On the first official day of the convention CLUW members from across the nation took the convention’s theme, “Women Taking it to the Streets,” to heart as they joined forces with the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) United to rally for workers’ rights by supporting the One Fair Wage campaign.
Convention delegates and observers marched a few blocks from the convention site to the Spirit of Detroit statue chanting “Corporate Greed Has Got to Go” where they were joined by tipped workers, labor and community allies and women’s rights advocates calling for the elimination of the $2.13 per hour sub minimum wage for tipped workers unchanged since 1991.
CLUW President Connie Leak, Saru Jayaraman, Co-Director of ROC United, Mark Dimondstein, President of APWU, Rick Blocker, President of the Metropolitan Detroit AFL-CIO and NaSheena Bland, a restaurant worker were some of those who fired up the crowd by reminding those present that 70% of tipped workers are women with servers more than twice as likely to live in poverty than the general workforce. Forty percent of tipped workers are single mothers feeding a family on $2.13 per hour in spite of restaurant owners trying to convince the public that restaurant workers are very young workers on their way to another career when most are in their late thirties.
In addition, at a time when sexual harassment and assault are unfortunately current topics in the entertainment industry we cannot forget that the restaurant industry has the highest rates of sexual harassment complaints than any other industry. Tipped workers earning a subminimum wage are dependent on the generosity of customers for their income, rather than their employers. As a result, they must often tolerate inappropriate behavior from customers, and are vulnerable to sexual harassment from coworkers and managers.
Rally speakers emphasized the importance of organizing as a community, recognizing the rally being the kick off for a Michigan ballot initiative calling for raising the state’s minimum wage to $12 coupled with the phasing out of the lower wage for tipped workers. Similar initiatives have proven successful in other states and have lessened the wage gap for women and decreased poverty rates for tipped workers in general.
In the spirit of the ‘streets’ and through action on the convention floor CLUW delegates dedicated themselves to fight for economic fairness and justice for women and all workers.
CLUW Members at the Rally
Photo by, Desmond L. Weems-Ten Twenty-Two Productions
2017 National Officers Council, seated l-r: Carolyn Burton, Joanne Sanders, Judy Beard, Elise Bryant, Carla Insinga, Bennie Bridges, Shelvy Young Abrams; standing: Janet Hill, Jennifer Grigsby, Angela Johnson, Shyla La'Sha, Rhonda Rogers, Lisa Blake, Debra Davis, Vera Newton, Sylvia Ramos, Myra Warren, Patricia Chardavoyne, Tanya James, Rachel Walthall, Karen Bellamy Lewis, (Sarah Reynolds and Rachel Bryan not pictured).
Detroit, MI -- Elise Bryant is the new CLUW National President. Convention delegates elected her to a four year term on September 8th. She is CLUW’s eighth president. She noted that, “It is an honor and a privilege to serve the membership of CLUW as president. I am excited about taking on this work with a fabulous group of women who are smart, savvy, and dedicated trade unionists! We shall rally, we shall sing and we shall overcome – together!”
Elise joined CWA/TNG Local 32035 in 1998 and served as the bargaining unit chair at the National Labor College for eight years. She serves on TNG’s executive board as a member-at-large. Elise is a lifetime member of the Wobblies (Industrial Workers of the World) as well as AFM Local 1000. In 2012 she was given the Lifetime Achievement award from the United Association of Labor Educators and in 2015 was presented with the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild’s Front Page Award for community service. She currently is the Executive Director of the Labor Heritage Foundation.
Other top officers include Carla Insinga who is the new National Executive Vice President and is the Director of Dauphin County Public Employees District Council 90 of AFSCME in PA. She has been active in AFSCME since the mid 1980’s, becoming local president and served as the Director of Council 13’s Organizing and Education Departments. Carla was elected to the CLUW National Officers Council in November, 2013 as the Vice President representing AFSCME.
Judy Beard was re-elected as CLUW National Treasurer having served since 2004. In 2001 she was elected as a CLUW National Vice President representing APWU. She is the National Legislative and Political Director of the American Postal Workers Union, being the first woman elected in that position. Early in her career she was a University of Michigan School of Industrial Relations employee and served as Detroit APWU district area local vice president.
Joanne M. Sanders is the new CLUW National Recording Secretary. She was Indiana’s CLUW State Vice President for seven years and in 2009 was elected as CLUW National Vice President for IATSE. In addition she serves as an International Representative for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). She was elected in 1999 as Councilor at Large for the Indianapolis-Marion County City-County Council, serving for twelve years.
