VIDEO: Meet Five Union Women

“Who’s trying to keep you from getting what you think you need?” says nurse Patty Eakin. “Where do you get your strength? You don’t get it by yourself, you have to get it with your co-workers.” Meet Eakin and four other union women in this new video made by young women unionists in Philadelphia.

A new short film highlights five union women from different sectors across Philadelphia—introducing us to their lives and their fights for democracy in the workplace.

“Who’s trying to keep you from getting what you think you need?” says nurse Patty Eakin. “Where do you get your strength? You don’t get it by yourself, you have to get it with your co-workers.”

And carpenter Margarita Padin adds, “All of this is about profit-making. We are not just divided into one industry or another industry… it’s part of a system where we are all connected.”

The film is by and for union women, as well as about them. Members of the Young Women’s Committee of the Philadelphia chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) directed it, produced it, and conducted the interviews.

We aim to use the final product as a tool to introduce younger women to the labor movement, with women leaders as role models. You can view “Union Women, Union Power: From the Shopfloor to the Streets” (30 minutes), in high quality on YouTube here.

Talking across the Generations

This project was a product of an effort to encourage intergenerational dialogue in the labor movement, both in our local CLUW chapter and across our city. The process started about two years ago, when young women were asked to play more of a leadership role in our chapter.

We are acutely aware of the crisis we face—as a labor movement, as women, and as working-class young people in this economy.

We had several conversations where we thought about the history of CLUW, the big questions before us, and what experiences we should learn from. We like to say that CLUW provides a gender lens for the labor movement and a class lens for the women’s movement.

RESOURCES FOR
WOMEN WORKERS

Stopping Sexual Harassment, Labor Notes’ 1992 guide, is still one of the most complete manuals out there. It has sections on member-to-member harassment, women of color, defending yourself, the legal route, and “an unhelpful union.” Order at labornotes.org/store.
♦ ♦ ♦

KC Wagner of the Worker Institute at Cornell University frequently does “train-the-trainer” workshops for unions, showing how to lead an interactive class on addressing and preventing sexual harassment, within the context of building union solidarity and promoting workplace respect. Contact her at kcw8[at]cornell[dot]edu.

♦ ♦ ♦

Read a training for officers and stewards on member-to-member harassment, developed by the United Electrical Workers.

♦ ♦ ♦

From the boardroom on down, women still get paid less than men—but read why what’s depressing women’s wages is less the gap from men and more the gap from the top 10%.
♦ ♦ ♦

New Book

Secrets of a successful organizer

A step-by-step guide to building power on the job. Buy Now. »

The days are long past when the job of the union women’s committee was to provide refreshments. A report from the Berger-Marks Foundation looks at what women’s committees are doing today and what impact they have. Download Women’s Committees in Worker Organizations: Still Making a Difference at bergermarks.org.

♦ ♦ ♦

You might not want to actually hand your mother a pretend check on Mother’s Day, but the info on this site is interesting. The salary.com/mom-paycheck website breaks out the work hours of average moms at various tasks and calculates what they would get paid if they were being paid. Stay-at-home moms work an average of 94 hours a week and would collect a “mom salary” of $113,586 a year. Mothers with jobs do an average of 58 hours per week in household and childcare duties on top of their paid jobs.

—Labor Notes

So we decided to take on a project that would help us understand what it means to be the future of the labor movement and how we can continue the fights of our sisters before us.

We wanted to start with women who have been in the forefront of major fights here in Philadelphia. We wanted to incorporate how they understood their experiences, as we think about what we are going to do tomorrow, six months from now, five years from now, and 30 years from now.

With humility, love, and deep commitment to building a better world, we share with you this film to start a conversation.

Successful Screenings

“Union Women, Union Power” has had several screenings already, including at the 2013 National CLUW Convention in Reno. Countless women there shared how much they were moved by and connected to the film. “Where can we find it!? Put it on the website!” “Thank you!” “I want to share this with my union!” were commonplace throughout the convention. Women both saw themselves in the film and were excited that young women members could create a refreshing, powerful account of our everyday struggles to build a movement.

Another screening was part of an event sponsored by CLUW’s Young Women’s Committee called “Women’s Work: Standing up for Public Education and the Common Good.” We paired it with a panel discussion about the attack on public education in our city. The last woman featured in the film is a teacher who made a powerful connection between her union as a vehicle for good working conditions and one for defending the rights of students to quality public education.

We are the change we want to see, we are the organizations that we build.

We hope our film can engage people in a grounded conversation about what a union is and what union leaders do—and about building a labor movement capable of taking on our deepest concerns.

Dina Yarmus is chair of the Young Women’s Committee of the Coalition of Labor Union Women’s Philadelphia chapter. Funding for the film was provided by the Berger-Marks Foundation, which focuses on union women.

“Union Women, Union Power: From the Shopfloor to the Streets” will be screened at the Labor Notes Conference April 4-6 in Chicago, where Dina Yarmus will speak. Register here.