Hear Their Stories
Terry Sharpe is President Local UAW Local 2300 located in Ithaca, New York, that represents 1100 workers who do service and maintenance work on Cornell's campus. The union partnered with Cornell University's Campus Life joint labor/management Diveristy Committee to implement a Men and Women As Allies Initiative on it's Ithaca campus. The goal of the initiative is for men and women to work together and to teach men skills to take a leadership role with other men to address domestic violence, bullying and work violence behaviors.
Domestic Violence is a community problem as well as work related problem. Between Cornell and our local we try to assist anyone, to help prevent it, to help individuals get help they need without being in fear of their life. Work is a safe haven, if we can help in any way that is our goal.
Domestic violence hurts our members because if they are out because of it, it's an issue at work and they are being disciplined. Our goal is to make sure people keep their job, it hurts the employee, the union and the employer. Often individuals fear coming forward - and it's not their fault. A good example of this is one of our members who came to Cornell for a second chance, just out of a domestic violence situation to start fresh. She felt good she had someone at the union to talk to.....she was not embarrassed anymore since it wasn't her fault.
I think if men are willing to step up. ...to see and hear......they can end the cycle. In the past, it was a hidden, dirty secret......why not try from this angle? Men from our union who are involved in the Men and Women As Allies project represent strength and insurance to be there to help.
One of our union reps - Jack had a discussion with me about a case at Cornell. Jack was contacted by a department manager about one of our male members who was angry and was taking it out at everyone around him, especially at one female employee, who was not in our union. Our member was also about to get disciplined. The manager was doubly concerned because not only did this female employee not deserve to be treated this way at work but she was also dealing with domestic violence at home. (The manager had her permission to tell us this, so confidentiality wasn't broken.)
So Jack and I went to talk to our member. We find out that he was dealing with stress from his wife's illness at home and didn't realize that his behavior was out of control at work and was making others feel bullied. It felt good to have Jack in there, the two of us in there together. I felt more confident with him being there as a male. It made me feel secure in talking to the individual member. It felt better to have a male figure there. Our goal was to try to make sure there was no discipline, to get him the help that he needed, and to get the behavior to stop. This worked out really well without any disclosure of confidential information and of course, the behavior stopped.
A lot of this had to do with this going to the training. Right there we knew the sensitive nature of everything. It opened our eyes. We knew the seriousness of it and how to get it addressed Our member's anger was triggering her fear. She brought it to attention of management who took it seriously. Management contacted the union. Jack initially talked with guy and brought me in. We listened and went back to management and came back with a plan. He had to go for counseling which he was more than willing to but he didn't know how to say he wanted to go. Management was willing to give him flex time to go and get help.
The female employee felt secure knowing that his behavior would not continue and she could get an immediate resolution on the job. That we all took it so seriously, this is her safe place, she comes here to work, to get away from these things and work has been opened about helping her.
We were really glad we had the workshop. You don't realize it. If we hadn't had it, we might have gone in there and said "what's this lady problem? Why is she complaining?" The minute we knew the situation involved domestic violence we knew that this person should not be treated in this way - no one should be treated this way - this person is trying to get through it and learning they don't have to tolerate this type of behavior at work or at home. It was amazing this happened right around when we had the workshop. I knew about domestic violence but seeing it in this way really makes you understand how hard it is for women.
Having men involved, wanting it to stop and willing to partner with women is the changing factor in stopping domestic violence.