Diary of a Garbage Woman

By: Mac-Z Zurawski

The evolution of women in American society has had a significant effect on the work force, namely unions.  The struggles of the women workers before us opened doors for who we are today.  Not just women but for the rights of all workers.  I will briefly describe a few instances of women and union empowerment.


In World War II women joined the ranks of the working class overnight to support the service men and women around the world.  Women had gained the rights to non-traditional female jobs with better benefits as war supporters besides the traditional male workers.  We were supporting our co-workers to create a successful military and social challenge against the horrors of the Axis.  When the war ended many women were told to go back to homemaking.  They were considered secondary workers and men came first (Cobble, 2004).  Unions supported women in the work force and worked toward keeping us at work.   The UAW conventions of 1946 enforced seniority and anti-marital discrimination against women to help stabilize women in unions (Cobble, 2004).  Unions embraced women in their sense of equality under the union umbrella.  In the 1950’s airlines fired women stewardesses between the ages of 32 and 35.  They were considered “too old for the job” (Cobble, 2004).  The unions fought this age discrimination having had successfully fought for men in previous years.  Equality and advancement of workers prevailed.  Fast forward to the 1960’s Civil Rights legislation, women (unionists) were some of the first to file discrimination complaints.  The discrimination complaints were made by union leaders and their legal teams.  In order to have a true union, everyone had to be equal on the job and they could finally use a law to support what they had always been fighting for.  These struggles and successes were a combined effort for unions to prevail as the center of worker advancement and equality.


These are great historical moments but time changes everything.  “Union membership, currently at 11.3% of the working population, is the lowest since the 1930’s”, (Zurawski, 7/9/13). “That is a staggering fact considering they were almost 1 in 3 jobs in the 1950’s”, (Zurawski, 7/9/13).  “According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, blacks are more likely to be union (BLS, 2/23/2013). African-American membership is 30% followed by 25% White and 22% each for Asian and Hispanic members (BLS, 2/23/2013).  Women of all races create 48% of union membership (BLS, 2/23/2013).  These numbers combined create a minority based union membership”, (Zurawski, 7/9/13).    The day has come when we must support our union sisters as we are nearly half of all the union rank and file.


We cannot have infighting between who should get what or who doesn’t do what.  Many times I have heard complaints of women laborers.  We come to work in the snow, rain, heat and cold.  In sanitation, we are there to pick up refrigerators, dressers, bathtubs and construction.  Our sisters in electrical, airport and transportation do their jobs, day in and day out.  We are not independent of the men and vice versa. The anti-union legal firms are exploding.  We only hurt ourselves when we give them fuel for the fire by saying women union members are weak.  We look weak as a whole.


If we cannot support each other our numbers and union strength will continue to be diminished.  We all have great pay checks regardless of our gender, ethnicity, background or educational attainment.  The Median American Household Income is around $51,000 a year, something we all far exceed (Noss, 9/13).  Remember, that that number is a cumulative for every member of the household.  We make that plus for only one person in many Local 1001 positions.  That is an amazing statement for all union members in Local 1001.  We work hard and must respect our counterparts, regardless of gender.  Unions, like ours, have great power in demanding better benefits due to the large female work force.  Unions defend us against the anti-union crusaders through support for minorities.  We are key allies in the anti-discrimination plight of unions.  Women in the ranks make unions one of the only work forces that adhere to the Civil Rights legislation and agenda.  That is power beyond any pay check or job.  We must adhere and defend the  American motto, “United we stand, divided we fall”.

Thank you to my Local 1001 union administrators and brothers and sisters for allowing me the opportunity to strengthen our community through this blog.  Our opinions matter.  Share them.


Please feel free to check out my blog, The Political Society Page , on Tumblr.  I am an advocate and scholar on unions around the world.  Please feel free to join me on LinkedIn to discuss and promote unions and life as a Chicagoan.   I also publish articles on Political Science and International Studies regarding equality and empowerment of global citizens.  I am always looking for guest bloggers.  I am an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at Chicago State University looking for future guests for discussions on our lives as unionists.  Feel free to contact me through the comments section here or on LinkedIn or by email at  Thanks for the opportunity to be a part of this great community.



Cobble, Dorothy Sue. The Other Women’s Movement. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004. Print.

