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Workplace harassment has lawmakers demanding action from Ford

sexhar 030518 3Nearly a decade ago, Illinois Senate Democrats led efforts to provide incentives that kept Ford Motor Company jobs in Illinois. By all outward appearances, the two Ford plants have been a tremendous economic success, employing thousands of skilled manufacturing workers.

Now, lawmakers are demanding answers and accountability from Ford executives and workforce leaders in response to growing reports of hostile and horrendous treatment of female workers.

“No one should ever have to experience the things these women did, let alone at work. Ford management and United Automobile Workers representatives have not only failed to protect these women and ensure they have a safe work environment, they have in many cases been the perpetrators of abuse and harassment,” said Senator Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake). Bush helps lead the Senate’s Sexual Discrimination and Harassment Awareness and Prevention Task Force.

Her comments followed heart-wrenching testimony from a group of Ford workers detailing what they have suffered and continue to deal with at work.

Over the past several decades, female employees at Ford Motors’ two Chicago plants have reported incidences of sexual harassment, assault, discrimination and retaliation, resulting in a string of lawsuits, an investigation by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and commitments from Ford to crack down on the problem. Despite all of this, female employees say they are still experiencing harassment and discrimination.

Sen. Bush is considering summoning Ford and union executives before the task force to answer questions. In addition, task force members called on Gov. Bruce Rauner to put new conditions on the state’s mass purchases of Ford vehicles.

And other lawmakers have suggested new workplace standards become part of Ford’s ability to keep its special state tax breaks.

“Good paying manufacturing jobs are a staple of middle-class success. But you don’t sell out your basic human rights and decency for a job. Employers have a responsibility to be good citizens, especially when they benefit from millions of dollars in state tax incentives,” said Sen. Toi Hutchinson, a Chicago Heights Democrat and the chairwoman of the Senate Revenue Committee.

Senators are in the process of arranging a tour of the Ford plants.

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