As women, we have a powerful activist voice. We are half of the entire global population. (A good start). We are half of the working population. (Even more progress). Now, we are the majority of college students. (Excellent work Ladies). We have made many strides since the Suffrage Movement. Political representation has steadily increased for elected females. We activate in protest-sometimes physically and sometimes through voting-to create several laws and Congressional Bills to increase our protections and advancement. Slowly but surely, women have closed the gender gap in unions. There are now 6.5 million sisters in unions across America (Jablonski, 2/12/2014). Our brothers are only a couple million ahead of us as there are still 14.5 million union workers today (BLS, 1/24/2014). That gap closed more than 50% in twenty years.
Position Your Voice
Getting back to our voice. Our voices ring loudest when we remind political representatives that our needs are important. We are almost 11% (10.5% to be exact) of the entire working population of America ( BLS, 1/24/2014). That means 6.5 million voices that can contact politicians. Remember us when they are voting on legislation that harms our livelihood. For example-how many more “Right to Work” states do we need? None. We need to repeal those laws. That’s where our voices come in. We need all the Scott Walkers (Governor of Wisconsin) to hear us loud and clear. WE VOTE. From local to national elections our needs are the politician’s needs. In the last presidential election,women made a huge difference in voting power. Politicians need to be reminded of this.
Local Elections Count
As we head into a gubernatorial election year we need to pay attention to our local elections. In Chicago, we will choose our next governor, commissioners, state representatives and senators and more. The members we elect for these “smaller” offices will count. The power in politics is a two-way stream. It goes up to the top (Washington and State government elected officials) and down to the bottom (local mayors, municipal councils, etc) and vice versa. Our immediate elected officials help create the base for all elections. Grassroots starts at the bottom. Remember this when you vote in any and all elections. Even if you are one of a few female union members in your immediate community, make sure the politicians know what you need. Pro-union representation. Make sure they receive your voice during campaigns and at the polls. Let them know, “I may be a small part of this community but I am a large part of American workers as a woman union member”.
Issues within the 11%
Breadwinners: Women have fast become the breadwinner in their homes (Glynn, 6/2014). Single-mother homes are 24% of the entire population (Mather, 2010). That means that women in unions must come into contact with these 24%ers. We need to support our single parent sisters at home and at the polls. The wages for union women are sometimes quadruple and more than the amount of minimum wage. The cost of single parentage rises all day. Support a sister who supports our future generations. Voice the power of unions at the polls, community events and at work.
Healthcare: Women have more extensive healthcare needs due to childbirth and rampant new forms of cancer. When we, as members of unions, contact representatives on our needs we must mention union benefits. In unions we have great healthcare benefits. And if we don’t you can bet our union is working diligently to get it for us. The SEIU Health Care Workers union is constantly building new benefits for members and patients. As part of a huge collective voting block, we must represent our needs for our families in our personal work benefits package and unionization of healthcare workers. Union healthcare workers have qualification requirements as well as a vast support network in unions to express their concerns for patients. Remind any and all political leaders that we must be represented for our own health and that of others.
Equality: In unions women have equality. Yes, it may not seem that way when many of us work with male only crews. But we are paid the same wages and receive the same benefits as our brothers. That doesn’t happen for the rest of the workforce. Today, women in the general workforce only make 81 cents on the dollar of men (USDOL, Equal Pay). If we do not continue to voice our concern to remain at equal wages we could be the 81 centers. I do not want to be that. We will not let anyone keep our 19 cents.
Keep it going
Even though these are just a few issues in our lives, they are important. These are important reasons to remind elected officials and our community and our country why we are an important 11%. We are union women who work through natural and unnatural disasters, pay our taxes, raise our kids and are part of the economic system. Make sure the world knows it.
“Economic News Release: Union Member Summary”. US Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics. 24 January 2014. Retrieved from: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/union2.nr0.htm.
“Equal Pay”. US Department of Labor. Retrieved from: http://www.dol.gov/equalpay/.
“Gender Differences in Voter Turnout”. Center for American Women and Politics. May 2014. Retrieved from: www.cawp.rutgers.edu.
Glynn, Sarah Jane. “Breadwinning Mothers, Then and Now”. Center for American Progress. June 2014 Retrieved from: http://cdn.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Glynn-Breadwinners-report-FINAL.pdf.
Jablonski, Donna. “6.5 Million Union Women: A Powerful Voice”. AFL-CIO NOW. 12 February 2014. Retrieved from: http://www.aflcio.org/Blog/Other-News/6.5-Million-Union-Women-A-Powerful-Voice.
Mather, Mark PhD. “Data brief: US Children in single mother families.” PRB.org. May 2010. Web. 15 November 2014. Retrieved from:http://www.prb.org/pdf10/single-motherfamilies.pdf.