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February 12 2014

Still Making a Difference

New report demonstrates value of women’s committees in unions

NEW YORK, N.Y. - The Berger-Marks Foundation announces the release of its newest report, “Women’s Committees in Worker Organizations: Still Making a Difference.” Written by Lois Gray and Maria Figueroa of the Worker Institute at Cornell, the publication addresses a key question arising from the changing role and status of women in American unions.

In the early history of unionization, women organized separately because they were excluded from male controlled unions or worked in separate occupations and industries. Today’s unions are open to men and women but many still maintain separate outreach for women via women’s committees, departments, and programs. The question persists: why have separate outreach for women?

To answer this question, the authors, Gray and Figueroa, surveyed national and local unions and non-traditional worker organizations to assess the prevalence of women’s committees and special outreach programs. Six national and eight local programs were selected for detailed examination.

The report analyzes the role of women’s committees in relation to their participation, opportunities for leadership, and impact on union policies. Based on the experience of these organizations, the authors offer strategies for effective implementation and recommendations for future research. “Women’s Committees in Worker Organizations: Still Making a Difference” is recommended for unions and worker organizations on all levels interested in developing or expanding women’s committees, outreach, and leadership opportunities.

 “This report, the first of its kind, makes the case for the continuation and expansion of special outreach to women members who constitute approximately half of the workplace but remain underrepresented in leadership and policy roles in unions and continue to face inequality in pay and job opportunities.” – Lois Gray, The Worker Institute at Cornell.

Included are: unions representing public sector (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Unions and Transport Workers Union) and private sector employees (Food and Commercial and Communication Workers and Teamsters); craft unions with predominantly male membership (Stage Hands, Electricians, and Carpenters) as well as those representing professional employees (Organizations of Staff Analysts and Professional Staff Congress representing College faculty); and non-traditional worker organizations (Domestic Worker Alliances and Restaurant Opportunity Center).