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166 years After Seneca Falls, Working Women Live the Legacy of Collective Action

166 years After Seneca Falls, Working Women Live the Legacy of Collective Action

This weekend marks the 166th anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention—the first women’s rights conference in the United States. Those women came together and launched a movement centered on equality and justice that, through struggle and collective action over the decades, achieved remarkable success.

Working women today are carrying on that legacy in their communities, schools and unions. Just last month, than 250 women workers came together at the AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, D.C., and at the White House Summit on Working Families to share their stories of today’s movement for equality and justice in the workplace.

There they told how women are coming together and improving their workplaces by fighting for policies that include everything from raising the tipped and minimum wage, making equal pay for equal work a reality and demanding more consistent and adequate hours in retail scheduling to making sure everyone has access to affordable child care and can receive basic workplace accommodations during pregnancy. These women workers know collective bargaining and collective action are important for achieving workplace policies that work for women and families. 

Here are just two.

United Steelworkers (USW) member Elva Martes says, “Collective bargaining and belonging to a union is the key to my success.” She points to the family medical care, paid sick leave and the equal pay, ‘that every American women deserves.' A new study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) shows how unions boost working women's pay, benefits and workplace flexibility backs that up.

Bene’t Holmes, a Walmart worker who came together with others in the workers’ organization Our Walmart, has firsthand knowledge of the success of collective action. After being denied light lifting duty when she was pregnant, she miscarried and then was denied medical leave and disciplined for absences. Holmes and Our Walmart fought the leave and discipline and won. Not only that, after she and other Walmart workers with Respect the Bump highlighted the treatment of pregnant workers, Walmart overhauled its pregnancy policy for pregnancy-related complications.

Click here to see more stories.

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