Bennie R. Bridges was re-elected as CLUW National Corresponding Secretary, having served since 2011. She was elected a CLUW National Vice President representing AFGE in 2001. She has been a member of the American Federation of Government Employees since 1968. In 1979 she was appointed as the District 12 National Women's Advisory Coordinator, becoming a member of the CLUW East Bay Chapter. She is an active retired member of AFGE Local 1122. Read more here.
With 2017 coming to a close, preparations for the 2018 elections can never start too soon. At the state level, workers face attacks on collective bargaining rights and project labor agreements (PLAs). Tiffany Heath (pictured), of the AFL-CIO’s Government Affairs department, explained which states had Right-to-Work for less laws introduced, which ones passed and which were defeated.
RTW passed in Kentucky, Missouri and West Virginia. Heath says we’ll hear about the WV State Supreme Court decision by the end of the year. Missouri’s law is headed for a ballot referendum, thanks to more than 300,000 signatures submitted earlier this month. Kentucky’s law prevents public employees from striking.
Heath also discussed the pre-emption of local ordinances, in which state laws override local laws that aim to raise minimum wages, provide transgender bathroom rights and otherwise help workers. She said pre-emptive laws allow state governments to control local governments.
She added that education is key when trying to get both union and non-union workers to defeat anti-union legislation. Issue-based campaigns have seen some success (campaigns that focus on issues rather than political parties).
Breaking the Stereotype Workshop Summary
On her first day of elementary school, Tanya James got in a physical fight with a fellow male classmate, which resulted in her breaking his arm. Since then, Tanya hasn’t “taken no bull from nobody.” This fierce attitude ended up serving her well years later when she would start work in a mine in West Virginia at age 19 surrounded by men.
Tanya faced several instances of sexual harassment on the job and decided, like many women do, to not publicly expose the mistreatment. Instead, she took matters into her own hands.
“I handled things myself, in my own way,” she reflected with a chuckle. “I never told the company.”
Unfortunately, Tanya is not alone. During the CLUW (Coalition of Labor Union Women) convention’s workshop focusing on stereotypes and women working in male-dominated fields, she was joined by two other female panelists who have faced many struggles while pursuing “men’s” careers.
Hazel Powers walked onto the Boeing floor in Seattle when she was 20 years old. As a woman of mixed ethnicities and as a self-proclaimed Army brat of divorced parents, Hazel always felt like an outsider. As a woman entering a plant overflowing with men, her 38 years spent at Boeing have been no different. But through hard work, finding male allies and mentors, and encouragement from her union, Hazel has found her place as a tool inspector and as an undeterred woman.
Diana Limon faced some pushback as well when she decided to go through an arduous apprenticeship in the 1990’s to become an electrician. Admittedly, she wasn’t totally prepared.
“I didn’t know exactly what I was getting into,” Diana said.
What she got into was physically brutal labor, but it was labor she was more than excited to put forth.
“For the first time, I was waking up every morning looking forward to going to work.”
Finding other women like herself who undoubtedly have the brainpower and the drive to work in construction is a top priority for Diana and her entire IBEW local union. Through her entire career, she has not ever worked with another woman out in the field.
“It is really hard to recruit women,” Diana said. “It’s even harder to retain them.”
Fields like construction, mining, and aerospace lack female representation for many reasons. Many women do not want to face harassment from male colleagues who see them as inferior or who see them as competition. Many women are also discouraged from a very young age from taking up these kinds of jobs. Instead, they are encouraged to enter careers like nursing and teaching.
Tackling the biases that exist within mostly male-dominated fields is not easy. But according to Tanya, the most important thing for every woman to remember is the value and power of persistence.
“Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something,” Tanya said. “Keep fighting. Keep swinging.”
What's New at Coalition of Labor Union Women
CLUW registration is quick and easy in the foyer of the Ambassador Ballroom on the third floor at the GM Renaissance Center. Make certain you have your credentials in hand and step into the quick moving lines which are to your left inside the foyer. Just inside the doors there are CLUW materials, sparkly t-shirts and pins, bags which will fold up into a small pouch, and other items, available for purchase. Vendors are setting up their stands, displays are being placed and everyone is excited and ready for Women, Taking it to the streets Convention! Welcome to Detroit!
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