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Hollywood A-Listers Launch Time’s Up Initiative to Fight Sexual Harassment Across the U.S. Workforce

Shonda Rhimes, Reese Witherspoon and 300 other prominent women in the entertainment industry have launched an initiative dubbed Time’s Up aimed at protecting women who are facing sexual harassment in all sectors of the workforce.

The plan includes a legal defense fund seeded largely by donations from affluent women, a push for legislation to strengthen laws regarding workplace harassment and discrimination, and renewed backing for the “50/50 by 2020” push to bring parity to the executive suites at Hollywood studios and talent agencies.

The germ of the idea for Time’s Up started with four female CAA agents: Maha Dakhil, Michelle Kydd Lee, Hylda Queally and Christy Haubegger, and then quickly expanded to include women from other prominent talent agencides including Nancy Josephson of WME, Blair Kohan of UTA and Lorrie Bartlett of ICM. Attorneys Tina Tchen and Roberta Kaplan spearheaded the launch of the defense fund.

The Time’s Up movement is also behind the call for women to wear black to the Golden Globe Awards in a sign of solidarity with victims of sexual harassment who have come forward in recent months with accusations against powerful figures.

The defense fund will be administered by the National Women’s Law Center, according to the Time’s Up website that went live today. The site features an open letter from “over 300 women who work in film, television and theater,” although there are no signatures attached to the message that begins “Dear Sisters.”

“To every woman employed in agriculture who has had to fend off unwanted sexual advances from her boss, every housekeeper who has tried to escape an assaultive guest, every janitor trapped nightly in a building with a predatory supervisor, every waitress grabbed by a customer and expected to take it with a smile, every garment and factory worker forced to trade sexual acts for more shifts, every domestic worker or home health aide forcibly touched by a client, every immigrant woman silenced by the threat of her undocumented status being reported in retaliation for speaking up and to women in every industry who are subjected to indignities and offensive behavior that they are expected to tolerate to make a living: We stand with you. We support you,” the letter read.

Time’s Up also encompasses the entertainment industry-focused effort spearheaded by LucasFilm chief Kathleen Kennedy and Anita Hill.

The New York Times reported the group was a loose coalition with numerous committees focused on various tasks but no central leaders. Rhimes, Witherspoon, Universal Pictures chief Donna Langley and prominent showbiz lawyer Nina Shaw are among the key players. Contributors to the defense fund include Meryl Streep, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston, Stacey Snider, Dana Walden, Regina King, Felicity Huffman, Megan Ellison, Kate Hudson, Viola Davis, Ava DuVernay, Alicia Vikander, Amy Poehler, Olivia Munn, Taylor Swift, Jessica Chastain, Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel, among many others.

Rhimes and Witherspoon were among those spreading the word on Twitter.

WME, ICM, and UTA have donated $1 million apiece to the effort. Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw’s Wunderkinder Foundation and CAA have put up $2 million apiece. J.J. Abrams and Katie McGrath have given $1 million. Paradigm donated $500,000.

The Time’s Up effort came together in the wake of explosive reports from the New York Times and New Yorker about sexual assault and harassment allegations against indie film mogul Harvey Weinstein going back decades. The ensuing deluge of victims coming forward with stories of unwanted sexual advances and worse has impacted every corner of the economy, from politics, law, media and academia to culinary and hospitality world.

Time’s Up was also inspired by the open letter addressed to women in Hollywood sent in November by members of the National Farmworkers Women’s Alliance pledging their support for victims who came forward against Weinstein and a host of other prominent men.

“No more silence. No more tolerance for discrimination, harassment or abuse. Time’s Up,” the org’s website states.

The website seeks donations from the public for the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund via the Go Fund Me platform. As of early on New Year’s Day, the effort has raised just over $13.4 million from 356 people, many of whom are boldface names. The Go Fund Me site lists the org’s fundraising goal as $15 million.

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