Michael Burleson

Long Overdue: Progress on a Sexual Harassment Policy for the Multnomah Democrats

The Rules Committee is working on a sexual harassment policy and an ethics committee to deal with all forms of discrimination. As Rules Chair, I mean to take charge and responsibility for something getting done. And I want you involved. Policies affect people’s lives and we need to hear your policy input and, if you feel comfortable, your experiences. To get that conversation started, I would like to share mine with you:

Last year, I went on a date with another man. After only a couple drinks, I slowly felt like I was losing control over my decisions. I blacked out for around three hours and woke up face down on my floor. The conclusion was obvious. I was probably drugged. I went to the hospital to get a rape kit done as well as testing to see if I was positive for any of the date rape drugs that could have caused this.

Today, those test results still aren’t back from whatever lab the Portland Police Department sent them to. Rape kits are backlogged, at least six months in my case, and for many people with similar experiences. I still don’t know what, if anything, happened nor who did it. Furthermore, as someone who worked for the public defenders’ office, I don’t really like speaking to law enforcement–something I had to do to make sure my kit got processed. That shouldn’t happen to anyone.

I’m sharing this story first, because it’s important to know this can happen to anyone, has happened to many people, and needs to be talked about. Second, because I want to do everything in my power to make sure this sort of thing does not happen to others; to make sure people do not feel scared to come forward, and to make sure we are paying attention. That means better policies in our institutions.

What We’ve Been Doing

 When I took office as Rules Chair in January, the Rules Committee was assigned responsibility from our party officers for creating a sexual harassment policy. I am shocked this wasn’t done far sooner. I don’t want to assign blame, but I do want to get something done.

Since then, several things happened that I want you to know. First, Rules reviewed drafted language for a sexual harassment policy and draft language for an ethics committee, to implement any policies we create surrounding harassment, discrimination, and bullying. Second, as Chair, I met with the Womxn’s Group within the MultDems and one of the co-chair’s of the Racial Inclusivity work group. We’ve received very insightful feedback on our draft policy and ethics committee.

Where We’re Heading, and How to Participate

The Rules Committee will be redrafting, debating, and then submitting our recommendations to the Admin. Committee (composed of all the officers in MultDems) next month, then, hopefully submitting it to the Central Committee in May. Everyone who wants to be involved, should be involved. Here’s how to get in touch about the process:

  • Email me at rules@multdems.orgwith any questions, comments, or concerns you may have. If you would like me to meet with your committee, or want to recommend important stakeholders in this process for me to meet with, let me know.
  • Come to the Rules Committee meeting 7 pm on May 1, 2019 at 2715 SE 34th Ave. Portland, OR 97202. We will be having a public forum to discuss the draft harassment policy and ethics committee. Please be aware, this location is not ADA accessible. It is at one of our members houses. If you would like to request that it be moved, for any reason, you need not explain, you may do so and we will change venue.
  • Online at multdems.org our draft policy proposal will be posted no later than one week in advance of the next Rules Committee meeting and it will remain up until it is voted on. Likely, this will be at the June Central Committee meeting.

Estimated Timeline for Completion of Policy

  • May 1 – Rules Committee meeting with opportunity for public comment on draft harassment policy.
  • May 9 – Introduction of final policies at the CC meeting (to be voted on at the June CC meeting). Policies will be posted on the website for public comment.
  • June 13 – Vote at CC meeting on final policies. (I may push this back one month to allow for public comment on a final draft policy).

That said, I am contemplating recommending the policies to the Chair sooner and to ask the Chair to create a special committee which will then adopt the policies. The current Bylaws give the Chair the ability to create a special committee (Article VII Section 5(a)). Having these policies be relatively apolitical may be the better way to go. Regardless, I anticipate that May 9 will be when they will be ready to go.

Finally, thank you all for your consideration. I appreciate your interest in our sexual harassment policy and ethics committee. I hope we can move towards better policies that eliminate these problems.

Michael Burleson has been a PCP for two years and is the current Rules Committee Chair. He has trial experience at Metropolitan Public Defender where he has represented dozens of indigent clients. He will be graduating Lewis & Clark Law School in May.