It’s a long, arduous process to locate and vet good workers. We invest time, money and other resources to hire them, train them and get them acclimated to a new job. Unfortunately, too many of these good workers — especially women, apprentices and people of color — leave the jobs they truly love because of the bullying, intimidation and harassment they experience at work.
Last year, Engineering News-Record did a study on tradeswomen. It determined that as many as 64 percent of the women surveyed had been subjected to nonphysical aggression at their jobs.
What does “nonphysical aggression” mean? It means these women were taunted on the job or were the butts of a lot of jokes. Some were faced with explicit “artwork” on jobsite walls, shanties and port-a-johns. Sometimes those masterpieces described very specific services and included phone numbers. Even if it’s not a physical act, aggression and harassment can be unimaginably severe.
Harassment impacts everybody, and its impacts don’t necessarily stop when the victim drives through the gate at the end of the day. When they’re driving home, it can manifest as road rage, or the victim’s family can bear the brunt of the victim’s frustration.
This cycle must end. It’s a very real problem we must work together to solve.
‘Be That One Guy’
To address this very severe threat to workplace safety and wellbeing, the Iron Workers established the “Be That One Guy” initiative. This program is unique because we recognize that harassment is not just a treatment issue; it is a safety hazard.
A harassment scenario is made up of two key components. First, you have the harasser, who’s busy plotting what he’s going to do next to his victim. But second, you have the victim, who’s worried about what may be coming next. And before you know it, you have a whole crew of workers whose heads are not in the game, and that’s when accidents can — and do — happen.
But simply identifying the victim’s lack of concentration is missing the bigger picture.
“Be That One Guy” teaches workers’ negative attitudes impact the whole jobsite and put everyone at risk. This program teaches members the domino effect of harassment, and union leaders and contractors learn a better way to handle situations. It shifts us away from aggressor-based solutions to embracing the power of bystanders to become part of the solution.
“Be That One Guy” helps members become educated and changes the jobsite culture to keep workers working. Whether it’s the petrochemical industry, the manufacturing industry or any other industry, we desperately need to replenish a waning workforce, so we have to change our methods to address how we recruit and sustain our workforce.
We are losing 10,000 workers a day because the baby boomers are retiring. Replacing the baby boomers are the millennials, a whole new generation with new attitudes. They have different perspectives on bullying, harassment and intimidation. They care about equal treatment and social justice.
If we want to retain this millennial workforce after we’ve spent time and treasure to recruit and train them, we must provide them with respectful, professional work environments where they can build their careers.
The very core of our program is about bystanders. “Be That One Guy” helps members understand their own ability to change the jobsite culture.
All workers deserve respect, and “Be That One Guy” promotes that very simple philosophy. Its aim is simple: to encourage jobsite peers to call out harassment just as they would any other worksite hazard. In other words, “If you see something, say something.”
For more information, visit www.ironworkers.org or call (202) 383-4800.