The members and volunteers of Fuerza Migrante live in an oppressive society, as everyone else, so we are not impermeable to its effects. Our interactions are mediated by systemic inequalities based on gender, race, class, ability, sexuality, education, and culture, with a notable absence of any mechanisms for accountability. We all grew up and lead our lives under a system that incentivizes and rewards power over others along these lines, so that even as we seek to contribute to the radical transformation of society, it’s still easy for us to reproduce oppressive behaviours in the spaces we are building (something we explore in our article “Multidimensional solidarity: Building migrant power means challenging hegemonic masculinity“).
This can be expressed in different forms, such as through our language, in the things we say and in our silence, as well as through our actions. In a society where we are, literally and figuratively, made to buy into the myth of independent and private individuals, oppressive behaviour is usually individualized. Instead of recognizing the need to transform the capitalist system, we are assured it’s a matter of a few “bad apples.” Instead of eradicating sexism, it’s just some “bad men.” Instead of dismantling racism, some “bad cops” got carried away. Individualizing oppressive behaviour thus makes it more difficult to unroot and revolutionize an oppressive system by negating the underlying social forces that created the conditions that were needed to foment that oppressive behaviour in the first place. By blinding ourselves to the social product that is the individual, our individualized targets to eradicate oppressive behaviour not only miss the mark, but also serve to give life and continue reproducing an oppressive system.
Fuerza Migrante is therefore committed to the prevention of these oppressive practices, and having an accountability policy in place that is aimed at prevention of discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment and bullying is an important piece of the structures required to achieve this goal.
Bullying: Bullying is a dehumanizing behaviour directed against an individual or group that creates a threatening or intimidating environment that undermines the confidence and self-esteem of the recipient(s).
Harassment: Harassment may be an isolated incident or repeated actions. Harassment can take many forms, including physical, verbal, oral or written expression, and may involve written documents as well as the use of social media platforms and technology, including email, text messaging, photographs or pictures, that cause offense, discomfort or disadvantage to the person subjected to or witnessing it and which:
- are related to a person’s gender, race, colour, ethnic origin, trans-sexuality, disability, size, religion, belief system, age, lifestyle, sexual orientation or other personal characteristics; and is unwanted; and
- have the purpose or effect of violating that person’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that person.
- include any inappropriate conduct or comment by a person towards another, that the person knew or reasonably ought to have known would cause that person to be humiliated or intimidated.
Examples of conduct or comments that might constitute bullying and harassment include:
- Physical abuse or the threat of
- Abuse or misuse of power
- Shouting or using profanity in an intimidating way
- Spreading malicious rumours, gossip, or innuendo
- Excluding or isolating someone
- Undermining or deliberately impeding a person’s work, creating a feeling of uselessness
- Harmful hazing or initiation practices
- Vandalizing personal belongings
Sexual harassment: Harassment in this policy specifically recognises and covers sexual harassment which includes sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, including actual or attempted rape or sexual assault; unwanted pressure for sexual favours; unwanted deliberate touching, cornering, or pinching; unwanted sexual looks or gestures; unwanted communication or materials of a sexual nature; or sexually suggestive signals.
Complaint: An accusation of harassment or bullying, brought forward to the attention of any member of Fuerza Migrante.
Fuerza Migrante member: Fuerza Migrante is composed of many individuals who offer their time and skills on a voluntary basis. In order to remain accountable to each other, Fuerza Migrante’s team has defined the following categories of members:
- Board of Directors: Folks who are elected to lead and represent the organization for a set term, as defined in the organization’s Structure and Values document.
- Operative Team: Those who are in charge of carrying out the day-to-day tasks of the organization, following the yearly plan, as defined by all members (including the Board of Directors) in the organization’s General Assembly.
- General Members: Those who, having gone through Fuerza Migrante’s Membership Process, have volunteered to become members of the organization (restricted to temporary migrant workers).
- Volunteers: Those who, having gone through the organization’s Volunteers Process, have volunteered to work with the organization on specific tasks, work areas or projects.
III. APPLICABILITY AND SCOPE
The objective of this policy is to unequivocally establish Fuerza Migrante’s position on bullying and harassment and define the procedures for reporting, investigating, and seeking redress and/or remedy to all incidents of bullying and/or harassment.
This policy applies to Fuerza Migrante members and volunteers (as defined in section II above).
Since anyone can be subjected to oppressive behaviour, anyone can submit a complaint under this policy about Fuerza Migrante members/volunteers who have, at any time and for any duration, engaged in harassing or bullying behaviour, whether in the course of an activity on behalf of the organization (regular organizing work or during events organised or attended by the organization), or anywhere whilst carrying out work for Fuerza Migrante. This includes moments of socializing and during activities not directly related to Fuerza Migrante’s activities, since we identify that the personal is political, and therefore the organization does not make a distinction in this regard.
