Change begins with you. Change comes from you seeing a need and figuring out what you can do to improve the situation rather than waiting for someone else to do it, dictating to someone else to do it, or waiting for direction.
Our philosophy in this grassroots effort is simple: you’re in or you’ve come out of a place of disempowerment, and healing will help you take back the power. Healing can come from action, from knowing and proving what you’re capable of, from using your skills to make your ideas happen, from getting back to that competent and ethical employee you still are and deserve to be and not allowing an insecure bully to define you.
And great leadership to help make those ideas happen is about inspiring, not controlling. It’s about asking, not feeling entitled to dictate like a bully boss. It’s about empowering, not belittling or diminishing from insecurity. It’s about doing, not just telling or thinking. It’s about walking the walk with the philosophy that we need less masculine ways of working together, filled with petty competition for power and catering to egos that often slow or block progress, and more feminine ways of working together, through empowerment, collaboration, and nurturing that move the needle and change the culture.
With the goal in mind of steering the ship, we presented at our grassroots get-together what we’ve done, what strategy might work, and what we can do to get us there:
What we’ve done
We began this journey knowing that legislation generally takes years to pass. In Massachusetts, we’ve come a long way since 2010, when our group first introduced the anti-workplace bullying Healthy Workplace Bill in the State House (it’d been introduced before, but not with a group backing):
- We’ve gone from 13 sponsors in our first full two-year session to 39 in the second to 58 in the third. That’s nearly 1/3 of the entire State Legislature.
- We’ve built a base of 6,000 contacts (through Facebook, Twitter, our online petition, and our email alert system) we can reach out to at key points in the legislative process.
- We have 20 organizations on board, including the Massachusetts Teachers Association.
- We gained media attention and opposition, telling us that we have an audience.
We’re being heard. And we know what’s gotten us there. In addition to plain old hard work, we’re lucky enough here in Massachusetts to have our state capital in the most populated city to give advocates easy access to our legislators. We also have three bill co-coordinators who cover the bases: the model bill author David Yamada here in Massachusetts (even in Boston right near the State House), NAGE local 282 president Greg Sorozan contributing insight and persuasion from inside the State House through his lobbyists, and marketer Deb Falzoi providing strategy and skills.
In Rhode Island, coordinator Jessica Stensrud hit the ground running with getting a sponsor and bill number in her first session as coordinator. She’s making strong connections with progressive organizations in Rhode Island and building the masses in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island to further anti-workplace bullying efforts.
What strategy might work
In Massachusetts, the process to pass a bill into law goes like this: bills go through a committee, then move to the House, then Senate, then can go back to House or the Governor’s desk for signing (or get stopped at any point in the process – and most do). The anti-workplace bullying Healthy Workplace Bill goes through the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development, and we had about a year left in the last session when the bill received a favorable reading from the committee. That’s the most time we’ve ever had left in the session at that point. We had more hope than ever that the bill would pass. Then the bill moved into the House for the major step, the Third Reading, a floor vote. The bill never made it to the floor vote, but we made the most progress we’ve ever made.
So we looked at how school bullying got passed. Like the anti-workplace bullying Healthy Workplace Bill, the bill sat on legislators’ desks for years until a student suicide put urgency behind the issue. We’re looking for suicide from workplace bullying stories in Massachusetts to help legislators understand that workers are dying over this issue, and legislators have the power to take a stand against it. With stories, we can also help the media understand the urgency behind this topic. If you’re aware of a suicide from workplace bullying story in Massachusetts, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
What we can do to get us there
While we believe that suicide stories may help put the urgency behind this bill we all deserve, we know that building awareness of workplace bullying and the bill will help us reach more people who may be aware of these stories. Building our contact lists will help us stay connected with supporters, who can then reach out to others, creating a ripple effect.
Here’s what advocates have done so far to build our base:
- Created online tools. Built a website, Facebook page, Twitter account, YouTube channel, blog, online petition, and email alert system to help advocates share content and capture data.
- Created videos and shared those videos with public access channels as Public Service Announcements (PSAs).
- Showed support at State House hearings by testifying and attending.
- Flyered at commuter rail lots, outside T stations, outside hospitals, and in parking lots of companies that allow workplace bullying.
- Produced an art display called “Massachusetts: Face Workplace Bullying” to educate and inspire (developed by advocate Torii Bottomley) and displayed at the State House and Worcester’s Union Station.
- Tabled at local events.
- Courageously shared their stories, both in writing for the website and on film.
- Reached out to organizations including unions, college and university student groups, and social justice groups for their official endorsement and possible lobbying.
- Submitted letters to the editor and commented on online articles.
- Talked at Democratic Town Committee meetings and reached out to both Democratic and Republican Town Committees.
- Hosted workshops.
- Ran in 5k races wearing “end workplace bullying” t-shirts.
- Held protests outside the state executive offices at One Ashburton Place, in Harvard Square, and in Davis Square.
- Created an easy tool to write to legislators in an incredibly simple way thanks to the separate suggestions of two advocates.
- Accessed the ability to blog on the Huffington Post.
- Connected with the IBEW union, who runs the digital billboard on I-93, about posting a message about the bill.
- Started Facebook live videos featuring video blogger Ty Weeks.
Building off these ideas, advocates brainstormed last night ways they could further contribute to the conversation and elevate the attention to workplace bullying in Massachusetts and Rhode Island:
- Hold a major event about workplace bullying, including a skit to show what workplace bullying is.
- Investigate citizen action groups in Massachusetts and Rhode Island to get their support or create one.
- Survey workers about their experiences.
- Contact radio stations about giving attention to workplace bullying.
- Find designers, photographers, and videographers to help create viral social media campaigns and/or art displays.
- Create viral videos using your own smartphone, and get people to create their own in the same style.
- Reach out to event planners about planning workplace bullying-related events.
- Fundraise for other organizations that can provide services for workplace bullying targets.
- Contact organizations about what they can do to help, including official endorsement.
- Blog to create more shareable content, more likes, and more people to reach to write their legislators.
- Create a parade float.
- Work with a college dance troupe to have a flash mob at a high-profile location in Boston.
- Pick a location, date, and time for a protest and ask our group to publicize it for additional volunteers.
- Contact suicide organizations for workplace bullying-related suicide stories.
- Get a group of people to run in a road race wearing “end workplace bullying” t-shirts.
- Make contacts for speaking at meetings and/or hosting workshops.
- Identify celebrities who could serve as spokespeople.
- Get a group of teachers, nurses, or other workers to go to the State House to speak with legislators as a group.
We’re creating an online tool for you to submit your own simple events to make empowering yourself even easier: protests, educational gatherings, brainstorming and planning meetings, running groups at road races, and groups to go to the State House, for example. Stay tuned.
We’ll pass this bill through the power of action. You have our support to run with an idea and even get our help. Do not wait for our permission, blessing, or someone else to take action. You have that power.
All we ask is that you share your action with us so you can help us inspire others and we can thank you for helping make history.