Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Factory Girls

Ten years ago on this date, Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturer of America (MMMA) agreed to a $34 million settlement of the allegations that the company's female workers were insulted and groped and management did nothing to stop it. In 1994, 29 female employees filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging that the company was complicit in allowing male workers on the shop floor to sexually harass them. In April 1996 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) brought suit on the behalf some 300 to 500 female workers at Mitsubishi's Normal, Illinois plant. The complaints were some of the most egregious that the EEOC had handled to that point; besides the groping of genital areas, women were also subjected to pornagraphy in the workplace, including graphic drawings on automobiles as they came down the assembly line.

The Mitsubishi plant is one of the few Japanese "transplant" factories that is unionized; UAW Local 2488 represents production workers at this location. Unfortunately, the union did nothing when female members of the local raised complaints with local officers. When the EEOC first filed suit, Mitsubishi bused hundreds of workers to the EEOC offices in Chicago to protest the decision. But afraid of the repercussions that "bad publicity" would generate for the already stuggling operation, the company hired former Bush I labor secretary Lynn Martin to study the company's labor relations practices, and by 1998 decided to settle the suit out of court.

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