Our comfort zone is to stay silent; some of us just need time to share our TRUTH!
I have been openly sharing my story for the past 2 years and the last year through my blog. You might think there isn't anything else to share except what is presently happening in my life. Well, that isn't true, I have lots more. With all the activism and women rising against harassment I find myself again finding more courage to tell my story, to go back a little further.
There was one post just yesterday that showed Oprah giving Harvey Weinstein a kiss on the cheek, probably taken years ago but the person that posted it mentioned the hypocrisy of Oprah's speech and knowing about predators like Weinstein and remaining silent. I can't speak for Oprah but if I am just like those women now standing up to harassment, sexual harassment, and discrimination, then I understand why Oprah might not have said anything. We are blinded by what we have been trained as normal male behaviour, the boys will be boys statement. Standing up to powerful men isn't always an option when job markets are bad, or the promise of a great career is dangled in front you and you have rent to pay or a family to feed.
I learned how to have thick skin in order to survive, something United Parcel Service taught me during my 13 years with them. So here's my story of what happened at UPS sometime between 1997-1999 and then again in 2006-2009.
So first off I want to say to all those people that want to discredit women just based on how long it took them to speak up, my story and their story is true. First, we might have weighed whether or not anyone would believe us, then time passes and we might say oh it's been so long we should just let it go and move on. Whatever the reason, we now know the time is now and their time is up.
I got a job at UPS in San Francisco in 1996 as an airwalker (sort of like a UPS driver without the truck), I was hired to work 3 hours a day for $8.50/hr and my route was along California Street. I put on that beautiful UPS brown uniform every day and I was proud to wear it. I always arrived to work early and left late, taking on that leadership role that came so easily to me but three months had passed and I knew I had to find another job. I couldn't survive on $25.50 a day in SF. This one day I came in to work and I knew I would be informing my supervisor that I would be quitting.
I remember arriving and another airwalker had left a package behind from their route, I offered to take it even though I didn't want to enter the jinxed 101 California building. I took the elevator up to the floor, stepped out and took three steps towards the receptionist and walked right into a glass door. The receptionist shocked with her mouth open stared at me as blood was gushing down my face, it was one of those funny stories I told over the years about how I got my promotion. But really I believe it was God intervening, I was taken to the doctor and placed on light duty at the main hub in Potrero Hill, SF. During the two weeks I was there I worked with an entire male run center, I remember being asked by my manager Mike Bailey if I would like to apply for a part-time supervisor position with a substantial pay increase. Of course I did and I got it, over the next few months I became very good at the job and was then asked to apply for the full-time supervisor position.
This was a harder position to get but I passed the UPS Hogans test (Personality, decision-making test), and a panel interview with flying colors. I was now on my way up the ladder, and being trained mostly by Mike Bailey. Mike knew I was a queer female and was hired with my girlfriend at the time who was still an airwalker. At some point he hired her as a driver then things didn't work out with us and she was transferred. That whole thing is a little blurry to me. Anyway, I can't quite remember the timeline but Mike walked into the center where I dispatched from one day and sat down and pulled his penis out, I looked away shocked and speachless. My first reaction was I laughed and said what are you doing there are drivers out there, anyone can walk in at any moment.
I think he found it exhilarating to put me or others on the spot, he knew where the cameras were. He continued to do things like that often and would grab himself or want me to kiss my girlfriend in front of him, and I never asked my girlfriend if he ever made her uncomfortable. The thing is I really liked Mike and his personality outside of being sexually harassed.
So why didn't I say anything then?.
When I entered this male-dominated industry I was told it was impossible to get into UPS, and how lucky I was to have moved up as quick as I did. There was no way I was going to jeopardize that by complaining about my male boss. Who would believe me.
At some point Mike got that I wasn't interested in sharing my girlfriends or entertaining his sexual fantasies and he moved on to someone else I guess. But I knew, I knew he was a sexual predator and that he used his power to keep you silenced. Now I don't if he still works there or if someone spoke up, but I got two messages from women who worked there after the Harvey Weinstein story broke and they said it reminded them of Mike.
I'm sorry I didn't have the courage to stand up then and to protect others from this kind of harassment, I was also a person with some authority or power to do something. At the time I thought my job was more important, I thought that my past recovery would be grounds to not believe me, or that being a queer female would be a problem, or maybe even because I was young and sexually active and open. See UPS has money and I was smart enough to know a lawsuit wouldn't work in my favor, so keeping my job and making good money with a little sexual harassment on the side was the deal I had to live with.
Now I had a great 9 out of the 13 years at UPS. I then transferred to UPS Sacramento in 2006, I moved my girlfriend and her family there with me. I finally reported to my boss Dante who was a black young male manager, I never thought I would be treated differently or better because he was black. I just didn't enter the workplace like that, I at this point felt like I belonged at UPS. I loved my job, it kept me active and was never boring.
Well within a few months I realized Dante either hated women or black women, or queer women, but he had it in for me. My beautiful career was now taking a turn for the worst. Part of my story falls under a confidentiality agreement but not this about him. I was harassed daily and called out in front of other supervisors, I was not allowed to manage my 100+ employees without being purposely held behind and missing sort times. At this point I was no longer capable of fighting back, I was depressed, anxious, sleep deprived, scared, financially worried so I left and fought.
I also loved California and Sacramento.
So now we come to the reason I left California. It was Black Friday and I had not been to work for a few months now and my girlfriend and I got in the car to drive to a store around 4:30 am that morning. I had a bad feeling about something. I remember leaving my brother and his girlfriend in my house alone that morning and I wasn't real happy about, but I got in the car and started driving on Highway 5 and I see in my rearview mirror a truck like Dante's speeding up on me, he then pulls up next to me and swerves to hit my car. Almost to have me lose control, Dante looked right at me and I knew he had to be out of his mind.
At that point, I knew I would run into him more because we lived in the same neighborhood and there was no way I could ever go back to UPS. I didn't feel safe. So that was officially the end of my career. So I left everything behind, my girlfriend, my cousin who I just had move with me a year earlier, I left all my furniture. I left my best friend and my goddaughter who I adore and got in my car and drove to New York. I even turned down a house and another job just to keep me in California.
So remember before you say "Well why didn't she say something sooner, or Why did she let it go on so long" that its hard, it's uncomfortable, it might financially crush someone, the backlash could take years to recover from.
#metoo started a movement, one voice led to many and now #timesup allows up to fight back. Share your story.
Mucho Love, Jamie