the majority of whom are not unionised, to come together, unionise and articulate their rights.

Closer to home, the Better than Zero campaign and the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union both assist service industry workers in tackling issues such as sexual harassment at work.  In the UK, section 26 (3) of the Equality Act 2010 sets out the legal definition for sexual harassment. Section 26(3) provides that A harasses B if A engages in unwanted conduct of a sexual nature that is related to gender reassignment or sex, and that conduct has the purpose of effect of violating B’s dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for B. Under section 109 (1) of the Equality Act 2010, an employer can be made liable for acts of harassment done by one of its employees. If you have experienced sexual harassment whilst working in the service industry and are looking for legal assistance, please do not hesitate to contact Better than Zero, the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union or of course, Talk to Thompsons on 0800 0891331.

Blog by Alice Bowman

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