Women of Steel Take to the Streets on International Women’s Day

Chanting, carrying signs and wearing pink hard hats and Rosie the Riveter bandanas, some 1,000 USW Women of Steel marched through Pittsburgh on International Women’s Day Tuesday to stand up for women’s rights at work, including equal pay and fair family leave.

The rally to Point Park University, where the USW represents adjunct faculty members, capped the opening day of the USW’s annual Women of Steel conference, held this year at the Wyndham Grand Hotel downtown. The conference is the largest gathering of working women in North America.

Shouts of “Stand Up! Fight Back!” and “Who’s Got the Power? We’ve Got the Power!” rang out along the route as the marchers made their way from the hotel via the city’s Boulevard of the Allies to the university accompanied by police escort.

Noting that female workers earn less than men despite the Equal Pay Act of 1963, speakers called on Congress to support paycheck fairness as well as parental leave for all workers.

“Hey, I’ve got an idea,” said International Vice President Carol Landry, who then suggested the “old guys who make these draconian laws, let them have a kid and go back to work after 14 days?”

Sharon Brady-Patil, vice president of Local 1088 at Point Park, said the gender gap “is real and growing.”

Women who are mothers, she said, are penalized economically for having a family, while fathers and single men and women earn more money. “There is actually a mummy penalty and a daddy bonus that is at play with employers,” she said.

Brady-Patil called for equal pay for women, fair family leave, predictable work schedules for working women and stronger Social Security laws and funded pensions.

“We’ve come a long way, believe it or not, but we have a long way to go,” Brady-Patil said. “It’s as true here as any third world country, when women rise, families rise and communities rise. That’s the way it works.”

LeAnn Foster, assistant to International President Leo W. Gerard, called for paid maternity leave to be enacted by federal legislation.

“We have a thousand sisters gathered here,” Foster said. “We’re not going to take it anymore. We have the right to paid maternity leave, not set by the whims of a corporation but set by legislation.”

Foster called on the marchers to “Stand Up and Fight Back.”

“It does not have to be this way,” she said. “We do not have to make 78cents per every dollar that a man makes,” she said. “We can make it change.”

The rally ended as darkness fell with chants of “Fired Up, Ready to Go.”

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