Members of a task force designed to tackle sexual harassment in Illinois government are hopeful that their recommended fixes will be put into place, but they seldom addressed their issues in a meeting.
Instead of talking about ways to correct years of alleged sexual misconduct in Springfield, the House Sexual Harassment Task force spoke Thursday to women suing Ford Motor Company for the harassment they saw there. The task force spent hours hearing from the women as well as Equal Employment Opportunity officers from some of the state's other constitutional officers.
After hearing the emotional testimonies of the harassment victims from Ford, state Rep. Litesa Wallace, D-Rockford, worried that they may not be able to pass anti-harassment laws because of resistance to change in Springfield from those in leadership positions.
“It’s going to take all of us having a strong coalition both inside the legislature and outside so that the things suggested do pass,” she told one of the harassment victims. “I’ve seen things that I know would have benefited people go nowhere.”
Rep. Sara Wojcicki Jimenez, R-Springfield and the task force’s minority spokesperson, acknowledged the issue but warned legislative leaders against ignoring the changes they’re going to propose.
“I’m going to be unwavering if that happens,” she said. “I would advise that we would have full hearings and a vote.”
Despite the meeting lasting hours, the task force never addressed solutions for the harassment going on under the dome in Springfield that was much publicized last October, when anti-violence advocate Denise Rotheimer told her story of alleged harassment and intimidation at the hands of state Sen. Ira Silverstein, D-Chicago. He’s since been stripped of his leadership position but remains in office.
Rotheimer was one of hundreds of women to sign a letter detailing alleged misconduct by Illinois lawmakers and others in power.
The task force was sold by lawmakers last year as the source of solutions to the sexual misconduct claims. Instead, the meetings seem to have expanded into the lofty goals of solving sexual harassment across the state.
The task force has been assigned to complete its report by December 2018, well after the upcoming November elections.