Unified

How women are breathing new life into organized labor

Detroit teachers protest in front of Detroit Public Schools headquarters, causing 94 of the 97 Detroit school districts to close, on May 3, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

Nearly a century on from the pioneering unionization efforts of Mary “Mother Jones” Harris, women leaders — and especially women of color — have become the de facto leaders of organized labor in the United States.

In the fast-food industry, women have led strikes by McDonald’s workers in 10 cities to protest routine sexual harassment faced by women while on the job. Groups like Justice for Migrant Women are battling pervasive problems with sexual harassment and assault in the farm and domestic labor industries. And last year, more than 7,000 hotel workers organized by Unite Here, a labor union, went on strike to demand health care, better wages and protections against sexual harassment at work. Unite Here is mostly made up of women and people of color, a reality reflected in the number of women leading chants in the picket lines.

One of the most visible organized labor fights has been in the field of education, where teacher strikes protesting low wages and poor working conditions spread across the country last year. The movement, known as #RedforEd, gripped a number of Republican-controlled states that have repeatedly sought to defund their public education systems and limit teachers’ rights to collectively bargain. These efforts have continued into 2019, as strikes in Los Angeles, Oakland and Denver have earned national attention. The leaders for these strikes have overwhelmingly been women — not surprising, given that 77 percent of teachers in the U.S. are female.

Read the full story at the Washington Post.

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