Cindy Oliver: Women’s rights and workers’ rights—we need more of both

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      It was at the turn of the 20th century that International Women’s Day (IWD) had its early beginnings in North America. At the time, it was part of a mobilizing effort by union and community activists who were demanding changes to the appalling working conditions in New York’s garment industry, an industry where women were the vast majority of the workforce and faced exploitive and unsafe conditions. Over the intervening decades, IWD has moved on in scope and capacity. Today it is both a celebration of what women have achieved and a call to action because there is still much more to do to bring real equality into the lives of women.

      Increasingly, the emphasis has shifted over time. Today IWD events talk as much about the plight that women outside of North America and Europe face, as they talk about the continuing struggle of women in developed economies when it comes to social and economic equality.

      A critical part of the current debate about equality is the issue of good jobs: jobs that are safe, jobs that pay a family supporting wage, jobs where the workplace is respectful, jobs where learning and skill development are supported. As union activists, we know that good jobs don’t exist on their own. They take root in an environment where the right to unionize is protected, where high quality social programs are well-established, where public services and infrastructure are properly funded, and where income equality aims to close the gap between rich and poor.

      These are many of the same demands that led organizers in New York’s garment district to press for better conditions for women. A century later, there is still more work to do to make these demands a reality and give women an equal voice. The labour movement has played a critical role in advancing that struggle for greater equality and will continue to make it a priority in 2015. This year, let’s remember the important contribution that unions can make to advancing real equality for women across our country and beyond.



      Musk Ox

      Mar 6, 2015 at 2:31pm

      Because there is ALWAYS MORE WORK TO DO!!!!!!

      And what's more...IT'S NEVER ENOUGH!


      Mar 6, 2015 at 3:18pm

      There are many many holes I can poke in the "women's rights movement". I think women should research the labor movement of World War 2 and how this whole predicament came about. It wasn't women that championed bringing women into the workplace, it was businesses and the government that found a way to create a system where they get two workers for the price of one. A quick method to drive the GDP, inflation and an economic boom in North America. We have created an irreversible system where we can no longer support a family on one salary and children and values are being left in the dust. The war against inequality shouldn't be against men, it should be against popular culture and the mainstream values of women. 50 Shades of Grey is a perfect example. Women need to come together to ban pop culture materialistic values and focus on what is respectable.