This week, dozens of women from Chicago Ford plants bravely came forward to testify before the Illinois House Sexual Discrimination and Harassment Task Force regarding sexual harassment and abuse allegations, FOX 32 Chicago reports.
Groping, lewd comments, retaliatory behavior and physical abuse are among the list of allegations. Many of the women claim to have lost their jobs after filing complaints.
"When I asked the union's plant chairman for assistance, [I was told] that if I wanted his help, I had to get down on my knees,” said Miyoshi Morris.
“I was scared because I didn't know what they were going to do,” said Charmella Leviege. “It's like a doggone prison in there, who's going to stop them? Nobody is going to stop them! They have too much money and we are just like pawns.”
The Center for Union Facts (CUF) produced a PSA entitled A Culture of Harassment, where the women were able to tell their own stories, according to Newsmax. In the video, the women talk about the daily struggles of being a woman at the plants from the whistling and sexual comments to offers to join married men in threesomes. One woman says that the comments began on her first day of work.
In the video, the women accuse United Auto Workers union of ignoring their pleas for help, and say that the union has consistently taken the side of the alleged harassers. "I've even had one of the union officials come to me and tell me that you shouldn't report it because that's not sexual harassment if they only did it to you one time," one woman said in the PSA.
This controversy isn't a new one for Ford, which paid a $10 million settlement over the harassment complaints in August 2017, and settled a similar case in 1999 by paying out $22 million. After the last payout, Ford promised to "crack down" on the unacceptable behavior, and Ford's CEO apologized to the women for the workplace harassment.
Lawyer Keith Hunt is preparing a class action lawsuit against the automaker. He says that he currently has 50 women with similar allegations to the women who testified who will be participating in the suit.
The women are hopeful that this increased attention will bring some change, and say that things are untenable as they stand.
"The whole entire place is like a cesspool. The whole entire place," one woman says in Culture of Harassment. "There's no place in there that you can get away from [it]."