Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Sexual Harassment in Postville, IA

Lynda Waddington has a piece up today at RH Reality Check that points to the thing no one wants to talk about when it comes to immigration: The sexual harassment and abuse of undocumented workers by managers and peers.

Juanita, who came to this country from Petapa, Guatemala said she worked at the Postville plant on the chicken production line. She was assigned to work graveyard shift and, although she had asked for a promotion or shift change, she was refused.

"My supervisor, who was also from Guatemala, tried to force himself on me in the parking lot in my car after I had asked for a job change," she said. "When I pushed him off me I began to hear that I was not working hard enough or fast enough. I am a good worker. I did my job well. It was because I would not have sex with him that I was pushed so hard. He told me that I could always change my mind and that, if I did, he would put in a good word for me."

To me this is yet another reason to make a comprehensive reform on immigration. As it is now, women who come to the States to work because they feel they cannot hope to make a living in their home countries face severe sexual harassment and abuse.

To me that was the most horrifying part of watching Fast Food Nation: the horrible work conditions that the undocumented employees are subjected to, especially the sexual harassment by those in management positions (usually men). Even when it is consensual, it's often coercive. Managers understand they can get sex in exchange for better work hours or different kinds of work. But these women are unable to seek legal recourse against the offenders because in the eyes of the law, they're criminals.

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