Last night, we met at the Boston Public Market to talk about strategy to pass the anti-workplace bullying Healthy Workplace Bill and to share what each of us are contributing to build awareness about what workplace bullying is. We talked about how school bullying legislation took years to pass and only became urgent after a school bullying suicide, so we’re investigating workplace bullying suicides. We talked about also researching homicides from workplace bullying.
Here’s what advocates are up to:
- An advocate has attended rallies and other events like Town Hall events and took photos to share on social media.
- An advocate wrote, produced, and sang a song about workplace bullying. She’s working on a play and video, too.
- An advocate will take information about the bill back to his union.
- An advocate presents about workplace bullying at career centers and adult education centers around Boston and will share his booklet so others can do the same in other parts of the Commonwealth if they’re interested.
As two advocates drive two hours to attend the meeting, we talked about having meetings across the Commonwealth on a monthly basis. So we’re looking for:
- An advocate in each area (Boston (on the MBTA), North Shore, South Shore/Cape Cod, Southcoast, Central Massachusetts, and Western Massachusetts) to conduct monthly meetings and find a free location for these meetings.
- Go around the room to ask people what they’ve either been working on or can commit to working on. Support and encourage them. Our experience has been that most ideas in brainstorming sessions don’t get acted upon, so the value in these meetings is helping those who are taking action, offering connections/building on actions, and inspiring those who may be there to listen to take action.
- Take notes and share actions with us so we can spread the word and make statewide connections.
If you’d like to lead a monthly meeting in one of these six Massachusetts regions, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with dates, times, and locations, and we’ll create Facebook events to get the word out.
Thanks in advance for your help in spreading the word.
The national political scene is causing quite a stir right now. Citizens across the nation are flexing their political muscles to uphold their values. There are two key Boston events in the next week alone where an anti-workplace bullying presence through sign holding would do wonders for our cause. And you have the power to take simple action:
Sunday, January 15, 12-3pm
Faneuil Hall, Boston
What better place to talk about healthy workplaces than a health care rally full of legislators in Boston? All you need is you and a poster that says “end workplace bullying” or a similar phrase.
Sign up to join us.
Saturday, January 21, 11am-3pm
Eighty percent of workplace bullying targets are women. Help us sign hold in front of more than 22,000 female political activists to get the word out about workplace bullying. It’s as simple as grabbing a poster and a marker and showing up.
Sign up to join us.
No one can do everything, but everyone can do something. You can make a difference in passing this bill.
The world changed on November 9. Regardless of how you voted, we can likely all agree on a few takeaways from the election that will help us further anti-workplace bullying legislation:
- The ideas of dignity and respect now have the nation’s attention. The election put bullying in the national spotlight and made bullying tactics crystal clear — during the debates, in speeches, and on social media.
- So does narcissism. We saw what narcissism, the root of workplace bullying, looks like: lack of accountability, belittling, and lack of empathy. Yet empathy is vital in addressing differences and collaborating.
- People are ready to act now more than ever. Those against the election results realize they need to act to preserve social progress and demand the culture we fought to live in. A friend said “don’t give up. Never give up. Be kind to each other, look out for one another, for those struggling. Don’t tolerate hate in your community. Now more than ever. Become a more active supporter of causes important to you. Sign petitions, donate money, volunteer time, contact representatives. As Patti Smith said, people have the power.”
What we can do to keep the dignity and respect conversation going
- Use #empathyalwayswins in all of your election postings. Let people know you demand empathy, not narcissism, in our culture.
- Hold signs. No matter where you live, buy some posterboard and a marker and hold signs in your area against workplace bullying. People are paying attention to the dialogue right now.
- Demand that all conversations about the election be respectful and promoting dignity. Keep conversations focused on dignity and what happens without it.
- Call (more than email) your legislators about workplace bullying and other issues important to you. We have insight that legislators get inundated with emails. But they ignore a phone call.
We can pass anti-workplace bullying legislation. And we will.
Join us EVERY THURSDAY at 10am EST starting on October 6 for a check-in on what’s working and what’s not working with building awareness about workplace bullying. Our focus is on actions in New England states, but anyone is welcome to call in for inspiration and to give updates to inspire others.
It’s all about collaboration, communication, support, and action.
Call into 515-739-1020, access code 335720.
In June 2016, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) called for a “reboot of workplace harassment efforts” after approximately 30,000 charges filed with the EEOC in 2015 included allegations of workplace harassment.
A task force presented the Report of the Co-Chairs of the EEOC Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace. “We present this report with a firm, and confirmed, belief that too many people in too many workplaces find themselves in unacceptably harassing situations when they are simply trying to do their jobs,” says the EEOC website.
