New initiative wants to help less famous employees deal with sexual harassment

The reports of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s decades of sexual harassment and assault exposed abuses within the entertainment industry and started a national conversation about workplace harassment. As part of this conversation, an open letter of solidarity was posted in November on behalf of 700,000 female farmworkers to Hollywood employees dealing with sexual harassment.

On Monday, producer Shonda Rhimes, director Ava DuVernay, showrunner Jill Soloway, and actresses America Ferrera and Reese Witherspoon were among 300 Hollywood figures who posted their reply to these farmworkers with an open letter and an initiative titled Time’s Up, which outlined how they would use their privileged platform to help employees who are not Hollywood famous deal with sexual harassment.

“To every woman employed in agriculture who has had to fend off unwanted sexual advances from her boss, every housekeeper who has tried to escape an assaultive guest, every janitor trapped nightly in a building with a predatory supervisor, every waitress grabbed by a customer and expected to take it with a smile, every garment and factory worker forced to trade sexual acts for more shifts, every domestic worker or home health aide forcibly touched by a client, every immigrant woman silenced by the threat of her undocumented status being reported in retaliation for speaking up and to women in every industry who are subjected to indignities and offensive behavior that they are expected to tolerate to make a living: We stand with you. We support you,” the open letter states.

How Time’s Up says it plans to help employees across all sectors

The Time’s Up initiative includes a legal defense fund to protect less privileged victims of harassment. It is reportedly being backed by $13 million in donations and is being run by the National Women’s Law Center’s Legal Network for Gender Equity. Other action items are more symbolic, such as a request for women walking the Golden Globes red carpet to wear black to raise awareness of the legal defense fund and the movement.

Although the movement’s ranks include A-list stars, Time’s Up is being run by a loose coalition of Hollywood employees in working groups with no central leader. The New York Times reports that meetings began in October to discuss problems and solutions to accused harassers like Weinstein. One working group oversaw a new commission led by Anita Hill to end sexual harassment in media and entertainment, while one is working on proposed legislation to stop nondisclosure agreements that conceal harassment.

Time will tell if the movement can lead to lasting change, but members say that’s their overarching goal. Maria Eitel, the co-chairwoman of the Nike Foundation, who has moderated Time’s Up meetings told the Times, “They didn’t come together because they wanted to whine, or complain, or tell a story or bemoan. They came together because they intended to act.”