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Stepping Up the Fight for Gender Equality

by Olivia Sandbothe  |  March 08, 2016

Stepping Up the Fight for Gender Equality

We are commemorating Women’s History Month by remembering the women of the past who fought for the rights of working people. Today, International Women’s Day, we join a global fight for gender equality while celebrating the power of women to change the world.

It was on March 8, 1908, that the women of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, fed up with the inhumane conditions in sweatshop factories, staged a major walkout. March 8 also was the anniversary of an 1857 garment workers’ strike. Fifteen thousand women, many of them immigrants and teenagers, took to the streets of New York calling for better pay, safer conditions and a voice on the job. 

Their demands weren’t met, and the conditions they protested eventually led to a deadly disaster at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. But the garment workers didn’t give up. They kept calling for justice for women workers every March 8, and eventually the day came to be known as Women’s Day. In 1975, the United Nations chose the date for its inaugural International Women’s Day.

Thanks to the efforts of activists like the ILGWU strikers, workplace conditions for women have greatly improved in the past 108 years. But we are still fighting. Here in the United States, women still face discrimination at work, and we still earn only 79 cents for every dollar earned by our male counterparts. Women do more unpaid work than men, and we still do not have widespread access to paid maternity and family leave.

The theme of this year’s International Women’s day is “Step It Up for Gender Equality.” The United Nations is calling on countries around the world to achieve equality goals by 2030, but we have a long way to go to make it happen.

AFSCME is calling on lawmakers to take immediate action on the issues of pay equity and paid leave. We are fighting in city halls and state legislatures, at the bargaining table, and in the voting booth.

If you are an AFSCME woman and you want to know more about how you can make a difference as a union activist, check out our Women’s Leadership Academy. Applications will be accepted until March 15. Click here to find out more.

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