When an accusation of harassment or bullying regarding a non-Fuerza Migrante member who is close to the organization is made, Fuerza Migrante commits to pursue the same procedures as it would for a member/volunteer of the organization, recognizing that it may be extremely difficult to hold that person accountable. This is because the organization cannot take action against someone who is not a member/volunteer of the organization. Nevertheless, the organization commits to supporting individuals looking to begin an accountability process around the accused.
Fuerza Migrante is not simply working towards establishing the dignity of migrant workers today, but also instigating and building a liberatory process through which we actively challenge and eradicate power dynamics and also transform oppressive systemic issues: racism, sexism, misogyny, trans- or homophobia, among others. We intend to build the future today, where struggles for workers’ rights are indivisible from the simultaneous struggle for the rights of women, people of colour, Indigenous, LGBTQ communities, and other marginalized communities. Clear and robust structures of accountability present a continuous challenge to the internalization of oppressive ideas, behaviours, and language, keeping individuals accountable to their communities, organizations and to other members of coalitions or networks, promoting the growth of critical analysis and practice. These processes of accountability need to be inclusive, participatory, and reflective for all members. Further, we cannot stress enough that these processes need to recognize interlocking systems of oppression, which can help minimize the reproduction of languages and practices of oppression, or turn a blind eye towards them.
In this work, we are not starting from scratch. The invaluable work of others helps guide us, and we invite members and allies to familiarize themselves with the following projects as well:
- Red Braid Alliance – Accountability Process (here)
- Black Rose Anarchist Federation’s Points of Unity, particularly on Patriarchy and Queer Liberation (here)
- Creative Interventions Toolkit: A Practical Guide to Stop Interpersonal Violence (here)INCITE! Community Accountability Within the People of Color Progressive Movement (here)
A core aspect of this Policy and Accountability Process is that it is not the intention of the perpetrator that is key in deciding whether harassment or bullying has occurred, but whether the behaviour is considered non-consensual or oppressive by the person subjected to or witnessing it.
Retaliation by anyone towards the survivor as a result of an accusation made in good faith will not be tolerated and will be treated as harassment.
This policy and its procedures are intended to clarify the types of behaviour that Fuerza Migrante considers to be bullying or harassment and are therefore unacceptable. It provides as fair and sensitive mechanisms as possible, for dealing with allegations of harassment or bullying.
All members and volunteers of Fuerza Migrante are expected to:
- Not engage in bullying and harassment of others.
- Report and confront bullying and/or harassment whenever observed or experienced.
- Apply and comply with Fuerza Migrante’s policies and procedures on bullying and harassment.
IV. ACCOUNTABILITY PROCESS
People subjected to harassment or bullying may hesitate to complain because they may feel intimidated, worried that they will be further victimised, or lack the confidence that something meaningful will be done. Although these difficulties are recognised, Fuerza Migrante encourages everyone to report any cases of harassment or bullying under this policy. These procedures are intended to facilitate this. It is possible that the individual is not the only person to be harassed or bullied by the person concerned, and if the matter is left unresolved others may also be harmed.
Fuerza Migrante takes all accusations seriously and commits to investigate these swiftly and in confidence, to the extent possible. Fuerza Migrante encourages everyone to make use of the support and advice available. The organization commits to guaranteeing the safety and confidentiality of the complainant throughout the entire process and its resolution. The complainant will be given primacy and final decision-making powers over the distribution of their information and accountability process within Fuerza Migrante and elsewhere.
Fuerza Migrante’s Accountability Process includes the roles designated below (Sections 4.1 to 4.4).
4.1 Accountability Process Point Person (APPP)
The Accountability Process Point Person (APPP) is a role that rotates every 3 months within Fuerza Migrante’s Operative Team. The APPP must undergo specific training so that they are well versed in advising in cases of harassment. Fuerza Migrante commits to do its best to designate an APPP that represents the diversity of gender identities.
Tasks of the APPP:
- Being available to those who want to discuss a case of harassment or bullying;
- Giving support to those who report to have suffered harassment or bullying;
- Giving advice, on request, on possible informal solutions to the reported harassment or bullying;
- Talking to the alleged perpetrator, and to any other person involved, if the person who has reported to have suffered harassment or bullying requests so;
- Advising on the different options of the Accountability Process and of civil and criminal procedures;
- Drafting, on request of the person who has reported to have suffered harassment or bullying, a formal complaint to submit to the Board of Directors;
- Helping the person who has reported to have suffered harassment or bullying to contact organisations or authorities that may assist them with the problem, including for instance psychologists, and survivor support groups;
- Assist the person who has filed the complaint during the Complaints Procedure if they request so. This must include checking in with them about creating a support group for them, in order to make the Complaints Procedure easier.
