#MeToo, Times Up, and Labor Negotiations
July 31, 2019
By: Mark H. Dellinger and Jill E. Hall
The #MeToo and Times Up movements may be coming to your bargaining table in the near future. Earlier this month, Netflix and a major Hollywood union, the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), negotiated a contract containing anti-harassment protections in the form of prohibiting auditions from being held in private residences or hotel rooms. The parties’ contract negotiation followed public comments on this topic by SAG-AFTRA’s President, along with the promulgation of the union’s sexual harassment code of conduct, which was released earlier this year.
By now, most employers and society, in general, are well aware of the #MeToo and Times Up movements. The #MeToo movement against sexual abuse and harassment aims to curb such abuses and empower survivors. The movement gained national attention after allegations of sexual assault and harassment by powerful Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein caused many in the entertainment industry to speak out about their own experiences with sexual violence. In 2017, actress Alyssa Milano helped launch the movement into an international phenomenon when she asked her followers to use the hashtag “me too” on Twitter if they had been sexually harassed or assaulted. The ensuing coverage and publicity of this movement were instrumental in outing sexual abusers in the entertainment industry and elsewhere. Time’s Up is generally viewed as a solution-based follow-up to the #MeToo movement. It was started by a group of over 300 women in Hollywood, including several high profile actresses, and seeks to achieve safety and equity in the workplace, among other objectives.
Given the strength of these movements, along with a desire by unions to demonstrate relevance to their members post-Janus and in the face of right-to-work laws enacted in a majority of states, employers should be prepared to receive bargaining proposals motivated by these developments. Most labor agreements already contain terms providing for EEO statements and labor-management safety committees, so foundational concepts for these proposals may already exist in many labor agreements. Many labor agreements, however, also contain management rights clauses that enable a company to implement reasonable workplace rules and policies such as anti-harassment policies. Accordingly, employers will want to prepare a strategy for their workplace which most appropriately deals with such proposals within the context of their current and contemplated mechanisms for prohibiting workplace harassment and discrimination. While these movements may be associated with Hollywood, they will have far-reaching practical implications for many employers.