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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 Briefs”. U.S. Department of Commerce. September 2013. Doi: http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/income/.
Zurawski, Mac-Z. “Anti-Union is Anti-Minority”. The Political Society Page. 9 July 2013. Doi: http://maczzurawski.tumblr.com/post/55041139289/anti-union-is-anti-minority-by-mac-z-zurawski-the.