Imagine having no recourse after being sexually harassed at work. Imagine the harassment being considered acceptable under current employment law because the sexual harassment did not happen frequently enough or was not severe enough.
Or, imagine you’re a female farmworker working 12+ hour days, and you do not even make minimum wage to cover your family’s basic needs.
These are both real problems faced by people living in Colorado today, especially low-income women, working women, and women of color. In addition, they have something else in common: state legislators are currently considering bills that address these issues.
Both of these bills sit at the intersection of feminism and other issues like racial justice, workers’ rights, and economic justice. The Agricultural Workers’ Rights bill (SB21-087)—endorsed by none other than civil rights icon Dolores Huerta—would provide basic protections to farmworkers, many of whom are women of color, that other Colorado workers already have. Namely, a recognition of their fundamental right to minimum wage, safe working conditions, and union representation.
The Protecting Opportunities and Workers’ Rights bill (SB21-176) expands protections and options for recourse for workers who experience sexual harassment in the workplace, many of whom are women, and eliminates the concept of “one free grope” in the workplace.
Neither of these bills are frivolous. Both are essential and have been intentionally designed to improve the daily lives of women, workers, and people of color in this state.
State legislators can’t say that they “stand with women,” if they don’t stand with low-income women, working women, and women of color—they can’t say that they stand with women if they oppose these bills.
Unfortunately, these bills haven’t had an easy journey in our legislature so far and have uncertain futures. Much of this is because of the interests of others with more power; power based on a history of oppression, discrimination, and special interests.
Our state legislators need to understand that poor women and women of color are core constituents they should prioritize over corporate lobbyists. Especially now, in a pandemic that has exacerbated many families’ economic issues.
The Women’s Lobby of Colorado, a statewide public policy advocacy organization, plans to include these bills in our annual scorecard this year. As we tell the story of what happened this session—what issues emerged, which lawmakers championed (or failed) their own constituencies, how did our state’s government respond (or not respond) to the needs of its women, low-income communities, and people of color—these bills will be highlighted.
For our state leaders, if you call yourself a women’s rights advocate you must support these bills. These bills are about improving women’s rights and basic needs. Your actions will speak louder than your words.