The opening day of the convention included an historic first, the creation of the UWUA’s National Women’s Caucus. After completing the official work for the day, Delegates, Alternates and guests remained in the convention hall to participate in the caucus launch.
Caucus Chair Valerie King, Local 601 executive secretary, started things off. “The number of women in the workplace has declined since 2014,” she said. “The U.S. now ranks 19th among 24 countries in this area; in prior years the U.S. ranked 7th. We can’t afford to leave talent on the sidelines! We not only shortchange women and their dreams, we shortchange our country and our future!”
Presentations were given by UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada, Roberta Reardon, AFL-CIO special liaison for Common Sense Economics, and Georgi-Ann Bargamian, director, UAW Education and Community Services Departments, and the floor was opened up for a lively discussion.
The Women’s Caucus vision statement reads: “To Empower All Working Women to Achieve Economic Security!” And the mission statement is: “The National Women’s Caucus and UWUA are dedicated to empowering women in the workforce. We will provide communication, education, strategy and a support system to advocate for equality and economic security for women and their families, as well as promoting a quality work environment.”
Women’s Caucus, July 22, 2015
The 2015 UWUA Constitutional Convention featured a first-ever Women’s Caucus. As women take on a greater role in our union and our industries, we will develop a road map to address issues that impact women, encourage them to become active as members and officers, and engage women in the workplace.
Valerie King, a member of UWUA Local 601, summarized the topic of women’s issues in the workplace and how “we can’t afford to leave talent on the sidelines.” She explained many shocking statistics including that the number of women in the workplace has declined a lot since 2014.
Ursula Grant, a member of UWUA Local 1-2, talked about a training mentoring program so women can learn those non-traditional blue collar job skills. The learning of these important skills will help close the gender wage gap.
Roberta Reardon, founding co-president of SAG-AFTRA, spoke about Common Sense Economics. This is a tool developed by AFL-CIO to empower union members to understand the economics of this country, how economics work and how we can change it for the better. “We need to create an economy that works, really works for working families and not just the wealthy.” Reardon says.
The rules have been changed by the rich and powerful. Some examples of the changes that affect the working person include that they made it harder to form unions, they let the real value of minimum wage fall, and they pushed for trade agreements. They also changed the rules in their favor by cutting corporate tax rates, creating new loopholes and tax breaks. This took money from the government, leaving less money for the public.
Reardon went through an interactive quiz that the crowd took using the new UWUA App. The quiz highlighted gender and racial equality, maternity leave, onsite daycare, child care prices, sick leave, and minimum wage; all issues that affect women workers.
Georgi-Ann Bargamian, the Director of Education, UAW Community Services Department talked more about the Women’s Caucus and their goals including structure change, training, programs, politics and problems. The structure change includes the international department, which creates curriculum and the Women’s National Advisory Council, to advise the International Union’s Executive Board on women’s issues.
She explained the training offered for women; both the Annual International Women’s Conference in Michigan and the Women’s Committee Training which brings women together for training and inspiration. A list of some of the programs offered are War on Women, Social Unionism, Enough is Enough, Moving Beyond Charity, Women to Women, and many more.
“Structural sexism doesn’t just hurt women, it hurts men too.” Bargamian stated. Some of the politics and problems are stigma for women, under-qualification from lack of training, international support, and contract bargaining.
The Women’s Caucus panel then received questions and stories from convention members, and gave answers and comments in return.