The urgent need is clear: workers are suffering from unwelcome harassment, and the EEOC finally and formally recognizes this problem. The time to “shift cultures towards more respect and fair treatment for all employees” is now.
The task force finds that:
Workplace Harassment Remains a Persistent Problem. Almost fully one third of the approximately 90,000 charges received by EEOC in fiscal year 2015 included an allegation of workplace harassment. This includes, among other things, charges of unlawful harassment on the basis of sex (including sexual orientation, gender identity, and pregnancy), race, disability, age, ethnicity/national origin, color, and religion. While there is robust data and academic literature on sex-based harassment, there is very limited data regarding harassment on other protected bases. More research is needed.
Workplace Harassment Too Often Goes Unreported. Common workplace-based responses by those who experience sex-based harassment are to avoid the harasser, deny or downplay the gravity of the situation, or attempt to ignore, forget, or endure the behavior. The least common response to harassment is to take some formal action – either to report the harassment internally or file a formal legal complaint. Roughly three out of four individuals who experienced harassment never even talked to a supervisor, manager, or union representative about the harassing conduct. Employees who experience harassment fail to report the harassing behavior or to file a complaint because they fear disbelief of their claim, inaction on their claim, blame, or social or professional retaliation.
There Is a Compelling Business Case for Stopping and Preventing Harassment. When employers consider the costs of workplace harassment, they often focus on legal costs, and with good reason. Last year, EEOC alone recovered $164.5 million for workers alleging harassment – and these direct costs are just the tip of the iceberg. Workplace harassment first and foremost comes at a steep cost to those who suffer it, as they experience mental, physical, and economic harm. Beyond that, workplace harassment affects all workers, and its true cost includes decreased productivity, increased turnover, and reputational harm. All of this is a drag on performance – and the bottom-line.
It Starts at the Top – Leadership and Accountability Are Critical. Workplace culture has the greatest impact on allowing harassment to flourish, or conversely, in preventing harassment. The importance of leadership cannot be overstated – effective harassment prevention efforts, and workplace culture in which harassment is not tolerated, must start with and involve the highest level of management of the company. But a commitment (even from the top) to a diverse, inclusive, and respectful workplace is not enough. Rather, at all levels, across all positions, an organization must have systems in place that hold employees accountable for this expectation. Accountability systems must ensure that those who engage in harassment are held responsible in a meaningful, appropriate, and proportional manner, and that those whose job it is to prevent or respond to harassment should be rewarded for doing that job well (or penalized for failing to do so). Finally, leadership means ensuring that anti-harassment efforts are given the necessary time and resources to be effective.
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 email@example.com.
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.
We just finished up a full two-year legislative session to get the anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill passed in Massachusetts. Some of you longtime advocates may be disappointed that a third session has gone by with no law passed. No law means more suffering, more stress, and even more suicide contemplation for workplace bullying targets.
But legislative change takes time and persistence. It takes education, awareness building, and passion. No social change happened overnight or even in just a couple years. School bullying legislation even took years to pass until the suicide of student Phoebe Prince catapulted the topic to an urgent level. (We’re looking for those stories.)
Where we’ve come
We’ve built huge momentum both inside and outside the State House:
- Nearly 6,000 citizens to contact at each step in the two-year process
- Almost 1/3 of the entire State Legislature as official bill sponsors in the last session, up from 1/5 of the entire State Legislature in the previous session
Five short months
We have five short months until the next legislative session in January. It’s not a time to take a breather. Just the opposite. It’s time to further build up our masses inside and outside the State House. While we’re working on the logistics of a planning meeting this fall to focus on outside the State House, we need to continue working on inside the State House in these three ways:
- Email tool. Here’s the easy part: all you need is about 10 seconds to email your state rep and senator using this incredibly simple tool. If you do nothing else, that’s a huge help.
- Legislator meetings. What would be even better is to meet with your legislators, or even just one of them, locally or at the State House. All legislators have local office hours and State House office hours. Schedule a meeting, share why you want the bill to pass, and know you’ve made a huge step toward making history. (If you can get a group of former or current colleagues or friends to go, even better.)
- Ripple effect. Share the email tool with colleagues and friends. The only thing simpler than using our email tool to write your legislators is to hit Share on this posting. You never know who the message will resonate with. If a friend shares with another friend, you might even take someone out of isolation or suicide contemplation. A little goes a long way.
Stay tuned for information on our planning meeting. In the meantime, think about how you can help pass this bill.
And thank you for your efforts to help make workplace bullying illegal in Massachusetts. You’re already helping to make a difference in people’s lives when they learn the term “workplace bullying,” put a name to what they’re experiencing, and begin to heal.