Unionized Women Earn More  

No, it's true. It's been studied and it's not surprising. But have you ever thought about how the Employee Free Choice Act could make an even greater difference in the lives of women? I have. Having the ability as a worker to choose to sign a card and be recognized or sign a card and hold an election, well, let's just say it's profound. And I'm not the only one thinking about it, either!!

There is no doubt about it. Union membership makes a critical difference in the lives of women. With the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, more women – and as a result, their families – would have greater opportunities and access to a living wage, health care, retirement and job security.

This union difference for women was the topic of conversation on Capitol Hill today, where the National Council of Women’s Organizations hosted a congressional briefing for members of Congress, their staff, the press and the public. The goal of the briefing was for attendees to learn more about the Employee Free Choice Act and the difference its passage would make for women workers. The panelists highlighted the key difference that union membership makes for women and stressed the urgent need for reformed labor laws that will make it easier for workers to form their union. The distinguished panelists included:

Rachna Choudhry, Policy and Advocacy Manager, National Partnership for Women & Families
Ariane Hegewisch, Study Director, Institute for Women’s Policy Research
Carol Rosenblatt, Executive Director, Coalition of Labor Union Women
Amy Swanson, Grassroots Lobbyist, Service Employees International Union
Tiffany Heath, National Coalition Organizer, Voice at Work, AFL-CIO

The panelists noted that women make up 45 percent of the union work force in the United States, and if the pace of growth continues, women will be the majority of the unionized work force in the United States by the year 2020. Union membership narrows the wage gap and increases the probability that women will have access to health insurance coverage.

“Union issues are women’s issues,” Choudhry said.

On a more global scale, Heath pointed to the myth that unions destroy competitiveness, noting that in many European countries, employers pay skilled union workers high wages to produce high quality products that compete in the marketplace. Heath noted that compared to other developed nations, the United States has some of the most restrictive labor laws and the least equitable distribution of productivity gains throughout the population.

Noting that women still earn, on average, 78 cents to the dollar of men’s earnings, Rosenblatt spoke on the critical need for the Employee Free Choice Act in order for women and men to gain rights at work to form a union and bargain collectively for gains.

The need for the Employee Free Choice Act was also a major topic of conversation, gaining much attention at the sixth annual Teamsters Organizers Conference this weekend, where women workers and organizers talked about the urgent need for the Employee Free Choice Act.

“The Employee Free Choice Act would lessen the fear, because the intimidation factor is there. Workers are afraid of losing their jobs in this economy,” said Vangie Moreno, a Teamsters International Union organizer, who meets with hundreds of workers on a regular basis. “The workers I’ve worked to organize have mainly been women, single and divorced, who have children and are the sole breadwinners of the household. The Employee Free Choice Act would give them the choice to form a union to provide a better life for themselves and their families.”

Clearly, many others get it, including the Teamsters. Nice to see my old union pulling for women.

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