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Moving Forward: How to Set Up a Women’s Committee

If you’ve made the decision to set up a women’s committee, there are several steps to follow in order to get it established and assure support for its goals.

  • Review, if applicable, both your council and local constitution and bylaws to determine how various types of committees are established. Most union committees are appointed by the president or the executive director. In general, committees should be open to those who express an interest in the committee and its work. 

  • Although most councils and locals feel it is not necessary to elect committee members, if you decide to choose committee members through elections, it will be necessary to ensure that the process is made to conform to the constitution and bylaws of either your council or local, or both. 
  • Talk to co-workers and members about the issues of concern to women members and the idea of establishing a committee. See who is interested. 

  • Talk to the leadership of your council or local and get their support. Stress that the purpose of the committee is to build the union. 

  • Make sure that the members of the committee represent your membership. Women of different ages, races and occupations will help the committee reach out to all women members and ensure that everyone’s perspective is included. Most AFSCME women’s committees also allow interested men to join. 

  • Once the committee is in place, hold the first meeting. This meeting should serve as an orientation, at which you explain the purpose of the committee and any rules that will govern it and its meetings. This meeting will also be a time to get acquainted with each other. 

  • Make sure the committee has access to sufficient resources to do its work. Most AFSCME women’s committees don’t have a budget or bank account separate from that of the local or council. Usually the committee chair makes a proposal to the executive board for either an annual budget or funding for a specific project. The advantage of this approach is that the union executive board votes to fund proposed programs, thereby making the committee an integral part of the union’s work. 

  • At the first or second meeting, discuss the priorities for the committee and determine short- and long-term goals. For example, one long-term goal may be to increase the number of women in union leadership positions. A short-term goal would be to plan and conduct a workshop on running for union office. 

  • Select the committee’s first project and begin planning it. You may want to first conduct a survey of women members to find out what their priorities are (see Sample Survey for AFSCME Women’s Committees, Appendix A).

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