Union women showed solidarity at the 2017 Women’s March in DC.

Why I Continue to March: Labor’s Fight for Equality

A year ago, I joined hundreds of thousands of women across the country in the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. After Donald Trump became president, women came together to say we will not sit back quietly and let the rights we fought so hard for be rolled back.

In the year since, we’ve seen Congress pass a bad tax bill, attacks on women’s health care, failure to fund CHIP, and DACA and TPS policies that tear families apart.

But the momentum of the march continues. This has been a year of women-led resistance. We’ve seen a new wave of women running for public office. We’re active in politics and in the workplace. We’ve stopped bad trade deals. We’re demanding that Walmart, Marshalls, Target and other national retailers pay a living wage and adopt family-friendly policies. We’re speaking up about sexual harassment in the workplace.

The labor movement’s agenda is the same as the economic agenda of women everywhere: fair schedules, fair wages, paid sick and family leave, access to affordable health care and child care, and freedom from harassment.

Women are the sole or primary breadwinner for 40% of families in the United States, so equal pay isn’t just a “women’s issue,” it’s an economic issue that is negatively impacting far too many working families.

And now, more than ever, the labor movement needs to take a look at itself and make the changes needed in our own structure. If we aspire to values of unity and democracy, then our leadership must reflect the rich diversity of union membership nationwide.

Most recently, we are coordinating with the larger women’s movement to have a long-needed national conversation about sexual harassment and assault, both in the workplace and beyond. At a Feb. 6 convening, the AFL-CIO will facilitate a conversation to develop a road map for labor leaders and our members on the best practices for fighting workplace harassment. Union women have always played an integral role in making life better for all women in the workplace, through collective action and their union contracts.

At the AFL-CIO Convention in October, we refocused our efforts in fighting against sexual harassment on the job. Actresses from SAG-AFTRA launched the #TimesUp movement to hold harassers accountable in Hollywood. They have formed a strong partnership with worker organizations like Alianza Nacional de Campesinas/National Farmworkers Women’s Alliance. UNITE HERE is promoting the “Hands Off, Pants On” campaign to increase safety for hotel workers. From AFSCME to AFGE to AFL-CIO’s state federations and central labor councils, working people are coming together to eliminate harassment from the workplace.

And we’re seeing progress, because women are rejecting the status quo and are working to build an America where all working women can sustain their families and realize their dreams. Each working woman has the chance to be a part of something bigger, to be part of the solution.

In the meantime, we’ll keep marching, speaking out and making progress.

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