Jane Fonda comes to Capitol Hill to press for rights for women in the working class

WASHINGTON — In one part of the Capitol on Thursday, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was meeting with more senators as he faces a contentious confirmation hearing. In another, the House was holding a circus-like hearing with FBI agent Peter Strzok.

In a basement meeting room of the Capitol Visitor Center, there also was a lot of media interest: Jane Fonda, the star of Netflix’s “Grace & Frankie” and the longtime political activist, was pressing lawmakers to expand protections for women domestic workers and farmworkers.

One of her messages: The MeToo and Times Up movement is an opportunity for Hollywood to call attention to women in other industries who face pay inequity and sexual harassment.

“We are here with the domestic workers and the women farmworkers and, as has been said, these women, often women of color, often migrants, immigrants, are very, very vulnerable and they work in a very isolated way and their voices are not heard,” she said at a press conference. “Hollywood realized that we have the privilege of being able to stand alongside these most vulnerable women who don’t have privilege and whose voices are not heard and lend our support to that. We are like repeaters, those towers at the top of mountains that can pick up signals in the valley and spread them out wider.”

28 PHOTOS
Jane Fonda in the '50s, '60s and '70s
See Gallery
Jane Fonda in the '50s, '60s and '70s
7/21/59-New York: Provocative Jane Fonda, daughter of film star Henry Fonda, looks sultry as she poses here July 21st before boarding a TWA jetliner to Los Angeles. Miss Fonda, 20, is to co-star with Tony Perkins in her first movie role in 'The Way The Ball Bounces.' She is five feet, eleven inches tall and measures 36-21-35. She admits that being the daughter of a famous actor helps in breaking into show business.
Jane Fonda, circa 1960. (Photo by Columbia Pictures/Getty Images)
American actors Anthony Perkins (1932 - 1992), as Ray Blent, and Jane Fonda as June Ryder, in 'Tall Story', directed by Joshua Logan, 1960. The film is Fonda's debut. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)
Jane Fonda publicity portrait for the film 'Tall Story', 1960. (Photo by Warner Brothers/Getty Images)
circa 1960: Promotional studio portrait of American actor Jane Fonda wearing a black evening gown. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
circa 1960: Promotional studio portrait of American actor Jane Fonda kneeling with her hands on her knees, for her first film, director Joshua Logan's film, 'Tall Story'. She wears a dark top and short shorts. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Jane Fonda in a sultry pose for a publicity portrait. She wears sheer clothing and holds her hands up behind her head. Ca. 1960-1970.
LOS ANGELES - CIRCA 1962: Actress Jane Fonda and husband Roger Vadim attend a party in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Jane Fonda American actress, 31.08.1962. (Photoshot/Getty Images)
American actress Jane Fonda, circa 1962. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)
The American actress Jane Fonda wears the clinging space suit of Barbarella, the leading role in the homonymous movie directed by her husband Roger Vadim; she looks stuck in some dangerous situation into the futuristic scenography. Rome (Italy), 1967.. (Photo by Marisa Rastellini/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)
The American actors John Phillip Law and Jane Fonda talk together into Dino De Laurentis Studios during the filming of Roger Vadim's Barbarella; Fonda has the leading role of astronaut Barbarella while Law interprets the blind angel named Pygar. Rome (Italy), 1967.. (Photo by Marisa Rastellini/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)
FRANCE � 1964: Alain Delon And Jane Fonda On The Set Of The Movie 'Les F�ins' Directed By Ren�Cl�ent, In France, In 1964 . (Photo by Giancarlo BOTTI/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
Jane Fonda, Jean Claude Brialy et Marie Jos�Nat sur le tournage du film de Roger Vadim 'La Ronde' en 1964, France . (Photo by REPORTERS ASSOCIES/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
23rd January 1965: American actress Jane Fonda at the Savoy Hotel, London holds a press reception. (Photo by Kaye/Express/Getty Images)
American actress Jane Fonda with her husband, French director Roger Vadim (1928 - 2000), California, December 1965. (Photo by Archive Photos/Getty Images)
23rd January 1965: Actress Jane Fonda in the Savoy Hotel, London puts her feet up and enjoys a relaxing cigarette. (Photo by Kaye/Express/Getty Images)
American actress Jane Fonda, Hollywood, USA, December 1965. (Photo by Archive Photos/Getty Images)
FRANCE - NOVEMBER 14: Film Of Roger Vadim. 19651114 Film By Roger Vadim. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
Jane Fonda, US actress, wearing a pink puff sleeve blouse and drop earrings, in a studio portrait, against a red background, circa 1965. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)
Jane Fonda on bed in a scene from the film 'Circle Of Love', 1965. (Photo by Continental Distributing/Getty Images)
Jane Fonda and baby daughter Vanessa Vadim at the Belvedere Hostpital in Paris, France (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
American actress Jane Fonda in a pink, floral blouse and yellow slacks, circa 1968. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)
Jane Fonda, US actress, in a publicity portrait issued for the film, 'Barbarella', 1968. The science fiction film, directed by Roger Vadim (1928-2000), starred Fonda as 'Barbarella'. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)
Jane Fonda sur le tournage de 'Metzengerstein' r�lis�par Roger Vadim en 1968, �Sibiril, France . (Photo by REPORTERS ASSOCIES/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
A year after leaving Ted Turner, former actress Jane Fonda says she has radically changed her life - giving up her famed exercise regimen to write a book about her controversial days as a Vietnam War era peace activist. In an interview with Barbara Walters for ABC's "20/20" to be aired February 9, 2001, Fonda, 63, whose workout videos helped spark the fitness craze of the 1980s and '90s, said she has largely given up exercise because it interferes with her writing. She is shown in a September 26, 1997 file photo. SV
LOS ANGELES - APRIL 20: Actress Jane Fonda attends Jane Fonda's Second Annual Celebrity Auction to Benefit the Cancer Project of the CED Education Fund on April 20, 1980 at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
Jane Fonda during 1980 American Movie Awards at Wilshire Theater in Beverly Hills, California, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Fonda was joined by other activists, including Ai-jen Poo of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Monica Ramirez of the National Farmworker Women’s Alliance and Fatima Goss Graves of the National Women’s Law Center, as they met with lawmakers including Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.).

