Time's Up, 60 Days In: "This Was Launched on the Carpet But Was Never Intended to Live on the Carpet"
The workplace equality movement's legal defense fund has so far raised $21 million and connected 1,250 people to legal resources.
Time's Up may have started with a New Year's Day announcement signed by 300 Hollywood women, but its organizers want to make it clear that this campaign is much more expansive than many may have assumed.
For one, it's not just about sexual harassment. Although the tidal wave of public sexual misconduct allegations have served as the inciting incident for the movement, Time's Up, which is forming as a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization, is about "basic fairness in the workplace," said Bad Robot co-CEO Katie McGrath, who joined seven other Time's Up leaders to deliver a 60-day progress report to the press on Thursday.
"Sexual harassment is the issue that's gotten all the coverage, but if we just focus on that, we run the risk of not solving the core problem," added attorney Tina Tchen. "You have to get at these structural issues: equal pay, paid leave, diversity and inclusion and fair promotion policies."
To that end, Time's Up is partnering with the nonprofit StoryCorps to enable women to record their own stories about being on the job and upload them to the Library of Congress, "where it will live forever as a narrative of working women and mark this moment," McGrath said. "It's going to be astounding to have this archive and help demonstrate that [workplace inequality] is such a pervasive condition for women and for men."
The partnership will launch Friday morning with a story from Ashley Judd. Jane Fonda and America Ferrera have also contributed their own tales.
Time's Up is not just about the entertainment industry, a point that has repeatedly been emphasized and was underlined at the Golden Globes when seven actresses escorted seven activists on the red carpet. The latter — who included Alianza Nacional de Campesinas (National Farmerworker Women's Alliance) co-founder Monica Ramirez, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United president Saru Jayaraman and National Domestic Workers Alliance director Ai-jen Poo — have continued to work closely with Time's Up in their respective sectors of expertise. The campaign's strategy in expanding its reach to more industries is to identify and ally with activists already working for women's rights in those fields, said Ava DuVernay.
Two months in, the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund has fielded more than 1,700 requests for assistance from individuals working in more than 60 different industries. Just a small percentage hail from entertainment, said political consultant Hilary Rosen, adding, "When we started the fund, we wanted to make sure that we prioritized the wage worker. There are clearly needs across the board, but priorities are given to workers in industries that are particularly vulnerable."
The fund, which is housed at the National Women's Law Center, has so far raised $21 million from 20,000 donations ranging from $5 to $2 million. Starting next week, lawyers will be able to apply online to the NWLC to request disbursements, although many of the 500-plus attorney volunteers are already offering their services pro bono. To date, 1,250 callers to the fund have been connected with legal resources.
Although the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund will only be able to assist employees in the United States, the campaign has fielded inquiries from other countries, including Kenya, South Korea, Pakistan, Kuwait and Mexico. "Time's Up Entertainment is the base of how this all started, but we're becoming Time's Up Global," said Shonda Rhimes. Valentine's Day saw the launch of U.K.-based Justice and Equality Fund with a £1 million donation from Emma Watson. That fund has since raised nearly an additional £600,000 in two weeks.
Such projects have been borne out of mutual inspiration and proactive initiative. The women who have been speaking on behalf of Time's Up want to clarify that it has never been an invitation-based organization. "Hollywood breeds a feeling of exclusion for people," Rhimes said. "There's this feeling that this must be something that you're invited to, because everything else in this town is built on that idea, but this just doesn't work that way."
"If you want to join, you can make it happen wherever you are," said Laura Dern, who said that meetings formed while she was on location in Atlanta because a crewmember suggested it.
"We've had questions about if there is de facto leadership here, and the truth is that it's just people who continue to show up and do the work," added Tessa Thompson.
Because everyone in Time's Up also works a full-time day job, the campaign allows for fluid participation. "I wasn't involved in the first month," DuVernay said. "Literally after I got done with A Wrinkle in Time, I called [attorney Nina Shaw] and was like, 'Is there a meeting?' Although there is more architecture being put around a base group, it's a flexible leadership structure that allows people to come in and out, and not just in our industry."
Despite that, the campaign has been able to draw 200 to 400 attendees to its monthly meetings, while its countless smaller working groups — often referred to as the organization's "spokes on a wheel" — meet as frequently as needed on weekends and evenings throughout the month. There are working groups for below-the-line crew (led in part by Shondaland head of production Sara Fischer) and for women of color (called WOC and pronounced "woke" — "We have the dopest name," DuVernay joked).
"The spokes have come out organically, being able to see in the room what we need," Thompson added. "WOC was born at a big Time's Up meeting where women came forward and said that issues of harassment, not being seen and lack of parity disproportionately affect us as women of color, and we need to be able to address that directly within our conversations."
There even is a Time's Up Men, which had its first meeting at UCLA in mid-January. About 180 men — roughly three times more than the women expected — showed up to hear from gender studies sociologist Michael Kimmel and activist Ted Bunch, the chief development officer for A Call to Men, which works to prevent violence against women and girls.
These meetings had not previously been publicized because although Time's Up "started so splashy on the red carpet, there's real work being done," DuVernay said, adding that individuals may elect to wear pins on Oscar Sunday, but the movement is eager to move on from being seen as "an awards-show protest group."
The organizers acknowledged that they have worked with producers to create a Time's Up "moment" during the telecast, but that's just the surface of their efforts.
"This was launched on the carpet, but it was never intended to live on the carpet," said McGrath. "A really on-the-nose presence might feel satisfying, but we want to make sure that as we move forward, we're being strategic and thoughtful and authentic in our activations and our rollout. Sixty days in, we don't need to fit everything into it. It's more important to do it right."