The founder of the Me Too movement told Unifor Convention Delegates that organized labour has been a strong force behind advancing diversity in the workplace and the role of women.
“Diversity is being invited to the dance. Inclusion is being asked to dance,” said Tarana Burke, who founded the Me Too movement long before Hollywood scandals made the #MeToo hashtag go viral.
Burke founded the movement in 2006, inspired by a young girl at a youth camp who gathered up the courage to tell her about the horrific assaults she had suffered as a child. It was a story the girl had never shared before.
“In that moment I could not muster up the courage of this child,” Burke said.
“These nightmares, this triggering, this fear, this anxiety, this pain, this shame that she carrying in the pit of her stomach, I carried it the same way because it happened to me too,” she said.
“I carry the courage of that child in my heart every day.”
Burke said Me Too grew from that experience into a worldwide network that supports survivors in their healing while working to end sexual violence.
Such work goes well beyond a hashtag, Burke said, while crediting #MeToo with exposing the epidemic of sexual violence faced by women and girls.
Burke said sexual violence is a workplace issue, pointing out that 19 per cent of working women in Canada report being sexually harassed at work, and 40 per cent have experienced some form of sexual assault since the age of 16.
“This is not about just changing policies. This is not about giving lip service.,” said Burke, whose mother was a UAW shop steward for 22 years.
“It’s about the sanctity of our humanity.”
Burke received a standing ovation before attending a meet and greet meeting with Unifor delegates.