Thursday, November 2, 2017

The BATS/AFT Survey:  A Step Towards Assuring Dignity and Eliminating Workplace Bullying
By Dr. Jerry Carbo

                For the past 20 years I have worked to eliminate harassment and bullying from American workplaces.  Twenty years ago, it was my hope that I would have worked my way out of a job and out of an area or research by now.  It was my hope that for my daughters, who were just babies when I began exploring this area, harassment and bullying would no longer be a concern in the working environment they would enter as the adults they are today.    I worked towards this goal as an HR Manager, an attorney, a consultant, an academic, a founding board member of the National Workplace Bullying Coalition and as a researcher.   I also had the opportunity to work as a member of the EEOC Select Task Force for the study of workplace harassment. Unfortunately for my daughters and every other working American, that goal is still far from being met.
                 In the course of these 20 years, there have been ups and downs.  I have interviewed targets of workplace bullying and witnessed their anger, angst and frustration.  I have witnessed targets of bullying gain a collective consciousness of concern for each other. I have worked with labor organizations to protect their members from workplace bullies and have worked with activists to push for meaningful legal reform to address workplace bullying.   I have met many like-minded advocates, activists, researchers, academics and even legislators.   I have has the opportunity to publish articles, draft legislation and even published a book in pursuit of this goal to eliminate workplace bullying.    
                Over the past couple of years I have had the privilege to be a member of an incredible group of educators and activists in the Badass Teachers Association Quality of Work life Team.. This team has been one of the “ups” for me over those 20 years and has helped to provide me with the hope that my 20 year goal may still indeed be met.  Together we have been able to explore bullying in K-12, have taken steps to educate teachers and members of the public about workplace bullying through blogs and chats, and the team together with AFT has taken a huge step in exploring workplace bullying with two comprehensive workplace surveys of teachers. 
                The results of both of these surveys paint a depressing picture of the current state of the working environment for teachers in our country.  The results are disconcerting, but not shocking.   We continue to operate in a corporatized, cut-throat, individualistic system of commerce that has spilled over into all levels of education.  This environment not only allows for workplace bullying, it promotes it and often rewards it.   As politicians and ed-reformers push K-12 (and higher ed) towards what is often referred to as a business model of operations, it should come as no surprise that the already stressful job of teaching, becomes overrun with workplace bullying, intimidation and harassment.  It is hard at times to avoid becoming discouraged about the pervasiveness of bullying and harassment in our culture, but despair does us no good.  As an activist, I know that in order to solve problems we must educate, agitate and organize a collective movement..  This results of this survey provide a platform to do all three.  
                Every human being has a right to dignity.  It is unacceptable that we would allow those who have chosen to dedicate their professional lives (and often so much more) to the education and development of our children to be stripped of this right by bullies in their workplace.   The bullies who target teachers, the administrators who allow or even support such bullying and the system that provides a platform for the bullies are all complicit in violating the fundamental human rights of the very people we depend upon to teach our children and to set the course for the future of our country.  If you care about children, our system of education, our place of competitiveness in the global economy then you must pay attention to the results of this survey.  You MUST demand that we do better.  You MUST understand that a teacher’s working environment is the pupils’ learning environment.   When teachers are bullied not only are they stripped of their dignity, their students suffer along with them.   
                There are steps that we can take to eliminate workplace harassment and to protect the human rights of all workers.   We must first and foremost recognize the right to human dignity exists not only in our lives outside of work, but also exists when we enter the doors of our employer.  We MUST understand that without strong legislation with strong enforcement bullying in the workplace will continue to exist.   We MUST convince employers of the need to eliminate workplace bullying, not just for the business case, but because it is the right thing to do.  We NEED strong worker advocates, strong unions, strong union leaders, strong union members who will STAND UP for the rights of targets.  We NEED bystanders to become “UPSTANDERS” and we need targets of bullying to be provided an avenue where they can stand together collectively to put an end to bullying and harassment in the workplace.    I hope that the results of this survey will be a meaningful call to all of you. I hope that you will decide to stand with me, the BATS, the AFT, the National Workplace Bullying Coalition and many others to DEMAND the right to dignity at work and an end to workplace bullying.

Dr. Jerry Carbo is a Professor of Labor Studies and Business and Society, in the Management and Marketing Department of the Grove College of Business.  He is a founding member of the National Workplace Bullying Coalition.  He served on the EEOC Select Task Force for the Study of Workplace Harassment and is an active attorney in West Virginia representing targets of workplace harassment. You can find his book Understanding, Defining and Eliminating Workplace Harassment through Routledge Press, Amazon and other book sellers.  

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