6 Years: Living and Breathing Workplace Bullying

This New Years I’m giving thanks to all of you who have supported my work and helped me create a powerful network of websites and videos.  Top on the list is my tech guru and  videographer, Patrick Perrotto, who has always been there.  He freely donated the use of his state of the art broadcast quality equipment and did much of the driving.

Over the years we’ve been to Massachusetts, Texas, New Jersey, New York (numerous times), Virginia (numerous times), Pennsylvania and Canada and I even took a few solos to Wisconsin, Texas & Wales.  Pat arranged for Ed Hollema to donate his services as Audio & Asst Camera.   Let me put it this way, had we all been paid for our time, services, and equipment it would have easily cost upwards of $200,000+.  I am forever indebted to them both.  Feel free to help by making a donation of any size.

Continue reading

Our Top 2011 Posts on Workplace Bullying

This year our most popular posts continue to cover a wide range of topics and issues related to workplace bullying.  We  continue to focus on our mission to critique and offer new voices and alternatives to the current dialogue.   Two 2010 posts ( about Mediation & OSHA ) are still extremely popular.  Here’s a recap for 2011: Continue reading

Documentary Features Foxconn Factory Workers

Shortly after Steve Jobs’ death hit the news, I caught an early morning round table discussion with Mike Daisey.  He is funny!  But, as he talked about his latest one-man show, The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, I was really hooked by his delight in shocking those members of his audience from Apple who outsource their product to factories in China.

“[The Agony And The Ecstasy] follows the standard line: Jobs was a combination of awesome visionary and ruthless businessman. He doesn’t tell us anything that we haven’t gleaned from Jobs’s obituaries, but that isn’t the point. The point is to ask us why we are not more troubled by the fact that our indispensable gadgets are assembled in part by children.”  [The Financial Times review]

Surprisingly, I couldn’t google up a video of Daisey’s monologue – except one in which 87 members of a Christian advocacy group staged a walk out.  But, I did find a Vimeo clip from Dream Work China, a documentary made by three Italian journalists who opened a photo shop across from the Shenzhen Foxconn factory [see video below]. They captured interviews with factory workers that represent the dreams of the millions of young Chinese migrant workers who leave their homes and families and travel long distances to work in factories – like Foxconn just across the street. Probably most disturbing are the scenes of dormitories with packed balconies overlooking the nets hung below as a painful memory of the suicides.

About a year before his death, the Daily Mail quoted Jobs as defending the conditions at Foxconn:

‘You go in this place and it’s a factory but, my gosh, they’ve got restaurants and movie theatres and hospitals and swimming pools. For a factory, it’s pretty nice,’ he said.

Jobs has been extremely outspoken about the need for his employees to be passionate about the products they create.  To bad this desire to inspire others and the understanding of the need for a creative and meaningful life didn’t trickle down. Then again, this is the same man who, according to his official biography hitting the bookstores Monday,  personally complained to President Obama that regulations on business are too tough to build factories here.  And, was frustrated that Obama was so focused on trying to understand why things happen.

“In the suburbs of Shenzhen, in Guangdong province, young workers talk about their lives, existences built on a precarious balance between hope, struggles and wishes for the future. Around them activists and NGOs strive to give sense and meaning to words like rights, dignity and equity.”

Visit the Dream Work China for more information

Here’s an hour long interview with Mike Daisey from CSpan

What does “Hot Coffee” and “Workplace Bullying” have in common?

This week, advocates in a dozen states are taking part in “OurBullyPulpit’s Take Action Screenings” to raise public awareness about workplace bullying.  Many are advocates for pending legislation, which in most states is the Healthy Workplace Bill [HWB].  But, the HWB they’re fighting for includes a $25K Cap on our (victims’s) emotional distress portion for those who haven’t lost their jobs, been demoted or suffered any other negative action.  You also have to prove malice and health harm.  The argument by the drafter of the HWB is that a purposely low Cap and high hurdles will help avoid “frivolous lawsuits.”

But, using Caps to avoid “frivolous lawsuits” is the battle cry for Tort Reform and so far much of the success from this effort has been the ability to place low monetary caps on court settlements.  Wisconsin’s controversial Governor just passed a tough reform in his state.

The powerful documentary, Hot Coffee, which premiered on HBO this summer, has fired up the national debate and helps demystify commonly held misconceptions for us laymen. We all want a law to stop bully bosses.  But, each of us has the right to ask that a law reflects our desires and concerns.  Those that want to can easily ask their legislator to strike the Cap out of the bill.  Please read the insightful Atlantic article excerpted below and see the movie:

Everyone has their own spin for so-called “tort reform” laws. Here’s mine: In each instance, state legislators, who are elected largely through corporate donations, have acted to reduce the authority and ability of jurors to render meaningful verdicts against corporations. These lawmakers have interceded to protect corporate interests in advance, via statutes that nullify the facts of individual tort cases, with arbitrary damage caps that are designed more to protect wrongful defendants from liability than protect the victims of their wrongdoing. And the state judiciary, also now being bought and paid for in many states, has followed the lead of the legislative branch in undermining the role of the jury.

