The Anita Hill-led Hollywood Commission has partnered with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to develop a pilot program to protect workers at independent production companies from workplace misconduct.
Founded in 1993 to protect the rights of farmworkers, the CIW received the 2014 Presidential Medal for its efforts at combatting human trafficking, and was featured prominently in Rape in the Fields, a PBS Frontline exposé of sexual abuse of migrant farmworkers.
“Independent production companies face a number of unique challenges,” the commission said in a statement. “They are often small in size and lack adequate resources and internal expertise to put systems in place that prevent workplace misconduct. In addition, victim reporting options at these companies are limited and at times require victims to bring complaints to their abuser.”
In its recent survey of entertainment industry workers, the commission found that those working on small productions are more likely to report egregious forms of sexual harassment and abuse than those on large productions. They’re also less likely to be aware of their employers’ resources and systems to address workplace conduct; less likely to report misconduct to the company, and less satisfied with the company‘s response if they did report.
The commission said that it intends to model the project after the CIW’s Fair Food Program, a partnership among farmers, farmworkers, and retail food companies that ensures fair wages and working conditions for farmworkers by harnessing the power of consumer demand, while working to eliminate the longstanding abuses that have plagued the agriculture industry for generations. The New York Times called it “the best workplace-monitoring program” in the country, while the Washington Post called it “one of the great human rights success stories of our day.” The program also earned co-founder Greg Asbed a MacArthur “Genius” grant, and was named by Harvard Business Review as one of the “15 most important social-impact success stories of the past century.”
“There are myriad lessons for Hollywood to glean from the approach, execution and success of CIW and the Fair Food Program in eradicating sexual harassment from an industry devoid of accountability and rife with abuse,” Hill said. “Building on the existing work of the Hollywood Commission, this partnership will help us create a blueprint to address and prevent misconduct in independent production companies, and ultimately, we hope, forge a safer and more equitable workplace environment in Hollywood.”
“Although each sector is unique, sexual harassment and bullying in the workplace are universal problems that share the common denominator of power imbalance,” said Laura Safer Espinoza, a retired New York State Supreme Court justice and the executive director of the Fair Food Standards Council, the independent monitoring body that oversees and enforces the Fair Food Program. “Through our work over the past decade, we have proven that an interconnected system of transparency, worker empowerment, and reliable enforcement can bring about true accountability and transform an industry from the ground up. We look forward to partnering with the Hollywood Commission to explore how these lessons can be effectively applied to address the specific needs of vulnerable workers in the entertainment industry.”
The commission, founded in 2017 by producer Kathleen Kennedy and attorney Nina Shaw in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, will host webinars today and Thursday at 10 am PT that will focus on understanding how workplace cultures and related policies and practices can foster environments that tolerate bullying behaviors and sexual harassment, while exploring how power dynamics permeate workplace cultures and create conditions that allow unchecked negative behaviors to escalate over time. The programs will be moderated Lauren Rikleen, president and founder of the Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership.