President's Perspective

Women in the Labor Movement


The recent passing of one of America's labor icons, Joyce D. Miller, gave me a chance to reflect on the role of women in the labor movement and the importance of the labor movement for women. Ms. Miller was co-founder and 17-year President of the Coalition of Labor Union Women, the first woman elected to the AFL-CIO Executive Council, and the executive director of the Glass Ceiling Project under Clinton, among many other groundbreaking roles. She joins the ranks of women labor leaders as far back as Sarah Bagley, Mother Jones, Triangle Shirt Waist Leaders, Mary McCloud Bethune, as well as our contemporary heroines Dolores Huerta, Maria Elena Durazo, and Arlene Holt Baker. These women, other leaders, and ordinary working women all struggled against exclusion and oppression inside and outside the labor movement. Actually, women have always found it easier to actualize ECC's vision of an immutable bond between labor and community. They fight not only for the right to decent wages and working conditions, but also a better quality of life for all workers. Joyce Miller wrote (1991), "as women increasingly join the ranks of the labor movement and as they enter positions of leadership in it, they are renewing and redefining unionism... With their increased participation in unions, women are pressing for a more comprehensive agenda which will benefit not just union women but all union members and their families...". I welcome the role of women in ECC's struggle for rebuilding America's future the high road way.