Legislators ask Streisand to hear workers’ complaints

While Barbra Streisand is practicing scales for her New Year’s Eve bash at the MGM Grand Hotel, 12 U.S. congresswomen are asking the singer to meet with former cocktail waitresses for MGM Grand Inc. president/CEO Robert Maxey to hear stories of alleged sexual harassment.

In a letter released Wednesday, the congresswomen called on Streisand as a “champion of civil rights” to sit down with the women because she may be able to help them. They also enclosed a videotape of several former and current cocktail waitresses at Maxey’s old domain, the Rio Suite Hotel and Casino, the site of the alleged harassment. Maxey denied the harassment charges last month when the charges surfaced in print.

“We ask that you meet with these women and hear their story,” the letter said. “They are working mothers who are just trying to improve how they are treated, not use leverage to gain higher wages.”

Streisand’s publicist Richard Guttman acknowledged the singer had received the letter. “She will be contacting Congresswoman (Anna) Eshoo as soon as Congress convenes again. She shares concern about any situation in which women’s rights are denigrated.”

The letter was signed by Reps. Eshoo (D-Palo Alto), Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), Pat Schroeder (D-Colo.), Rose DeLauro (D-Conn.), Connie Morella (R-Md.), Leslie Byrne (D-Va.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Karen Sheperd (D-Utah), Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), Corrine Brown (D-Fla.) and Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.). The name of Eva Clayton (D-N.C.) was listed on the letter but had not signed.

“What has moved us to act on this issue is that these women are asking for help as women whoneed our assistance,” the congresswomen said. “Your performance has already attracted a great deal of attention and we believe you are in a strong position to help them.”

Streisand’s skedded New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day concerts have been mired in controversy ever since the local unions asked the star to cancel. They charged that Maxey was running a non-union shop and that Rio waitresses were sexually harassed.

Streisand refused to cancel the gig, saying she supported the union drive but felt Maxey was willing to allow the MGM employees to organize under a National Labor Relations board vote. She addressed the women’s issue only to say she condemned any type of sexual harassment.

In the letter, the congresswomen described the waitress uniforms at the Rio as a single size with alterations made only for breast enlargements. If a waitress became pregnant, she still had to squeeze into her old uniform, they said, and after giving birth the workers had only 30 days to fit into their uniforms.

The reps agreed with Streisand that the union beef was questionable because the 5,000-plus workers at the MGM are free to organize under the NLRB rules.

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