Jane Fonda was spotted on the Hill on Wednesday. The actress, producer and fitness mogul is in DC with a delegation called “Unstoppable Women Workers,” which is made up of domestic workers and farmworkers who are lobbying Congress for safe and dignified workplaces.
The delegation had plans to meet with Sens. Bernie Sanders, Patty Murray and Cory Booker, as well as Reps. Rosa DeLauro and Pramila Jayapal.
Others lobbying include Ai-jen Poo of National Domestic Workers Alliance, Mónica Ramirez of National Farmworker Women’s Alliance and Fatima Goss Graves of National Women’s Law Center.
Saba asked Fonda, who recently starred in the film “Book Club,” a few questions via email for The Point about her visit to Washington. The exchange has been edited for clarity. Here’s what she had to say:
What made you want to speak up about protecting all working women?
The issue of workers rights has been very important to me for a long time and was one of the reasons I produced the movie “9 to 5.” From then to now, I’ve known caregivers who had experienced isolation and sexual harassment on the job. I’ve been in the fields and witnessed the long hours and hard conditions of farmworkers. As mostly women of color, domestic workers and farmworkers are threatened, robbed of their wages, not paid overtime, and made to be invisible. No woman should have to choose between paying her rent and her own personal safety.
How did you get involved with women from National Domestic Workers Alliance, National Farmworker Women’s Alliance and National Women’s Law Center?
With the rise of the TIME’S UP and #MeToo movements, the fight for workers rights became a new reality. When Mónica Ramirez of National Farmworker Women’s Alliance sent a letter to Hollywood on behalf of thousands of farmworker women, I knew this was a turning point. To truly solve the issues of dignity, equality, rights and safety, we have to stand in alliance with our sisters across all sectors. That’s why I came out to DC with my sisters from National Domestic Workers Alliance, National Farmworkers Women’s Alliance, and National Women’s Law Center. We will keep calling on Congress for policies that will uphold their rights and dignity. We are here for the long haul.
Why do you think the #metoo and #timesup movements are resonating so much across industries?
I think many of us are realizing that if women in all sectors, of all races and ethnicities, can’t be safe and work with dignity, then we cannot truly call ourselves a democracy. We have been in silos for too long. It’s time for all of us to embrace the powerful notion of intersectionality and stand in solidarity with our sisters in other workplaces.
How can workplaces be safer places for women? And where do we go from here?
To make workplaces safe for all women, we have to start with our laws. Dignified workplaces mean laws that include every worker – no loopholes, no exclusions. We need all women workers to have safe and accessible ways to report harassment, and that means expanding Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. We are also pushing for laws that provide farmworkers and domestic workers with basic labor protections, like overtime protection. We are inviting everyone to join us. Organize, march, and raise your voices.
Why do you think it is important as a public figure to address lawmakers about key issues?
I have a unique and privileged opportunity as a public figure to talk about issues that are impacting so many people in our country. As a longtime activist, I’m using my platform to amplify grassroots voices who are so close to the solutions. We should not be afraid to speak out about injustices that are happening all around us. We need to pass the mic and share the spotlight to make sure every single voice is heard.