Friday, July 9, 2010

Domestic violence is a union issue

Carol has an even deeper appreciation of her job than most workers. It probably saved her life.

"I  came from a home background where I was an abused wife," she said. "At that time, battery of women wasn’t recognized." Over the years, she frequently called law enforcement. "They wouldn’t help me. Or they would make me leave my house with my five kids. I would have to walk — at two or three in the morning — to my sister’s house, with my kids in tow. I just never knew what provoked my ex-husband. One time I woke up in the hospital and I didn’t know who I was."

"It took me 18 years to get out of my marriage. The final straw came when he stopped abusing me and started in on my children." At about that time, Carol found a state job. "I was making $114 a week — I never got a penny of support — and I decided I could pay the rent and support my children. You get strong from that sense of security."

Carol was lucky. She escaped her dangerous marriage, and now volunteers at shelters and is frequently called in to counsel co-workers who are in an abusive relationship. She now chairs her state’s Women’s Advisory Committee. "I learned a lot about what a union should be," she says, "and what a union could do for people like me."

Carol knows first-hand that domestic violence is a workplace issue. Given that over 5 million acts of domestic violence occur each year against women who are 18 or older in the United States, it is understandable that domestic violence has seeped into the workplace and the effort to stop it is part of the union agenda. Repercussions of domestic violence in the workplace are evident in higher absenteeism, greater need for medical benefits and higher risk of on-the-job violence. No one deserves to be abused, and [name of local] is taking steps to help.

If you are living with domestic violence, the union has resources that can help. We can help you negotiate for flexible work schedules for counseling and court appearances, and if you feel at risk on the job, we can advocate for more workplace security. Call the Local 828/Unit 7400 office for more information.

If you are currently being beaten or hurt in a relationship, there are resources available and people who want to help you. National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY). Fax: 512-453-8541.

For help with domestic abuse in Rochester, call Alternatives for Battered Women:

                                                                                     Call us: 585-232-7353
                                                                                    TTY: 585-232-1741
                                                                                    Web site (CLICK HERE)

For the Family Violence Prevention Fund web site (click here)

You can download Domestic Violence: An AFSCME Guide for Union Action (click here)

This  article adapted from publications produced by: the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); the Family Violence Prevention Fund, "The Workplace Responds to Domestic Violence: A Resource Guide for Employers, Unions and Advocates," edited by Donna Norton, Esq., Stephen T. Moskey, Ph.D. and Elizabeth Bernstein (January 1, 1998); and Carole Warshaw, M.D. and Anne L. Ganley, Ph.D., "Improving the Health Care Response to Domestic Violence," (Revised, 1998).