While the meetings on Capitol Hill were described as strategy sessions, the groups are pushing to expand Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to cover more categories of the labor force. Ramirez said that their goals should draw in all political background, as “sexual harassment … is not a partisan issue.”

Fonda said that as she made the rounds on the hill, “it occurred to me that my father, Henry Fonda, who was an actor, is very present with me.” He starred in the classic “The Grapes of Wrath,” which showed the plight of a Depression-era family from the Oklahoma Dust Bowl as they migrated to California.

She noted that the movie showed how the farmworkers were “fighting for dignity and rights and risking their lives doing so. Now we have women farmworkers who are even more vulnerable. So the issue of workers rights has been with me for a long time.”

In the 1970s, Fonda said she worked in the antiwar movement with Karen Nussbaum, co-founder of 9to5, which addressed problems faced by women office workers. “She would tell me these stories of what these women were having to endure, and I said, ‘I got to make a movie about this, and that became ‘9 to 5.'”

It was clear, though, that she sees the Me Too and Times Up movements, triggered by the Harvey Weinstein scandal, as turning points. “I never thought I would live to see a day when women were actually heard,” she said.

“I am very aware of the fact that in the beginning, this happened the way it did because the women who were speaking out were white, and they were famous,” she said. Soon after, though, the National Farmworker Women’s Alliance reached out to celebrities in Hollywood with the message, “We stand with you,” Fonda said.

