Why Black Women Should Get Involved In The Labor Movement

May 1, 2015  |  

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A new study entitled “And Still I Rise: Black Women Labor Leaders’ Voices, Power and Promise” — named for a Maya Angelou poem — examines the reasons why the organizing success of Black women not resulted in more Black women having leadership positions that help push the labor movement forward.

The survey included interviews with 27 women and 467 women responded to the Institute for Policy Studies’ national survey of Black women in labor. Among the women interviewed were Alicia Garza, co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter, and Jennifer Epps-Addison, executive director of Wisconsin Jobs Now.

The report looks at three emerging themes—leadership, organizing, and policy issues of concern to Black labor women—and explores  the women’s unique position at the nexus of race, gender and class. Black women may play an important part in moving the labor movement forward. And there is evidence that Black women have unique leadership abilities in the workplace.

“The fact that Black women covered by collective bargaining agreements fare better than their counterparts without one makes unions worth fighting for,” reports The Root. And the reverse is true. While Black women bring a lot to the table, unions can offer a lot to them as well, found the report.

“For Black women in unions, the union advantage is significant. Black women in unions, for example, earn an average of $21.90 an hour, while nonunion women earn $17.04. In addition, more than 72 percent of women in unions have health insurance, while less than 50 percent of nonunion Black women do,” reports The Root.

Ultimately, the report concludes that if Black women partner with the labor movement it can help improve conditions for all workers.

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