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What's a 'WILD' Woman and What Does It Mean for the Labor Movement?

From Left to Right: Laurel Brennan, Charlie Wowkanech, Liz Shuler, New Jersey State Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo (IBEW)

When women succeed, America succeeds, and the union movement and its female leaders are poised to make this a reality.

Equal pay, access to paid sick and family leave and quality health care are just some of the issues women will tackle March 7–8 at the New Jersey State AFL-CIO's 11th annual Women in Leadership Development (WILD) conference in East Brunswick, N.J. 

“Women still find themselves falling behind in the workplace, and the way we fight back is by using our collective energy to push issues of earned sick leave, quality health care and equal pay,” says Laurel Brennan, secretary-treasurer of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO. “This conference will empower and educate union women to strategize, organize and overcome these challenges. WILD women will be tomorrow’s leaders not only at home, in the workplace and in their communities, but in town halls, statehouses, Congress and beyond.”

Because the debate on core women’s issues does not only take place at the workplace and around dinner tables, but also on the Internet, the WILD conference will teach women to become social media thought leaders and activists. That focus is especially geared toward the new generation of union members.

“The labor movement has always been a movement for women,” says Elizabeth Shuler, national AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer, and a keynote speaker at this year’s conference. “So it’s important we’re training women leaders to communicate with the next generation through new and creative outlets. We need to go digital and make sure that future women leaders hear our message and understand how collective action builds women’s power.”

A special focus of this year’s WILD conference will be the issue of earned sick leave, which would have a tremendous impact on working women across the state. The New Jersey State AFL-CIO is a founding partner of the 256-member Working Families United for New Jersey Inc. That coalition led last year’s successful statewide campaign to increase New Jersey’s minimum wage and was recently asked by legislative leadership to take the lead in a new effort for a statewide-earned sick leave law.

In addition to Shuler, other keynote speakers include Connecticut AFL-CIO Executive Secretary-Treasurer Lori Pelletier and Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women (NOW).

“It is an honor to come back to New Jersey to help organize the strong women who are going to be tomorrow’s leaders in the women’s equality movement,” says O’Neill, an attorney, professor and activist, who has been president of NOW since 2009. “Union women know how to organize, and when they come out of WILD they will have an entire toolkit from which to engage and push the public behind the pro-women and pro-working family issues we all support.”

For more information about the 11th annual Women in Leadership Development conference, please visit

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