WASHINGTON – The Whistleblower Summit for Civil & Human Rights congratulates the brave and courageous Women in the U.S. Forest Service and the members of the USDA Coalition of Minority Employees. The resignation of U.S. Forest Service Chief Tony Tooke highlights the need for transparency and accountability in the Forest Service and across USDA. In 2012, the ACORN8 and the USDA Coalition of Minority Employees co-hosted the 1st Whistleblower Summit for Civil & Human Rights on Capitol Hill—and the women of the U.S. Forest Service were prominent participants. Ironically, USDA Forest Service Officials started retaliating against the woman for participating in the conference—while they were still on Capitol Hill!
This victory—while sudden—did not occur overnight. These Women have been battling racism, sexism and harassment at USDA for over a decade. This grievous on-going, sexual abuse, threatens not only their reputations and livelihoods but ultimately our national security. “A seldom appreciated fact these women are an integral and vital part of our domestic national security grid.” Marcel Reid, co-organizer of the Whistleblower Summit adds, “How many of these women are struggling with PTSD while fighting fires when uncontrolled—could have looming domestic and national security implications?”
Public Television (PBS News Hour) is running a multi-part investigative report on the brave Women in the Forest Service, and while this is the latest media exposure of this travesty—it was not the first.
A quick chronology of USDA press coverage since the 2012 Whistleblower Summit. Coverage started with WPFW (Pacifica Radio) and Gloria Minott, host of “Metro Beat” and moderator of the Whistleblower Summit. The radio coverage continued with Mickey Huff of Project Censored on (KPFA). Cable television coverage began with “Breaking the Set” with Abby Martin on RT-Television. Print coverage included Mike Volpe for the Daily Caller, followed by Ron Nixon with the New York Times (special thanks to Stephanie Strom). Finally, Sharyl Attkisson host of “Full Measure” did a story reporting the plight of the Forest Service women and boarder cover up of discrimination cases and corruption at USDA (Michael McCray vs Secretary Vilsack) on broadcast television. 12/11/16 BURNED--History of Harassment (at USDA / Forest Service)
As a result of these continuous and coordinated efforts the whistleblowers were able to illicit the support of Congress Woman Jackie Speier (CA-14) who recently released the following statement after U.S. Forest Service (FS) Chief Tony Tooke announced his resignation following allegations of misconduct. Tooke’s announcement comes after reports revealed numerous incidents of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct within the agency. Congresswoman Speier has been calling for reform in the Forest Service since 2014, when she requested that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General (Ag OIG) initiate an investigation of allegations of sexual misconduct and retaliation in Region 5 (California). After bipartisan and bicameral calls for reform and a 2016 hearing in the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the Ag OIG is due to release an audit at the end of April.
For Black History Month, Whistleblower Summit & Film Festival honors African-American whistleblowers who made a strong difference for their communities, and our society as a whole.
In honor of his birthday, WSFF pays homage to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a whistleblower in his own right.