No one wants a “frivolous” lawsuit but what exactly is that, anyway? And who is better to decide what is “frivolous” or not? The lawmaker who caps out damage awards based upon the views of the lobbyist who has made a campaign contribution? Or you and your neighbor sitting in judgment on a plaintiff and her case? No want wants an “excessive” jury award but what exactly constitutes “excessive?” Was it excessive for the Gourleys to want the corporate defendants, and their insurance carriers, to pay the $6 million it will take to pay for Colin’s care? Nebraska lawmakers made that decision for the family, in advance, without regard to the facts of their case. Were they better equipped than the Gourleys’ jury to evaluate the definition of the word “excessive”?

Here’s more:

The message has been simple: Corporations are being preyed upon by plaintiffs, trial lawyers, and juries, each of whom are involved in some sort of cosmic conspiracy to transfer wealth from the rich to the poor by virtue of a damage-award verdicts. This propaganda implies that this redistribution of corporate wealth in this fashion is unconstitutional or otherwise unfair. The narrative also pits neighbor against neighbor, juror against juror, and thereby undermines both the letter and the spirit of the Seventh Amendment, which codifies a right to civil trial by jury.

In short, the “tort reform” movement has largely succeeded in making jurors out to be anti-American vengeance-mongers, a mob of citizens unhinged by law or logic and set loose upon innocent corporations. This is all wrong. Tort reform isn’t democratic because the people’s wishes are being expressed through state legislation. It’s anti-democratic because the lobbyists have succeeded in taking away the power of individual plaintiffs and jurors to set damage awards at an amount they feel is just. Remember, no damage award has ever been handed out to a plaintiff who lost a tort case against a company.

How has this marketing campaign been so successful for so long when it’s so obviously built on so many misconceptions about the justice system? Easy. For decades, the media machine dutifully has played along. Indeed, one of the most striking parts of Hot Coffee is its consistent use of old news broadcasts to highlight the extent to which journalists, on the whole, have miserably failed to explain the true nature of “tort reform” to their audience. So many people uninformed about the nature of a jury’s work! So many people underinformed about who benefits and who is burdened by tort reform!

OurBullyPulpit.com Sponsors ‘Take Action’ Screenings During ‘Freedom From Workplace Bullying Week’

Advocating With Film To Raise Awareness About Workplace Bullying

Many thanks for your surprising support!  Advocates and victim/targets all over the country – and even Australia – are taking part in our use film to create change initiative for both individual and community actions. 

Some of the actions include: 

  • Screening Partyyour_stories1.jpg
  • Mailing DVD to local legislators
  • Lobbying
  • Town Hall Meeting
  • College courses
  • Trainings
  • Sharing with fellow employees who are being bullied
  • Sharing with family members, friends, and co-workers to show the impact of workplace bullying and validate the experience
  • Donating to local library

DVDs have gone out to people across the country in states including:

  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • New York
  • New Jersey
  • Pennsylvania
  • Wisconsin
  • Minnesota
  • Massachusetts
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Texas
  • and even outside the U.S. to Australia

ABOUT THE INIITIATIVE:

* FREE DVD’s AS ORGANIZING TOOLS*

external image DVD_TBL.jpg
Wow! The DVD’s featuring moving personal stories that we offered yesterday for free to use in fighting against workplace bullying have been claimed! However, for a limited time or until they run out, if you are in the U.S. and willing to pay for postage we will send one to each person who emails a request. The only caveat is the same – you have to let us know how you used the DVD to educate others about this issue. Be creative and get the word out!  [More Information]

Each DVD contains Tracey’s LawMarlene’s LawJodie’s Law, and the first episode of What Really Killed Kevin Morrissey. Use PayPalto pay for shipping and receive a Free DVD or Send your request to OurBullyPulpit@gmail.com

“Jodie’s Law” needs “Teeth” to fight workplace bullying

In 2010 I posted my short documentary “Jodie’s Law” about a young woman who her family alleges committed suicide due to workplace bullying.  This is an update from her Aunt:

We have received tremendous response from your documentary both Nationally and around the world.

We/My family always felt if sharing the heartbreak of our family would help save one life, our efforts and Jodie’s death would not have been in vain. Having taken that step forward, has brought many to us who have told us they were prepared to take their life when they saw your documentary or read our stories, and they pulled back from the brink, saving their loved ones the pain they endured. Normally those accounts have also been accompanied with statements of renewed courage to face their situation, their bully, or find a different job.

There have also been e-mails asking to speak with me directly as they were contemplating taking their lives. With my heart in my throat, I felt I could not dial their phone numbers quickly enough. But through the mercy of God, I reached each caller, listening to the pain of their experiences and the dire choices they believed were in front of them. These callers repeatedly expressed their gratitude; but I too felt grateful, as helping is part of healing ones broken heart. Though there are times I still hold my breath when we interact, most have found their footing and belief in themselves. This does not mean there was a rosy job in front, just waiting for them. The struggles have been long and hard; but joyfully many have gone on to find new and fulfilling careers. For those who continue to struggle, I remind them they are the heros, for they are survivors; as well as hold them in my heart and prayers.

