February 2, 2021
Co-Chairs Noble and Fahey and the House Committee on Conduct;
The Oregon Legislature must be a safe workplace for all. We call on the House Committee on Conduct and the entire Oregon Legislature to hold Rep. Diego Hernandez accountable for his actions, which has created an “intimidating, hostile, and offensive” work environment.
NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon is dedicated to developing and sustaining a constituency that uses the political process to guarantee every person the right to make personal decisions regarding the full range of reproductive choices, including preventing unintended pregnancy, raising healthy families, and choosing legal abortion. Ensuring that all Oregonians can exercise bodily autonomy is a tenant of reproductive freedom and justice. No one should feel unsafe in their own skin, no one should work in an environment where they fear retribution for maintaining personal boundaries.
The conclusion of a thorough and independent investigation into the allegations of abuse and harassment against Rep. Hernandez has resulted in a report that is harrowing and difficult to read. We cannot turn our eyes from the picture that has only continued to be illuminated—one in which an elected leader has used his power to repeatedly harass, intimidate, and employ other abusive behaviors toward members of our community. The report is clear: Rep. Hernandez has created an “intimidating, hostile, and offensive” workplace for a number of members of the Capitol community.
We support the Legislature’s recent efforts to make the Capitol a safer workplace for everyone. We share this commitment. While the systems implemented to increase workplace safety and accountability in the Capitol continue to be a work in progress, there is no reason to reverse course and let this report fall on deaf ears. There must be accountability.
We also understand that this situation, and many situations surrounding partner violence and workplace misconduct, meet at the intersection of race and gender. We acknowledge the role of racism in reinforcing double standards when it comes to the court of public opinion and our judicial systems, and we believe in a restorative justice process, when the person who has caused harm is ready to take responsibility for their actions. At the same time, we cannot diminish or ignore the seriousness of the incidents that have been substantiated in the report before the conduct committee today. Silence is complicity in moments of injustice. We will not be complacent in this or future events that will occur if there is no accountability, and we hope that the House Conduct Committee and the Legislature as a whole will join us.
NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon believes survivors, and we acknowledge the pain and suffering of many people who have been impacted by these events. We commend their strength and bravery in coming forward, and we recognize that not all individuals impacted by Rep. Hernandez’s actions have felt safe coming forward.
Rule 27 holds state legislators to the basic standard that they must conduct themselves in a way that is “free of harassment and to discourage all harassment in the workplace.”
NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon stands in solidarity with the 150 individuals and organizations who play critical roles in shaping public policy in our Capitol who are urging the House Conduct Committee to consider the severity of Rep. Hernandez’s behavior as detailed in the independent report, and take swift action to acknowledge the seriousness of this moment.
Failure to take action will have a detrimental impact on the public’s real and perceived safety in the Capitol, and will discourage individuals from coming forward in the future. If there is no accountability for Rep. Hernandez’s actions, we fear that all of the actions the Legislature has taken up to this point to increase safety will be for naught.
There is important public policy to tackle the great inequities of today; these issues must be given our full attention. Please recommend bold and swift action in order to protect people from harassment, intimidation and abuse of power at the hands of elected officials.
NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon
If you* or someone you know is in an unsafe situation, please know there are resources available for those experiencing domestic and partner violence:
211info.org (Call 211 from any phone): Offers connection to local and regional resources for food banks, housing assistance, and health care (including mental health) services (24/7)
Oregon Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence: Online statewide guide with local resources for victims, updated with program impacts due to COVID-19
Call to Safety Call 503.235.5333 or 1.888.235.5333 (24/7)
Sexual Assault Resource Center Call: 503.640.5311 (24/7)
Raphael House of Portland Call: 503.222.6222 for emergency shelter in Portland (24/7)
Bradley Angle Call: 503.232.1528, provides services that are inclusive and accessible to all survivors of diverse cultures, backgrounds, and experiences
Oregon Child Abuse Hotline: Call 1.855.503.SAFE (7233) (24/7)
National Domestic Violence Hotline Call: 1-800-799-7233
*Survivors: your computer and phone use can be monitored. If this is a concern, we recommend finding a safer computer or phone. Learn more about technology and safety here.