UE Honors Friedan, Fighter For Women’s and Labor Rights

February 8, 2006

UE joins progressive women and men in honoring the life and work of Betty Friedan and mourning her passing. UE is particularly proud of the late author´s contributions to this union.

From 1946 to 1952 as the young writer and activist Betty Goldstein, she was employed as a journalist and staff writer for the UE News.

Long before becoming widely known as Betty Friedan, feminist theorist and author, Betty Goldstein experienced, reported and analyzed UE’s fight for the full equality of women on the job and in society. As a UE News staff writer, Goldstein reported on UE´s early women´s conferences and fights against company discrimination. She also authored pamphlets and leaflets which spelled-out the union´s program for the full equality of women.

In her position as a UE News journalist, Goldstein witnessed first-hand the extrordinary struggle against discrimination by women in the electrical industry as UE waged its fight for "equal pay for equal work." In 1946, the year she was hired, UE members at General Electric extended their strike by four weeks to win pay equity wage increases for women. It´s been argued that many of the ideas she later articulated as a trailblazing feminist in the 1960s and ´70s were likely informed by the fight for women’s rights engaged in by UE members in the 1940s and ´50s.

Betty Goldstein´s time with UE also coincided with the ferocious Cold War-era attacks launched against the union by government, corporations, the news media and other conservatives. UE withdrew from the CIO in 1949; later that year the CIO chartered another union to replace UE. In the early 1950s, UE faced a desperate struggle for survival, as other unions used Cold War hysteria to chip away at UE’s membership.

In this crisis situation, the UE News staff experienced a layoff and Betty Goldstein lost her job. It is unfortunate that later, with perhaps understandable bitterness, she chose to recall this as a "firing" linked to a request for maternity leave. Her co-workers recall, and many labor scholars concur, that this mischaracterizes the circumstances.

More important are Betty Friedan’s many contributions to equality and progress for all humankind. UE is proud of her contributions to UE, the union´s role in helping form her views on gender equality, and the role she has played in the fight for women´s rights.

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