Noss, Amanda. “Household Income: 2012: American Community Survey BriefsU.S. Department of Commerce. September 2013. Doi:


Zurawski, Mac-Z. “Anti-Union is Anti-Minority”. The Political Society Page. 9 July 2013. Doi:

Carol James named 2013 CFL Woman of the Year

The Chicago Federation of Labor presented Carol James, Laborers' Local 1092, with it's Woman of the Year award at the April delegates meeting.


Carol James, the recently retired President of Laborers' Local 1092, was presented with the Chicago Federation of Labor's Woman of the Year Award for 2013 at the April delegates meeting.

"Carol James is the type of person every labor leader should aspire to be," said President Jorge Ramriez. "Her organization and the labor movement are better off thanks to her service and we congratulate her on her well-deserved retirement."

James began working full time for the union after graduating from Lewis University where she received a Bachelor's degree in Social Justice. Over the years she rose through the ranks of Local 1092, the union representing public sector construction Laborers employed by the City of Chicago, serving in elected positions of Secretary-Treasurer, Business Manager and President. She was the first female Business Manager of the Laborers' Great Lakes Region. She served on the steering committee of the Laborers' International Minority Affairs Department and was elected Chair of the union's Women's Caucus.

James thanked all of her colleagues and mentors from the Laborers' for showing her how to be a good leader. "I didn't do anything special to deserve this honor," she said, "I only did what I love to do."

Past recipients can be found here. Reprinted from



February 19, 2014- The LWC recently endorsed our brother, Marty Walsh, for the office of Mayor of the City of Boston. Marty is not only a fellow laborer, but he has also served as President of the Building Trades in Boston. Under his leadership, apprentice initiatives for women and minorities were founded. LWC is proud to report that Marty Walsh won the election and took office on January 9, 2014.


This was another election where LiUNA members have proven we can make a difference! The LWC would like to commend all our LiUNA brothers and sisters who worked hard on the Walsh campaign. The LWC sponsored our sister, Carolyn Crump from Local 1001 in Chicago, who volunteered to go to Boston and join fellow members working on the campaign. We would like to thank Carolyn for making this effort! Carolyn reported, "The people were so happy to meet a woman in Labor and speak to me about Labor. I wish there were more of us. I learned so much from fellow union members, it really enlightened me."


Upon Carolyn's return from Boston, she joined LWC Secretary, Nikki Hayes, in an effort to sign up Local 1001 members to the LWC at the December meeting. As a result, the LWC has twenty-five new members!


March is Women's History Month


Happy Women's History Month, LIUNA Women's Caucus! Take a moment to enjoy these historic images of women in the Labor Movement!


New Guidebook Aimed at Mentoring Union Women Available


When successful people are asked to what they attribute their achievements, they often say the influence of a mentor in their personal or work lives. In fact, often it is a combination of people that that took the time to model best practices for others to learn from. Sometimes these are formal educational arrangements. Often it is an informal relationship between colleagues learning from one another.


The labor movement being the nontraditional landscape that it is, and one that is not always hospitable to women, it is particularly valuable to develop mentoring programs for women labor activists who want to take on more responsibilities within their union. The Next Generation: A Handbook for Mentoring Future Union Leaders is hot off the press and available through the Berger-Marks Foundation website, which provided funding for the publication.


If you are a current or potential mentor or mentee this educational resource is worth taking a look at.


LIUNA Member Wins Instructor of the Year Award from Trades Group


Tawney Sayers of Local 440 was honored by Washington Women in Trades as Instructor of the Year. Ms. Sayers is an Instructor with the NW Laborers Training Center. She was one among several recipients of a Dream Award bestowed on exceptional women. Washington Women in Trades is an organization founded to provide sisterhood and support for women in the trades who continue to be far outnumbered by their male counterparts and, therefore, face unique challenges. Tawney's LIUNA sisters (and brothers) congratulate her.


Website Caters to Educating Women on Financial Matters


During these economic times, who couldn't benefit from some extra knowledge about money issues. If there is a silver lining to be found in this recession, it lies with the fact that many people are taking steps necessary to improve their financial footing to deal with their current problems and, more important, avoid them in the future. Improving financial literacy is particularly important for women, who control most of the spending in the household. Other factors that come into play are the importance of financial independence in making important personal decisions. Particularly critical is the fact that women live longer than men but tend to have smaller savings, pensions and Social Security checks to live off of. Check out this site and see if you can pick up an important tip or two.

Check Below for articles and resources important to LiUNA! Women