March is Women in History Month! Women are history makers and have always been on the frontlines advocating for working families. The UAW has a long history of women being in the struggle to build a stronger union.
During the war years, 300,000 women joined the UAW as Rosie the Riveter and Winnie the Welder working “men’s jobs” in defense plants.
As more and more women entered the work force, numerous issues began to rise. In1944, the UAW Women’s Bureau was formed under the Union’s War Policy Division, with Mildred Jeffrey as director. The Women’s Bureau played an important role in drafting government and legislative policy relating to women workers.
The UAW Women’s Department was established in 1955 to give women a voice in the union and push forward equal opportunities for UAW women, both in the work place and on the union’s elected bodies. The department addressed issues then that some women still face today! The problems of women workers in the 1950’s somewhat remained the same for unorganized/nonunion workers. For example, equal pay for equal work and discrimination in hiring are just a few of the issues that women in the workplace still face, and the UAW still works to eliminate these unfair practices.
In 1962 at the 18th UAW Constitutional Convention, delegates voted to amend the UAW Constitution to “require” that all UAW local unions establish a Women’s Committee.
Women play a vital and necessary role in the labor movement, but that role can be greatly enhanced. This is why the UAW Women’s Department is still needed over 50 years after its establishment. UAW has a long history of strong women leading the helm of the struggles working women have had to endure.
Today, UAW Vice President and Women’s Department Director Cindy Estrada is leading the Women’s Department in advocating and agitating for Union sisters to step up and step into their rightful leadership roles through supportive educational and motivational programs. As the number of women in the workplace has increased, women’s issues and experiences have become undeniably essential to mobilizing and raising the numbers of female workers to choose union representation and pursue leadership roles within their local unions. Women are encouraged to become politically active in order to bring our voices to the table where decisions are made that directly impact women!
Vice President Estrada encourages and empowers women by urging them to challenge themselves to connect with their communities and bring the passion of the labor movement into their neighborhoods. The Women’s Department encourages development of deeper connections between Local Union Women’s Committees and local communities through educational workshops and trainings which occur at the Local Union and Regional level and at the annual Women’s Conference at Black Lake. The Women’s Department also works with other UAW departments and like-minded groups like the Coalition of Labor Union (CLUW) Women to ensure that the voices of women are heard in the planning and execution of political action, organizing, and social justice programs supported by the International Union, UAW.
The strength and the power of women is a force that has changed lives and influenced many different outcomes in the political arena! It has been said, “Our history is our strength.” Let’s all build on our legacy by making history! For additional information on UAW Women, please visit: http://uaw.org/tag/womens-history-month/.