At a special Time's Up panel at this week's in Los Angeles, Obama administration alum and lawyer Tina Tchen announced that the group had already raised $20 million, from about 20,000 donors across the country.
Tchen was part of a panel that included Natalie Portman, Jill Soloway, Rashida Jones, Melina Matsoukas, entertainment lawyer Nina Shaw, and Hollywood agent Maha Dakhil, moderated by Ava DuVernay. The Time's Up movement has a singular goal—equality and safety in the workplace for all—and the group's Legal Defense Fund is at its core. According to Tchen, there's already been 1,000 requests for help.
What these women (and some men) need most, says Tchen, is legal representation. “A lot of the big firms that do pro bono work can’t do this work because they have conflicts with [other big clients], so you’ve got small lawyers who can’t afford to do this for free .... The need is clearly there, from all industries—farm workers, hotel workers, steel workers. I had a steel worker from Indiana reach out to my office," Tchen said. "And we thought that was the case, that there were people hurting right now, and Time’s Up has spoken to men and women who need help getting safety and equity in the workplace." (To request help, donate legal support, or give money to Time's Up, go to nwlc.org.*)
So how, exactly, will the money get to those people who've asked for help? We spoke with Roberta Kaplan, a lawyer and one of the founders of the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund, who shared how the requests are being funneled through the National Women's Law Center. "They have a number of lawyers who volunteer to work on these cases," she said, "And they’re matching up clients with potential lawyers. Obviously the clients have to decide for themselves whether they want Lawyer A or Lawyer B to represent them." The calls for help keeping coming in, says Kaplan: "[We're getting requests] from people similar to some of the ‘me too’ stuff in Hollywood that you’ve heard—maybe not so famous, but people who’ve had bad experiences with someone in the industry—to other industries. I just got an email this morning from a nurse in Louisiana."
And for those of you who think that $20 million is a lot of money—sadly, when it comes to this kind of work, it isn't. "In real-world terms, $20 million with 1,000 requests already in is not that much," says Kaplan. It's possible, says Kaplan, that the amount raised so far won't even meet the current demand.
In that respect, it's a good thing that the fundraising efforts have been so successful thus far, and that the group has been able to leverage the award season circuit to promote the cause. DuVernay admitted that when she first heard that actresses were bringing activists to the Golden Globes as part of the Time’s Up campaign, she didn’t expect it to go well. “I have to admit, in early meetings where they were like, ‘Me Too activists are coming with actresses on the red carpet,’ I was like, ‘That’s a disaster, that’s not going to work,’” the Wrinkle In Time director said. “But it was beautiful.”
Work, it did—with many watching at home and in the press saying that it was one of the most exciting red carpets in years. “It was so authentic and heartfelt,” said Dakhil. “We were meeting not as actresses and producers and storytellers, we were meeting as women who are just using our resources to shine a light on inequality.”
The Time's Up group, which Duvernay dubbed “the Avengers,” is still a little in awe of their own success (“Holy shit we took over an award show and it worked,” Soloway said of the Globes), and gained some newfound solidarity throughout the process. “It’s been really incredible to gather actresses [together] because I think something that we realized was that we’re usually the only woman at work,” said Portman. “Like many industries, we walk into a nearly all-male set, and we’re usually alone, and we rarely get to interact with each other. I’ve never had—Rashida [Jones] is my only close actress friend until now. And the power of all being in a room together and sharing our experiences and realizing how much we’ve been endangered by being isolated and being the only woman in the work environment? It’s so empowering to be in a room together and to say we refuse to be pitted against each other. There is not only one spot; we’re going to make room for all of us.” Hollywood, you’re on notice.
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