29 PHOTOS
Jane Fonda through the years
See Gallery
Jane Fonda through the years
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 08: Jane Fonda attends The 57th Annual GRAMMY Awards at the STAPLES Center on February 8, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Dan MacMedan/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 07: Jane Fonda attends the Pre-GRAMMY Gala And Salute To Industry Icons Honoring Martin Bandier at The Beverly Hilton on February 7, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
MILAN, ITALY - JANUARY 18: Jane Fonda attends 'Che Tempo Che Fa' TV Show on January 18, 2015 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Stefania D'Alessandro/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 11: 72nd ANNUAL GOLDEN GLOBE AWARDS -- Pictured: Actress Jane Fonda arrives to the 72nd Annual Golden Globe Awards held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 11, 2015. (Photo by: Christopher Polk/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank)
WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 7: Singer Al Green; actor and filmmaker Tom Hanks; ballerina Patricia McBride; singer-songwriter Sting; and comedienne Lily Tomlin will receive honors for 2014 on THE 37TH ANNUAL KENNEDY CENTER HONORS, to be broadcast Tuesday, Dec. 30 (9:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured L-R: Jane Lynch, Reba McEntire, Jane Fonda, and Kate McKinnon (Photo by Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 7: Singer Al Green; actor and filmmaker Tom Hanks; ballerina Patricia McBride; singer-songwriter Sting; and comedienne Lily Tomlin will receive honors for 2014 on THE 37TH ANNUAL KENNEDY CENTER HONORS, to be broadcast Tuesday, Dec. 30 (9:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured: Jane Fonda (Photo by Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 07: Jane Fonda, Jane Lynch and Reba McEntire attend the 37th Annual Kennedy Center Honors at The John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts on December 7, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 05: Actress Jane Fonda attends the Captain Planet Foundation Gala at Intercontinental Buckhead on December 5, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Moses Robinson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 06: Jane Fonda attends the 2014 Kennedy Center Honors Gala Dinner at the U.S. Department of State on December 6, 2014 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - SEPTEMBER 15: Actress Jane Fonda arrives at the premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures' 'This Is Where I Leave You' at TCL Chinese Theatre on September 15, 2014 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - SEPTEMBER 15: Actress Jane Fonda arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of 'This Is Where I Leave You' at TCL Chinese Theatre on September 15, 2014 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - SEPTEMBER 15: Actress Jane Fonda arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of 'This Is Where I Leave You' at TCL Chinese Theatre on September 15, 2014 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage)
TORONTO, CANADA - SEPTEMBER 08: Jane Fonda attends the Guess Portrait Studio during 2014 Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 2014 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Aaron Harris/WireImage)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - SEPTEMBER 15: Actress Jane Fonda (dress & hair detail) attends the premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures' 'This Is Where I Leave You' at the TCL Chinese Theatre on September 15, 2014 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)
TORONTO, CANADA - SEPTEMBER 08: Tina Fey and Jane Fonda attend the Guess Portrait Studio during 2014 Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 2014 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Aaron Harris/WireImage)
TORONTO, CANADA - SEPTEMBER 08: Jane Fonda attends the Guess Portrait Studio during 2014 Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 2014 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Aaron Harris/WireImage)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - APRIL 27: Jane Fonda and Viva Vadim attend actress Jane Fonda's Handprint/Footprint Ceremony during the 2013 TCM Classic Film Festival at TCL Chinese Theatre on April 27, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by JB Lacroix/WireImage)
CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 16: (USA SALES ONLY) (L-R) Caroline Gruosi-Scheufele, Jude Law and Jane Fonda attend the Diamonds Are Girls Best Friend event during the 64th Annual Cannes Film Festival held at Hotel Martinez on May 16, 2011 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Eric Ryan/Getty Images)
BOMBAY, INDIA: US actress Jane Fonda (C) gestures along side playwright, Eve Ensler (L) and Dr. Armida Fernandez (R) as they talk to the press at the Society for Nutrition Education and Health Action (SNEHA) for Women and Children in Bombay, 09 March 2004. Fonda and Ensler along with other celebrities who are in town to perform in a Poor-Box production of the provocative play 'Vagina Monologues', did a tour of a part of the SNEHA Mecial Centre to lend support to the great work being done there. AFP PHOTO/Rob ELLIOTT (Photo credit should read ROB ELLIOTT/AFP/Getty Images)
Jane Fonda during Children's Aid Celebrates 20 Years of Teen Pregnancy Prevention at Harvard Club of New York in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Djamilla Rosa Cochran/WireImage)
US actress Jane Fonda presents her 'Golden Hart' for lifetime achievement during the charity TV show 'Ein Herz fuer Kinder' (A heart for children) made to raise funds and donations for needy children, 15 December 2007 in Berlin. AFP PHOTO DDP/MICHAEL KAPPELER GERMANY OUT (Photo credit should read MICHAEL KAPPELER/AFP/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - JUNE 20: (L-R) Actor Keenan Ivory Wayans, director Gregory Nava, actress/singer Jennifer Lopez, manager Benny Medina, actress Jane Fonda, singer Pitbull, Lopez's children Emme (front, left and Max pose as Lopez is honored with the 2500th star on June 20, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jonathan Leibson/WireImage)
002 06/24/98 Washington Dc Jane Fonda Addresses A National Press Club Luncheon In Washington, D.C. Where She Talked About Teen Pregnancy And Offered Tips To Parents For Guiding Their Children. (Photo By Karin Cooper/Getty Images)
Media mogul Ted Turner and his wife actress Jane Fonda arrive 04 October 2003 in Washington at the premiere of 'Guettysburg' a new four-hour motion picture chronicling the three-day battle of the U.S. Civil War. Turner's production company Turner Pictures presents the movie based on the Pulitzer prize winning novel 'The Killer Angels' by Michael Shaara. AFP PHOTO JENNIFER YOUNG (Photo credit should read JENNIFER YOUNG/AFP/GettyImages)
Actor Henry Fonda (centre) with his children, actors Jane and Peter, attending a tribute to Henry by the American Film Institute, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, California, circa 1975. (Photo by Frank Edwards/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
The US actors Rod Taylor and Jane Fonda are sat close, at the races, in a scene of the film 'Sunday in New York'. New York, 1963. (Photo by Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)
A scene of 'Sunday in New York', with Cliff Robertson comforting Jane Fonda, his sister in the film. New York, 1963. (Photo by Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)
A scene of the film 'Sunday in New York', with Cliff Robertson introducing Jane Fonda (on the right) to Jo Morrow (on the left), who are his sister and his girlfriend respectively in the film. New York, 1963. (Photo by Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)
Jane Fonda snuggles with a child in a scene from the film 'Hurry Sundown', 1966. (Photo by Paramount/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Fonda said that “made us all realize that this notion that has become so important of intersectionality was now being fleshed out, that this was a new reality for many of us, and that it was going to be forever.”

