Liz Shuler Archive

Unions are Fighting for Families by Supporting Women and Rejecting the Status Quo

Women in the workplace have made major strides. Women currently make up 48% of the workforce and are the sole or primary breadwinner for 40% of families in the United States. Yet most family responsibilities still rest on women’s shoulders and, too often, women put in a full day’s work only to come home and clock in for a second shift.

As Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO, I am constantly in awe of the powerful work the 6.8 million women of the labor movement do to advance issues that matter. Consider this: In the past decade, there has been tremendous momentum at the state and local level, with millions of working people winning the freedom to take time off to care for family, and labor unions have been at the center of these wins. Which might explain why states with higher union density are more likely to have paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave laws. And, when unions are strong, women are strong. Unions make a difference for women in dollars and cents—$222, to be exact. That’s how much more the typical woman in a union job makes in a week compared with a woman in a non-union job.

More ...

Why the New Overtime Proposal is a Win for Working Women

For months we’ve heard that the economy is finally moving in the right direction, except for one hitch: Working people’s wages, particularly those of women, are not going up. One big reason: For years, millions of workers have clocked in more and more hours without ever seeing an extra cent in their paychecks. That’s wrong. Too many workers, most of whom are women, are seeing their finances stretched to the limit because even though they work overtime, they are not compensated for it.

Working women deserve better. The Department of Labor and President Barack Obama have taken the first step toward ensuring millions more women receive the overtime pay they have earned. By increasing the salary threshold to $50,444—meaning if you make less than that, you’re guaranteed protection—3.2 million more women will be automatically eligible for overtime. This is a major win for working women.

More ...

Actually, Carly, Unions are the Great Pay Equalizer

As the race for 2016 heats up, more candidates are hitting the campaign trail to promote their policy initiatives and issue stances in an effort to win votes. Equal pay, an issue that is close to my heart and those of millions of working women across the United States, recently got pulled into the spotlight due to Carly Fiorina. Fiorina, a former chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard who announced her bid for the presidency on Monday, has expressed misguided ideas over what actually causes the gender pay gap.

According to Fiorina, “The single greatest impediment to equal pay for equal work is the seniority system, which pays not on merit and not on performance, but on time and grade.” Fiorina specifically points to unions as supporting workplaces that foster pay discrepancies between men and women workers.

More ...

What Ellen Pao and Sheryl Sandberg Overlooked… and Gawker Writers Get Right

Last month, the CEO of Reddit, Ellen Pao, announced the company would no longer allow employees to negotiate their salaries. Pao explained the move was an attempt to close the pay gap between women and men since, based on her experience, women are worse negotiators than men and as she put it, “From what I've heard from women, they …feel like there’s no way to win.”

Pao’s claim that some women lose out at the negotiating table is correct. And her instinct to take action and use her power as CEO to level the playing field is admirable. But her response misses the point of what’s really happening for women at work.

Women don’t need less negotiating power. They need more. And no one woman — CEO or front line worker — can solve this problem alone.

Many hardworking women lose out on wages not because they are ineffective negotiators. Rather, they, along with their male colleagues, lack the power to come together to raise wages collectively.

More ...

Unions Are a Woman's Best Friend

With National Women’s History Month behind us now, it’s still important to celebrate the great strides women have made over the past decades. It is equally important to remember how many women workers still don’t have the basic necessities they need to support themselves and their families. The labor movement views the struggle for women’s equality as a shared fight, especially considering women are the sole or primary breadwinners for 40% of families in the United States. Women of color, in particular, have a hard time getting good pay and benefits, and they make up a disproportionate share of low-wage workers.

Nearly 7 million women have a voice on the job due to their union membership, and women in unions are more likely than their nonunion peers to have access to paid sick leave and family leave. Collective bargaining through unions also narrows the pay gap between men and women significantly. A typical woman union member earns $222 a week more than a nonunion woman and is far more likely to have health and retirement security. This puts upward pressure on wages and benefits throughout industries that are predominately female, many of which traditionally pay low wages. Every worker deserves to have protections on the job, and it is the goal of the labor movement to ensure that happens.

More ...

Three Ways to Raise Wages

Three Ways to Raise Wages

For a lot of working people, this holiday season will be one of belt-tightening rather than shopping sprees. Let’s face it, our wages just aren’t keeping up the way they used to. Here’s a fact: Average income for the least rich 90% of us has been flat since the 1970s, although people are working more hours. Not a recipe for a holiday-buying bonanza.

The answer isn’t to cut back even more, it’s to raise wages. One sure way to put more money in consumers’ pockets and place upward pressure on pay is by raising the minimum wage—a sorely needed move that is stymied in Congress, although 20 states and as many localities have raised their minimum wages over the past two years.

But that’s not the only way.

More ...

11 Great Reasons to Vote

11 Great Reasons to Vote

We’re just a few weeks away from an incredibly important election. The votes people cast Nov. 4 will shape our future and our children’s.

I’m sure you are planning to vote, but maybe you know people who are on the fence—who think elections in non-presidential years just aren’t that important. Not true!

Here are 11 great reasons you can share with them to get them to the polls:

11. Bad politicians aren’t just elected by people who vote for them. They’re also elected by people who don’t vote at all. Don’t help elect politicians who work against your interests.

10. You can elect leaders who will work to raise the minimum wage.

More ...