APPPs shall observe the strictest confidentiality with respect to anything discussed with them in their capacity. APPP shall not discuss a reported case with anybody, unless given express permission by the person who has reported the harassment or bullying.
If a APPP has other functions within the organization, Fuerza Migrante shall facilitate that they can combine both tasks. The work of a APPP will take place as regular work for the organization, and other regular tasks cannot take precedence over their work as APPP.
4.2 Confidant (Fuerza Migrante member)
A member of Fuerza Migrante who receives a complaint or report, or is made aware of an instance of harassment or bullying is obliged, by having agreed to be a member of the organization and adhere to its values and policies, to take these complaints seriously. Acting as a confidant to the person making the complaint, members of Fuerza Migrante take on a special role within the Accountability process.
Tasks for Confidants:
- Being available to hear those who want to discuss a case of harassment or bullying;
- Giving support to those who report to have suffered harassment or bullying, to the best of their capacity and availability;
- Referring the person making a report of harassment or bullying to an APPP, unless not appropriate due to particular circumstances (e.g. there is a conflict of interest with the APPP);
- In the case that the APPP cannot be approached, the Confidant should take on that role to the extent possible, until another APPP can be designated, in agreement with the person making a complaint;
- After seeking consent from the person making a report, assist the survivor in submitting a formal complaint to the Board of Directors/Operative Team of the incident.
A Confidant shall observe the strictest confidentiality with respect to anything discussed with them. Confidants shall not discuss a reported case with anybody, unless given express permission by the person who has reported the harassment or bullying.
4.3 Board of Directors
Upon receiving a complaint or report, or being made aware of an instance of harassment or bullying, the Board of Directors must begin the process of striking an Accountability Committee, tasked to investigate, mediate with the parties involved, and propose solutions to the complaint made, based on the wishes and needs of the person making the report, and in the response of the person being accused.
4.4 Accountability Committee (AC)
- The Accountability Committee will consist of three members, one of which will be an external person with adequate knowledge (legal, counselling, etc.) and will be jointly agreed upon by the complainant and the organization. The Committee’s composition will vary depending on the situation at hand, and its members will be agreed upon with the person making a complaint. APPPs or Confidants cannot be members of the Committee.
- Members of the Committee shall be appointed each time an Accountability Process is needed.
- The objective of the AC will be to independently and fairly carry out investigations of bullying and harassment and sexual harassment cases to completion and in doing so, accurately record and report to all necessary stakeholders in accordance with this policy.
4.5 Reporting Procedures
A person who has been subjected to harassment or bullying is recommended first to talk to a APPP. They can discuss the problem and will receive advice about their options. The person making a report may ask for mediation, in which a APPP may be able to support. If the person making the report would like an investigation, they can proceed to speak with the Board of Directors.
On some occasions, a person may go to a member of Fuerza Migrante that they trust (a Confidant). In this case, the priority of the Confidant is to stop the unwanted behaviour and to make the environment safe. The Confidant can advise on a course of action that may stop the behaviour, for example, asking the perpetrator to stop the unwanted behaviour. The Confidant may also advise the victim to start a formal investigation with the Board of Directors.
If a person wishes to make a complaint and have an investigation carried out, they need to involve the Board of Directors. The investigation steps are noted below.
In summary, a person subjected to harassment or bullying may, at their choice:
- Approach an APPP for advice about available support and about the process for submitting a case for investigation; and/or
- Raise and report a case to a member of Fuerza Migrante who they feel they can trust for advice (Confidant), support and/or mediation or other measures within that member’s discretion; and/or
- Raise and report a case directly to the Board of Directors.
4.6.1 The investigation process will ensure that:
- It is undertaken promptly and diligently, and be as thorough as necessary, given the
- It is fair and impartial, providing both the complainant and respondent equal treatment in evaluating the allegations;
- It is sensitive to the interests of all parties involved, and maintain confidentiality;
- It is focused on finding facts and evidence, including interviews of the complainant, respondent, and any witnesses, and reviewing any evidence such as emails, handwritten notes, photographs, or physical evidence;
- Incorporates, where appropriate, any need or request from the complainant or respondent for assistance during the investigation process.
- The complainant and respondent are advised individually, in writing and in person, of the investigation findings by the AC, including any corrective actions to be taken.
4.6.2 Investigations Procedures:
- After having received the written complaint, the AC will carry out an investigation to establish the full details of what has happened. The complainant will be interviewed, as will the alleged perpetrator. Separate interviews will be conducted. The role of the complainant during the process will be to provide information to help with the investigation.
