Contact: Kenza Hadj-Moussa, 612-386-9556
St. Paul—In the last year, women have broken the culture of silence that perpetuates sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. Today, MinnPost released another in-depth article about sexual harassment allegations in Minnesota politics.
This time, it was brought forward by former staffers and interns in Congressman Rick Nolan’s office. Congressman Nolan is the running mate of gubernatorial candidate Lori Swanson.
Allegations made in the article describe a longstanding culture of sexual harassment in Rep. Nolan’s office by Jim Swiderski, a high level staff member and campaign staffer. The detailed article describes repeated inaction and perpetuation of an office culture permitting sexual harassment by senior staff.
Furthermore, the fact that a known sexual harasser was hired onto Rick Nolan’s campaign team proves that there was wonton disregard for these serious and unacceptable actions.
From the MinnPost article:
“In an audio recording of Nolan that a former staffer sent to MinnPost, the congressman lamented white-collar workplace norms around gender. “A woman’s got every right to be as fragile as she wants, but I’m telling you, women in the factories are a lot tougher,” he said during a meeting with staff in his office. “My daughter works in construction, and she deals with it all the time, and she knows when to tell these guys to buzz off. Because if they operated at the same level we do in a professional environment, there’d be nobody left in the construction trades.”
“It doesn’t mean anything’s wrong, it just means there’s a lot more fragility in the professional world than there is in the industrial and hard-working world,” Nolan said.
Rachel says that Nolan never explicitly addressed how Swiderski treated her, nor did he apologize for it. He would acknowledge it, she recalls, by pointing out Swiderski’s house whenever she was driving him to events in the district and remarking, “there’s your boyfriend’s house.”
TakeAction Minnesota, an independent political organization, released the following statements:
“We believe the women who spoke out against sexual harassment,” said Elianne Farhat, program director of TakeAction Minnesota. “The allegations made by staffers in Rep. Nolan’s office are disappointing, but not shocking. This is what the #MeToo movement is all about. Women are breaking the culture of silence that perpetuates sexual harassment in the workplace.”
“We call for Rep. Nolan to step down from running for statewide office with Lori Swanson. Responsible public leaders don’t minimize sexual harassment—period,” said Dan McGrath, executive director of TakeAction Minnesota. “Rep. Nolan is running to represent our entire state. It’s 2018. This kind of leadership is toxic. It’s not the future we want. This is not who we are as Minnesotans.”
McGrath added. “We’re done with elected officials who think it’s ok to call women ‘sluts’ and we’re done with people running for public office that can’t stand up to sexual harassment. The silence from the Swanson campaign is deafening. What is Lori Swanson saying about this?”
“Apologizing for, normalizing, and perpetuating a culture of sexual harassment is just wrong,” said Farhat. “To the women who came forward: we hear you and we believe you. No more excuses. Rick Nolan’s time is up.”
The MinnPost article concludes with a source stating:
“I was going to let it go,” Rachel said. “But to have him running for office again, it frightens me that he’s okay with having predators there, and I think as someone who’s gonna keep running for office, it needs to be known that he’s okay with them being around. And not only that, that he’ll rehire them after knowing.”
“I thought, maybe I should just leave it in the past,” Amanda said. “It was bad and it was handled terribly, but what good could come from me speaking out? I still care about the congressman, as crazy as that might sound. I didn’t want to hurt him in that way.
“When I found out he was running for office again, I felt he needed to answer for those things… I think he needs to answer for things he did and did not do, that he should have done. It doesn’t feel good. It’s not like, ‘Ha ha, I’m finally going to screw him.’ It sucks. This is the last thing I wanted to do. At a certain point, it’s not my choice anymore.”
Previous statements about the culture of sexual harassment in politics and government are on our website.
TakeAction Minnesota is a statewide, independent, multiracial people’s organization working to advance democracy and equity through organizing, political action, and campaigns. The organization has offices in St. Paul, Duluth, and St. Cloud.