The Stand

Union women will ‘put nation back on track’

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The country has gone off its economic rails, as the recession and subsequent cuts in critical public services have disproportionately harmed women and people of color. That’s why it’s never been a more important time for women to join unions, and also become active in leadership roles in those unions, to get the nation back on track.

That was the message delivered at Saturday night’s banquet of the Puget Sound Chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women at the Machinists 751 Hall in South Seattle, which celebrated women whose leadership has improved workers’ lives through the labor movement. A special recognition was given for one of the Chapter’s founding members, Irene Hull, who passed away in March at the age of 98.

The keynote speaker was Lynne Dodson, Secretary-Treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council, who is the first woman in the history of the AFL-CIO state federation to be elected as an executive officer. Dodson described the challenges facing women in the post-recession workforce — including those still looking for work — and how union membership helps them confront those challenges.

Women in unions are more likely to have health care, and they are more likely to have sick leave, vacations, and pensions.  Women in unions earn 33% more than their non-union counterparts, and our wages are more similar to men’s wages in unions as well (87 cents to the dollar, rather than 79).  And of course there are the many benefits of having a voice at work!

Dodson thanked CLUW’s area chapter for its efforts and urged a renewed commitment to seeking wage equality, affordable child care, paid family and sick leave, flexible work schedules, and “universal, single-payer health care.”

“This work is what the labor movement is all about — economic and social justice,” she said. “And we need to figure out how to advance an agenda of social justice that particularly includes and elevates women and people of color if we are truly to be a movement of justice… Let’s work together to put this country back on track!”

Read Dodson’s entire speech here.

Banquet attendees honored one of the Chapter’s founding members, Irene Hull, who was a fixture at area labor events for many decades. Her lifetime of political and social organizing began in the 1930s and continued into 2011. Memorably, one of the countless times she protested attacks against working people was in 1995 when she was arrested at Seattle’s Republican headquarters protesting Newt Gingrich’s Contract With America. A photo of Hull wearing a T-shirt that read “Shame” as police took her away in handcuffs was immortalized in a Jobs With Justice poster. In 2008, Irene was awarded the WSLC’s Mother Jones Awards for exemplary union activism by an individual and for her lifetime of advocacy on behalf of working families.

A memorial service for Irene Hull will be held this Sunday, May 22 from 2 to 5 p.m. in Hall 1 of the Seattle Labor Temple. (See a Seattle Times profile of Irene, written in 2001.)

For more information about the Puget Sound Chapter of CLUW, contact Jacquie Jones-Walsh at 206-772-2079 or pugetsoundcluw@yahoo.com.

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Posted by on May 17 2011. Filed under LOCAL. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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