Add “Teeth”to Pending Legislation:

Passage of Healthy Workplace Legislation seems to drag on. Perhaps this is the way it goes when trying to pass a law. I admit I am still a novice to the roll of Citizen Lobbyist. The political outlook in Wisconsin has been very dire. Yet, State Representative Kelda Roys, and Senator Jon Erpenbach, sponsors of the Wisconsin bill, assure me that Jodie’s Law (as we like to call it) has not been lost on them; they are simply waiting for a more favorable political climate.

We, as a family find it discouraging that many working on the legislation insist on calling it a Healthy Workplace Bill as opposed to an Anti-Bullying bill. We think there has been so much news in the media about bullying, that it should no longer be considered an aggressive term when working for a law against it in the workplace. There are few people who are not familiar with the term Bullying when it comes to schools and young people, as the numerous pieces of legislation indicate. Also the idea that the law would have to prove malice seems unacceptable. It is not required in other protected status laws, so it does not seem wise to set a precedent now.

Also, we would like to see a tougher stance to adding some financial teeth if employer negligence is found. I/we have not given up on these bills. We write, call, sign petitions, and anything else we can feasibly do to help them along. I try to keep up with all that is posted on Facebook, writing responses, opinions, bringing up Jodie’s story, etc. and always including the link to your documentary. We are in the process of having a brochure of Jodie’s story printed so we may easily hand it out when people ask about our button that we still wear with Jodie’s picture & caption Workplace Bullying Breaks Hearts

I am chagrined there are times it all gets to be too much for me and my spirit sags and I find myself on the verge of days of depression. Jodie’s Mom encourages me to take a break from it all for now, or maybe for always, as she says Jodie would be proud of what I have accomplished and she would not want to see me ruin my health or lose the joy of life. So I have been giving myself permission to do just that.

Expanding Advocacy Efforts:

We sisters have talked some about focusing our work towards the children and teens anti-bullying issues. Perhaps developing a program geared towards talking with children and teens, as well as parents, teachers, administrative leaders, as well as school boards and city/county board members. Jodie was a leading member of DECA in her high school and we feel the DECA program would be a good place to start. This is all in the talking stages for us, put we do feel at times our efforts would be better spent in that direction. Many States have passed Anti Bullying laws for children and schools, so we may have a better foot in the door. Growing our citizens of tomorrow with an understanding of the damage caused bullying and the benefits of tolerance, may in the end bring the best results. Hopefully their parents would be learning right along with the kids, and then start to stand up for their own rights in the workplace as well.

We have been appalled at the number of suicides among young peopled. In Wisconsin a teen attempted set himself on fire, and in Minnesota two middle-school girls made a suicide pact and hung themselves, all due to bullying. Jodie’s daughter is now 10 years old. These stories have scared me to death! Over dinner I spoke with our little girl about what they are taught in school about bullying. It seems it is discussed frequently, as she had a lot to tell me. I also gave her a book about bullying published by the American Doll company. Because she has a very active 6 year old brother, we never got a chance to get back to the book or the subject, but at least it is a start.  We have not yet broached the subject of suicide. It seems like such a cruel topic to confront and we have not had the right moment to talk with her Daddy about it and what and when he thinks the subject should come up. It is still all very heartbreaking but everyone is heroically carrying on and doing what each of us can to help the other along.

Family Life:

Jodie’s husband is doing a great job in raising the children, though he seems to steer pretty carefully away from any serious discussions with us about Jodie, and all that has occurred, yet relations between all of us are becoming more comfortable. He brought the kids to Florida for the first time since Jodie’s passing. We all went to Disney World & then spent Thanksgiving at Grandma Jean (Jodie’s Mom).

He has his hands full keeping the kids clothes clean, as well as the house, seeing their home work is done, fixing their meals, getting them to school and to bed, girl-scouts, religion classes, swimming, soccer, T-ball, and even coaching their teams. He loves the children very much. I think I can safely say they are his world, and the kids feel the same. Jodie’s daughter is very protective of her brother and watches over him and her Daddy like she is a little mother – sometimes more than either male of the house appreciates.

Grandma Jean (my sister & Jodie’s Mom)  & I had a wonderful but short visit with them in August. We spent two nights at their place, where among other things we played salon and Jodie’s daughter gave us facials and did my hair (!) and her brother painted my fingernails and make-up. I only regret we did not take pictures of the end results! We …spent lots of time with their Auntie Lisa (Jodie’s sister in your video) and a lot of time in the swimming pool. It is always hard to say goodbye.

It is important to note that no single factor leads to suicide and Jodie’s employer did not respond to an offer to participate in the documentary.