The Battle for Equal Women’s Rights

UE has been leading the fight for equity for women workers since the 1940s. In the current political climate women need unions more than ever, as they are the best way to ensure greater earnings, benefits, and protections from discrimination in the workplace. Until women have full and equal rights, all workers are held back. 

Fifty percent of mothers and three-quarters of Black mothers are the sole or primary breadwinners for their families. The huge gender income gap makes it even harder for them to provide for their families. Nationally, women earn only 80 cents for every dollar men earn. While this gap is slowly closing, at current rates the gender pay gap will not be erased until some time in the mid 22nd century. African-American women only make 63 percent of what white men bring home, Native American women make only 60 percent, and Latinas only make 55 percent. 

The U.S. is ranked 65th in the world in women’s representation in national legislatures; only 26.7 percent of the members of our Congress are women. In Congress and state legislatures, men continue to push bills that eliminate healthcare opportunities for many women, including the defunding of Planned Parenthood, stripping maternity care from mandated health insurance coverage, and gutting Medicaid, the effects of which would fall disproportionately on low-income single mothers. So far, 2021 has been the most restrictive year for abortion access since Roe v. Wade became law, with new restrictive laws in at least 17 states. In August of 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand an odious law passed by the Texas legislature in 2019 which effectively makes it unlawful for a woman to terminate her pregnancy after six weeks. 

The pandemic has highlighted the challenges working women face at all times: juggling responsibilities related to children’s care and education as well as health needs across a family, all while being impacted by job losses in food service, hospitality, education, and other sectors that disproportionately employ women. The Department of Labor has noted that, “The pandemic has set women’s labor force participation back more than 30 years. Unfortunately, the pandemic stalled gains made toward closing the pay gap, and layoffs and a lack of child care have forced many women out of the workforce entirely. In February 2021, women’s labor force participation rate was 55.8% – the same rate as April 1987. And women of color and those working in low-wage occupations have been the most impacted.”

UE members need to apply ever-greater pressure on politicians and bosses to advance and maintain women’s rights. This war on women’s rights needs to stop and we must remain leaders in this fight. 


  1. Calls on the union at all levels to: 
    1. Support locals in fighting legislation that negatively impacts women’s and families’ rights; 
    2. Bargain for gender equality and to fight women’s oppression in the workplace; 
    3. Demand pay equity, recognize the intersection of race and gender, acknowledge and address the urgent political and safety issues experienced by women regardless of gender at birth, and commit to address pay inequality at all levels;
    4. Create a consistent environment to educate and support women to assume positions of leadership within their locals, regions, and the national union; 
    5. Educate members, officers, and staff on sexual harassment and programs to combat harassment, intimidation and sexist attitudes wherever found, through trainings and developed programs; 
    6. Educate members, officers, and staff about, and encourage participation in, resources available to families who need assistance, particularly those with special-needs children, such as 2-1-1, early-childhood intervention, and other local programs;
    7. Continue the implementation of the anti-harassment policy for regional councils and national conventions, including continued training of ombuds as needed, at least one of whom will be a woman;
    8. In jobs primarily held by women, demand that employers file timely injury report forms for all worker injuries, as well as report such injuries to all appropriate state agencies, while creating strong health and safety language to be placed in collective bargaining agreements;
    9. Press for employer-paid training programs which allow women to upgrade their skills to enter jobs that have been traditionally reserved for men; 
    10. Renew the fight for employer-funded childcare, both through legislation and within the union; 
    11. Support the candidacy of women who are pro-labor to run for all levels of public office; 
    12. Support pro-labor candidates that openly support women’s choice and family planning;
    13. Provide dedicated time and space for women’s caucuses at regional and national levels within UE; 
    14. Provide quality childcare for meetings and conferences to allow parents and guardians to participate in the activities of the union;
    15. Bargain language providing a safe, clean and private space for nursing parents; 
  2. Supports the right of all those seeking reproductive healthcare, regardless of economic status, to choose whether to continue or terminate a pregnancy, to have access to free, confidential, and effective birth control and family planning services, to be protected against forced sterilization, and not be discriminated against because of reproductive health issues, and demands that state legislatures end all restrictions on these rights; 
  3. Demand Congress: 
    1. Improve and expand the Family Medical Leave Act and ensure all workers receive full benefits to care for any family member; 
    2. Enact: 
      1. A federal paid parental leave program and a high-quality federal day care program; 
      2. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, calling for stricter and clear mandates for employers to provide accommodations for pregnant workers; 
    3. Create a subsidized system which does not penalize individuals for providing homecare and which provides a living wage and quality care; 
    4. Enact a new federal law prohibiting employers from asking about pay history in order to reduce pay disparities;
    5. Protect and expand the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and other programs that assist low-income families and children;
  4. Encourages UE members to engage with organizations fighting for women’s rights.