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Less visible workers need #MeToo movement, too

By Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

Since Burke is African-American, such black-oriented websites as The Root and Ebony complained about her possibly being pushed to the backseat of history, along with the disadvantaged communities in which she has worked for years.

That's a legitimate concern. Most of the news coverage and national chatter since the Weinstein scandal has centered on the sort of powerful men who walk the corridors of power in Hollywood, Washington and major news media as varied as Fox News, NBC and NPR.

But what about the other victims, overwhelmingly women, who do not have celebrity jobs or ritzy status to draw attention to their complaints?

That's the next big arena into which the "Me Too" movement and its many allies, regardless of gender, needs to expand. Burke says so, too. Working-class women in such unglamorous jobs as farm workers and hotel housekeepers need sympathetic ears -- and action -- too.

Such ears too often are hard to find, but that is changing. For example, in a Chicago survey of 500 hotel workers by the Unite Here hospitality union, more than half said they had been sexually harassed by a guest, and 49 percent said they had experienced guests answering the door naked or otherwise exposing themselves.

The city passed a measure in October that requires hotels to provide panic buttons and sexual harassment-related training. New York earlier included panic buttons in a collective bargaining agreement with hotel unions.

Yet in Seattle, opposition from the hotel industry has stalled enforcement of a similar panic-button measure that voters approved in a referendum. As many wonder what's next for "#MeToo" and its allies, I say we should look away from the celebrities and toward the less fortunate and most vulnerable. They, too, are saying "Me, too."

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(E-mail Clarence Page at cpage@chicagotribune.com.)

(c) 2017 CLARENCE PAGE DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.

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