The lack of sexual harassment training has been a problem in every sector and field of work across the United States, and evidently a severely reoccurring problem within unions. Union leaders deal with sexual harassment cases on a daily basis. These complaints reach the top of the employer food chain in some of the most unofficial ways, almost always through the grapevine. That's done to keep most of these incidents off record, but it leaves the union open for lawsuits and continued sexual harassment problems.
One former union president claimed that most of the sexual harassment incidents reached him through third parties and through shop stewards. The proper channels for these problems are going through the HR department, but due to a lack of discipline and sexual harassment training that fact is lost on most.
The term "sexual harassment" has been twisted and changed over the years to something that no one can get a firm idea of. Even union leader David Macaray said he has no "ironclad definition of harassment." That's not because he isn't smart, it's simply because he and most other union members have never gone through sexual harassment training.
One incident that is reported by David Macaray is the case of a woman being called "girlie" as she and another mechanic discussed the best way to go on with their job. The woman reported him, but not to HR, as she should have. Instead she went to her boss.
Her boss went to the union leader, then he went to HR and refused to mention names. All he asked of HR is if calling someone "girlie" was actually sexual harassment. According to them, turns out it is, but wouldn't result in disciplinary action, anyway. When such a gentle term is used, it is a simple written warning, unless there's another offense.
Macaray admits that there are hundreds of other cases that simply did not go reported over the years, but where still serious and complicated. The cases were taken care of without any of the people involved having to take sexual harassment classes or any type of training to help prevent further problems.
The workplaces that are under union control have evolved and changed over the years, making sexual harassment classes a better idea for all. The growing number of cases and increased sensitivity to the matter make sexual harassment training a growing necessity for all work groups, union or not.
Many of the these cases mentioned could have been avoided if two simple steps would have been taken. The first, a proper sexual harassment training class. That will help all new and current union members realize what is and what is not sexual harassment and how to recognize others committing sexual harassment. That knowledge alone could save the union millions in defense and paperwork.
The second thing that could improve these situations is a clear method of reporting sexual harassment. The ability to make sure that all the union members have a clear understanding on how to report sexual harassment is just as important as having sexual harassment training itself.