- The investigation will be impartial. It will be carried out with due respect for both the rights of the complainant and the alleged perpetrator.
- A full record of the investigation will be made, including names of parties, dates, nature and frequency of incidents, plus any written evidence (e.g. emails).
- Upon receipt of the complaint, and depending on the nature and seriousness of the accusation, the Board of Directors may suspend the accused perpetrator pending an investigation.
- The complainant has the right to be accompanied by a person of their choice at the initial interview as part of the investigation. This accompanying person must commit to the highest degree of confidentiality, and shall agree to not interfere or seek to influence the accountability process by any means. The AC members, the interviewee and their accompanying person will attend the interview meeting. Every effort will be made to ensure that the meeting is conducted sensitively and always within the bounds of confidence.
- After interviewing the complainant, the AC will approach the alleged perpetrator to arrange a possible interview with them. At this interview, the alleged perpetrator will be informed of the nature of the complaint and will be given the opportunity to respond.
- The AC will inform those invited for an interview that conclusions may be drawn from their statements and that lack of appropriate participation in the interviews may lead the AC to draw conclusions based on the information available. This is particularly so for the accused, witnesses, and persons adjacent to the complaint. Fuerza Migrante understands that reporting or making a complaint can produce further harm to survivors, so all avenues for their safe participation will be explored.
- Throughout the entire process the complainant’s name and the name of the alleged perpetrator will not be divulged to anyone other than those involved in the investigation. Where the AC deems that it is necessary to interview witnesses, the importance of confidentiality will be emphasised. It will be explained to witnesses that any breach of confidence could constitute gross misconduct.
- Upon preparation of its draft report, which will contain the AC’s findings and their decision whether to uphold the complaint, the AC will provide the complainant and alleged perpetrator with an opportunity to respond within a reasonable term, to be set by the AC. Upon receipt of any comments, the AC will respond either by adapting the report accordingly, or by explaining its decision not to do so.
- Copies of the final AC report, which will contain the AC’s findings and their decision whether to uphold the complaint, will normally be sent to the complainant, the alleged perpetrator and Board of Directors.
- If the complaint is not upheld, the incident and the decision will be recorded/monitored by Fuerza Migrante, and may be referenced as background (if relevant) to any future incident concerning either party. It may also help to identify patterns or behaviours that may indicate wider systemic or cultural problems.
- The AC’s decision whether or not to uphold the complaint and its findings concerning the facts relating to the complaint are final.
- If the complaint is not upheld, the Board of Directors may initiate mediation or reconciliation counselling to support both parties.
4.7 Record-keeping and Confidentiality
Fuerza Migrante will keep written accounts of complaint, and investigations including any findings. As mentioned in the introduction to this section, we will place the safety and confidentiality of the complainant above all else. Fuerza Migrante will consult with survivors about when and how, if any, information about their complaint may be shared.
V. REDRESS AND REMEDIES
Upon upholding the complaint if the investigation indicates that harassment or bullying has taken place, Fuerza Migrante will do the following:
- A copy of the final AC report, which will contain the finding to uphold the complaint and a recommendation on the appropriate level of action (measures such as a written reprimand, a transfer or termination of membership) against the perpetrator will be sent to the Board of Directors and all members of the Operative Team.
- Fuerza Migrante’s Board of Directors will recommend remedy, taking into account the AC report, any deliberations with the AC on remedy or discipline, and all relevant legislation.
- The incident and the decision will be recorded/monitored by Fuerza Migrante, and may be referenced as background (if relevant) to any future incident concerning either party. It may also help to identify patterns or behaviours that may indicate wider systemic or cultural problems.
- The Operative Team will ensure implementation of the Board of Directors’ decision as soon as possible after receiving the report following the investigation phase.
- If a member or volunteer of Fuerza Migrante believes the AC process was flawed or unfair, they can appeal to the Board of Directors.
VI. POLICY REVIEW AND IMPROVEMENT
This policy and procedures will be reviewed annually. All members of the Board of Directors, Operative Teams, and volunteers will be provided a copy as soon as they become active in those roles, and a copy of this policy will be available electronically on Fuerza Migrante’s cloud storage system and website. This Policy will also be part of the package given to new Fuerza Migrante members for review and consideration, and will be a standing point of all Fuerza Migrante Annual General Meeting agendas.
Next revision due: November 2020
Responsible for initiating revision: Gil Aguilar
Revision history: v1.3 (May 2020)
Email: [email protected]
Social Media: facebook.com/fuerzamigrantx, twitter.com/fuerzamigrantx
This material is released and licensed by Fuerza Migrante under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license. You are free to share and adapt this work under the following terms: 1) You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/), and indicate if changes were made, 2) You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use, 3) You may not use the material for commercial purposes, and 4) If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original.