The Massachusetts Democratic Party Platform clearly states that all employees deserve a “safe work environment free from harassment.” This principle does not end at the doors of the Massachusetts State House.
As an organization committed to increasing the voice of young people in Democratic politics, we believe that it is especially important to call out instances of misconduct in our own party. This is the only way to ensure the Democratic Party is a welcoming place for a new generation of activists and elected officials. As such, we support individuals who come forward to tell their stories and respect their choice to be kept anonymous.
The Massachusetts State House, like all workplaces, needs a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment and assault. Such misconduct creates a hostile and disempowering environment and runs counter to our basic values. As the #MeToo movement has revealed–and many already knew too well–such misconduct is widespread, but its acceptance should not be.
Strong rules and their enforcement, along with long overdue cultural changes, are important to ensure that survivors feel comfortable in speaking up. Last year, a report commissioned by the Legislature described an “imbedded power dynamic . . . which discourages staff from reporting incidents of harassment due to the fear of retaliation and of jeopardizing one’s career.” The House responded by adopting new and stricter regulations and creating an Equal Employment Opportunity Officer who can confidentially investigate complaints. Those regulations need to be enforced, and that long-due position needs to be filled. Relying on ad hoc legislative committees is not a workable solution when members lack the relevant experience and objectivity to investigate. Moreover, going forward, the voices of survivors and allies need to be at the center of future efforts to address this systemic problem.
Finally, we want to apologize to the newly elected legislator subjected to Representative McMurtry’s harassment. The event where this occurred was supposed to be about learning, networking, and celebrating with her peers. Now she finds herself dealing with a public scandal shortly after taking office. This is due to the actions of Representative McMurtry and a failure of leadership to both address a known problem and protect the newest members of their ranks.