As Women’s History Month comes to an end, it is a time to honor the outstanding achievements of women throughout history and celebrate the work that remains ongoing through various movements and organizations.
One such movement, #MeToo, was founded by Tarana Burke. Ms. Burke appeared at Roger Williams University before an enthusiastic audience where she explained that, “[t]he movement is about supporting and healing survivors, about organizing communities to become safe places, and about changing the culture of gender-based violence.” (PJ, 2/14/2018.) It is not, she emphasized, about “taking down men,” but instead, it focuses on “making it safe for people to speak their truth.”
As for organizations, Time’s Up is working to change culture, companies, and laws to increase women’s safety, equity, and power at work. Established last year by Hollywood celebrities in response to the Harvey Weinstein scandal, it has raised more than $22 million for its legal defense fund to support lower-income women and men seeking justice for sexual harassment and assault in the workplace.
Several decades before the #MeToo and Time’s Up initiatives, another group of women was equally committed to addressing the needs of women in the workplace. Their goal was to create an organization focused on making unions more responsive to the needs of working women by providing a space for them to develop programs to help deal with their concerns. The Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) is an affiliate of both the local and national AFL-CIO with local branches in states all over the country, including Rhode Island.
Both the national and state chapters of CLUW have joined with other groups committed to eradicating discrimination, but women know that there is much more work to do in this regard. To that end, CLUW is conducting and co-sponsoring various marches and peaceful demonstrations across the United States. Through these endeavors and public displays of solidarity, CLUW anticipates getting closer to the gender parity women have never experienced but have always deserved. After all, as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said: “achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls is the unfinished business of our time, and the greatest human rights challenge in our world.”
Maureen Martin is president of the RI Chapter of Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) and Secretary-Treasurer of RI AFL-CIO.