“I think that there is a beautiful synergy that is happening now with celebrities in Hollywood being able to learn about the realities of working women who are far more vulnerable than we are, and this is going to be ongoing,” she said. “This isn’t something that is going to peter out. This is not a moment, it is a movement.”

Kavanaugh’s nomination has triggered alarms among a number of progressive and civil rights groups that existing worker protections may be in jeopardy, as well as fears that his confirmation would lead to the overturning of Roe vs. Wade.

At the press conference, Fonda at first was reluctant about weighing in on his nomination, worried that it would distract from the event. But pressed on the point, she said that if he is confirmed it would be a “catastrophe, frankly, if this nomination goes through, for everyone, for our children and unfortunately our grandchildren. But women’s rights, worker’s rights, will be shunted to the side, and that is just the beginning.”

Fonda continues to be a focus of some Republicans’ attack ads, and President Trump and others are already targeting Hollywood in general as the out-of-touch liberal elite.

She doesn’t think industry activists should let it keep them from getting involved.

“If we are being attacked it is because we are being effective,” she said. “We are able to amplify the voices of the people that really need to be heard. That’s is really how we have to use our celebrity, is to raise the voices of all workers, and we can’t be cowed by the attacks from the right.

She added, “We have to understand that it is because we are doing our jobs as citizens, and I am very proud of what we are doing. It is important for us to know what we are doing, to listen very carefully so we will know what it is people are talking about, so we can be informed. But I say go — go for it.”

Subscribe to Variety Newsletters and Email Alerts!

Read Full Story