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AFSCME: The Union for Working Women

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO (AFSCME) represents more than 1.3 million workers nationwide and in Puerto Rico. The majority of AFSCME members are women who work as secretaries, librarians, cafeteria workers, caseworkers, lab technicians, researchers, RNs and LPNs, bus drivers, heavy equipment operators, correctional officers, child care workers and many more. They chose AFSCME because they know how important it is to stand up for their rights. They work hard and expect fair pay and dignity on the job and AFSCME gets it for them!

Check out the stories from AFSCME women about how the union has helped solve workplace problems for them, their families and their co-workers. Then call AFSCME for more information.

Winning fair play

AFSCME has successfully negotiated pay raises for many recently organized units. In Indiana, AFSCME members got 4 to 8 percent pay raises, with the lowest paid getting the highest percentages. In Texas, AFSCME and other members of the state labor coalition pressured the Texas legislature to approve a $100 a month pay raise for 300,000 state employees.

Union women, on average, earn more than non-union women and even get paid better than non-union men.

"I have worked for two different hospitals — one union, the other non-union. The difference is shocking. It shows how important a union is for nurses like me. At the unionized hospital, my pay is 150 percent of what the non-union hospital pays. Also, at the union hospital, we have representation when there is a complaint about our medical practices. At the non-union hospital, the integrity of the nurse is not safeguarded."

Margaret Jean Pray, RN
United Nurses Association of California

Ending pay inequities

Working women earn one-third less than what men earn simply because they are women and usually work in jobs filled by women. This is not fair and it hurts all workers and their families. And if you get paid too little while you’re working, you will have too little in pension benefits when you retire. Tens of thousands of AFSCME members have benefited from the more than half a billion dollars in pay equity adjustments that AFSCME has won since 1981. These victories have come at the bargaining table and through legislation supported by AFSCME members.

When the U.S. Capitol workers voted for AFSCME representation, immediate action was taken to correct a pay inequity between female and male custodians. AFSCME filed a suit against Congress accusing it of paying female workers $1 an hour less than their male counterparts — the first such suit against Congress in history!

Architect of the Capitol workers
AFSCME Council 26
Washington, D.C.

Solving the "dead-end job" problem

AFSCME-sponsored career ladder programs help to ensure that AFSCME members will have the opportunity to advance into higher-level jobs.

By having a strong union like AFSCME, many members have won on-the-job training, tuition reimbursement and fairer promotional procedures.

AFSCME Council 33 and the City of Philadelphia agreed to a program to train Council 33 women members for non-traditional jobs. Jean Spicer, one of 12 trainees and a former school crossing guard, won the chance to be an electrical trades helper and won a big pay raise. "It's a fabulous, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said Spicer.

Jean Spicer
AFSCME Council 33

Protecting our jobs

When AFSCME Council 94 found out that the state was planning to shut down an institution for the developmentally disabled and lay off the workers, the union turned the situation into a victory for the residents and those who care for them. The union worked out an agreement with the state that moved the clients out of the institution into state-operated group homes where they continue to be cared for by Local 1293 members.

The workers kept not only their jobs, but also their benefits and won higher pay.

Describing the union's success in saving their jobs by negotiating a different workplace setting, program aide Terry Botelho sums up their experience: "Things have changed a lot. We have a lot of input, a lot more responsibility with programming. It can be fun, especially taking the clients out and getting them involved in the community."

Terry Botelho
AFSCME Local 1293 (Council 94)
Rhode Island

Preventing sexual harassment

AFSCME takes a strong stand against sexual harassment. It is illegal and won’t be tolerated in AFSCME workplaces.

AFSCME International staff offers information and training for both union members and management on how to prevent sexual harassment and effectively deal with it when it occurs. And many AFSCME locals are also active in fighting sexual harassment through the bargaining and grievance process.

"When our local needs advice about strategies for combating sexual harassment in the workplace, we can go to AFSCME for help. Not only does the International provide us with technical assistance and advice, but it has helped us build a stronger team for fighting sexual harassment where we work."

Sally Davies, president of AFSCME Local 1072 (Council 92)
at the University of Maryland, is also chairperson of the
council's University and Colleges Committee

Fighting pregnancy and sex discrimination

AFSCME fights pregnancy and sex discrimination in all of its forms.

The union has won pregnancy-related provisions for women members and expanded family and medical leave rights for the benefit of all working families.

Dawn Smith can't remember a time when she didn't want to be a police officer. After a year of exams, interviews and polygraphs, she finally had her dream in sight: She had made the cut to become a police officer. Then she learned another dream had come true: She was pregnant. The academy threw her out, but AFSCME intervened and helped to reach a settlement with her employer. Now she can complete her police training after giving birth. "The union was behind me 100 percent," says Smith.

Police recruit Dawn Smith of AFSCME Local 1495
(Council 15) in Connecticut

Caring for our families

Work and family issues have been a priority for AFSCME for several decades. Child care programs we’ve won through bargaining include some 60 onsite child care centers, resource and referral programs which help members find the services they need, financial assistance, flexible work schedules, and more. In addition, AFSCME helps members who have eldercare responsibilities.

AFSCME also represents over 12,000 child care workers and Head Start teachers. AFSCME child care workers are higher paid and have better benefits. Therefore, they are more likely to stay on the job, providing continuity and higher quality care for children.

"The union child care fellowship has enabled me, as a single parent, to continue the struggle to support my kids and know they're in good hands at a quality day care center."

Claudia Sears
Local 3650 (Council 93)
Harvard University Clerical & Technical Workers
AFSCME in Massachusetts

Improving working conditions

Berto Clark, an AFSCME-represented corrections officer, is among the 300,000 Texas state employees who saw their first pay raise in 6 years — thanks to AFSCME’s effective lobbying in the state legislature. Texas corrections employees have also won higher retirement benefits and are fighting to prevent sexual harassment and improve workplace safety and health.

"Since AFSCME's been involved, we've done more to improve working conditions for correctional employees and have better labor-management relations than have ever been achieved in the history of the state."

Corrections Officer Berto Clark
of Local 3806
(Council 7) in Texas

Valuing our skills

Represented by AFSCME’s Local 2808, 500 bilingual members won pay increases following a suit against the Illinois Department of Public Aid requiring the state to hire bilingual workers. Duran and other members of her local who are required to speak Russian, Latvian, French, American Sign Language or Hebrew on the job, benefit from the success of that suit.

Alicia Duran uses her skills in Spanish as a welfare caseworker supervisor for the State of Illinois. "Everyone gets paid a differential up to $125 extra a month, or 5 percent of your annual salary, whichever is larger, if you can speak another language on the job," says Duran.

Alicia Duran, president of Local 2808 (Council 31)
and a welfare caseworker supervisor at
the Illinois Department of Public Aid

AFSCME women are equal partners in the union

AFSCME’s commitment to its women members extends to all levels of the union. AFSCME women are in leadership positions at every level of the union, beginning with the International Executive Board, which provides direction for the entire union, and throughout the council and local levels, where action begins. In fact, half of all local union officers are women.

So, what do you have to do to get better pay, better training and career advancement, fair treatment on the job, and programs to help balance your work and family responsibilities?


For more information on working women, contact AFSCME Education & Leadership Training Department:

1625 L Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036-5687
Phone: (202) 429-1250
Fax: (202) 429-5088
or contact us via email

Due to the large volume of email, we are only able to respond to those represented by AFSCME. When you email, please include your council/local/unit number and your state for a response. 

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