The ACORN 8 ( http://www.acorn8.com ) and the USDA Coalition of Minority Employees will co-host this year's Whistleblower Summit--Civil & Human Rights Conference in Washington, DC. Due to overwhelming interest, the historic event has grown and is extended to May 21-23, 2012. This Civil & Human Rights Conference will focus on three themes 1) Obama's War on Whistleblowers, 2) workplace violence or Obama's War on Women, and 3) Count It Up--adding up the total costs of retaliation and discrimination. The following Letter to President Barack Obama about workplace violence at the U.S. Department of Agriculture was written by Lesa Donnelly one of the participants in this year's historic conference.
Citizen's Filibuster for Justice at USDA by Lawrence Lucas
AN OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA
September 29, 2011
The White House
President Barack Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
RE: Violence Against Women at U.S. Department of Agriculture
Dear Mr. President --
I wrote to you on May 19, 2011, requesting your assistance for women and minorities in the USDA, Forest Service, particularly women in Region 5, California. Shortly thereafter, Michael Blake, assistant to your senior advisor, Valerie Jarrett contacted me. Mr. Blake assured me that the White House was very concerned about the civil rights violations against USDA women and minorities. Unfortunately, little-to-no action has been taken to stop the egregious abuses, and they continue with no accountability for the perpetrators. I am writing to you again to request your assistance.
Mr. Blake advised me that he spoke with Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Joe Leonard, who would look into things, respond to the White House and they, "would take it from there to determine the next steps." Unfortunately, any steps Secretary Vilsack or Dr. Leonard took did not make a change in working conditions for women in California or USDA employees elsewhere. Mr. Blake has now moved to Chicago to work on your campaign and the women have been left to fend for themselves against abusive men and managers that physically abuse them, sexually harass them, and put them in harm's way. Secretary Vilsack seems to care little that women have been financially ruined, put in the hospital due to workplace violence, have been hospitalized for emotional breakdowns, are in fear for their lives, and have become suicidal. I am asking you to care Mr. President, because without your help it will continue.
The situation in Region 5 is so dire that
we women were compelled to establish our own crisis intervention group. Women
can call and get support when management frightens, intimidates, harms, and
isolates them. Last month I had a suicide call from a Hispanic woman. Today, I
had a suicide call from a Native American woman. Does someone have to die
before Secretary Vilsack pays attention? Last week, a Native American
firefighter was going to quit her job because male firefighters wrote, "prostitute"
on the wall at her fire station. It was the last straw for her. This is the
same woman I spoke of in my last letter who was sexually harassed, physically
assaulted, and forced to urinate in front of the men. We women rallied to
support her and keep her employed. Yesterday, we had mediation for a Native
American woman who almost committed suicide this year from the treatment she
received from forest, region, and Washington management. The agency tried to
coerce her into resigning to get a settlement agreement -- a clear message that
she is not valued. This month a Native American pregnant woman was forced to
work in an office filled with mice and feces, putting her and her twins' health
at risk for Hanta Virus. We tried to get it resolved, even contacting the
Secretary's Office -- they did not care and refused to act. We had to call the
Governor's office and speak with the Vector Borne Disease Control specialists
who were so concerned about her health or risk of death that they intervened.
The U.S. government practiced genocide on Native Americans for many years
-- it appears that USDA has reinstated this policy in the Forest Service. It
Tribal leaders throughout California are becoming increasingly concerned about the treatment of Native American women in the USDA, Forest Service. I believe you will hear from them soon.
Women of all races and ethnicities, Asian, Caucasian, African American, Hispanic, are being treated similarly -- sexual harassment, workplace violence, threats, intimidation, stalking, career barriers, isolation, shunning, lack of equal opportunities, unwarranted discipline, termination. As I said in my last letter to you, "Mr. President, at this point in time you would not want your daughters to work for USDA." I can only imagine that Mrs. Obama, with her anti-violence against women stance must be horrified to learn about USDA.