Changing Organizations: Business Networks in the New Political Economy

By David Knoke | Go to book overview

8
Struggling in
the Workplace

Man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man's inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.

—Reinhold Niebuhr, The Children of Light
and the Children of Darkness (1944)

In April 1996, some 2,500 mostly white male employees of the Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing plant in Normal, Illinois, poured out of 60 buses hired by their employer to bring them to the downtown Chicago office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. They milled around in the street, chanting slogans "EEOC, you don't represent me," and "Two four six eight, we're here to set the story straight" (Grimsley and Brown 1996). Two weeks earlier the federal agency had filed a lawsuit against the Japanese auto assembler, alleging that many of the 700 women in the plant's workforce of 4,000 had been subjected to years of groping, sexual graffiti, and lewd remarks. As detailed in an EEOC memo to the federal court, the charges involved "incidents in which a male worker forcibly cut the hair of a female worker; a male worker talked frequently about wanting to kill women, and said he would force a woman to perform oral sex on him, and planned to 'blow her away' as he ejaculated; male workers passed around photos of women engaged in sex with animals; two male workers taped a woman's hands and feet to a cart and pushed it up and down the aisles while others laughed" (Grimsley and Swoboda 1997).

The EEOC argued that, by tolerating this sexual harassment, the Mitsubishi management had created a "hostile and abusive work environment" in violation of the 1991 Civil Rights Act. The EEOC class action suit

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