The Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) was founded in 1974 and grew out of the 1960s civil rights, labor, anti-war, LGBTQ+ and feminist upsurges. Its goal? To represent working women inside the union movement in the fight for better contracts, job protections, affirmative action, and more.
CLUW has grown exponentially in the midst of the recent union upsurge that has frequently been led by women, specifically immigrant and Black women. An invigorating spirit of militancy characterized the bi-annual CLUW Convention held November 10–12 in Minneapolis.
It was attended by Jordana Sardo and Mary Ann Curtis, Radical Women (RW) union veterans and activists with the National Mobilization for Reproductive Justice. Their goal was to build support to convince the AFL-CIO to take action in the fight for women’s lives.
CLUW members brought 27 resolutions to the convention on many issues the Mobilization and RW have fought for, including access to jobs, better schools, housing, childcare, and reproductive rights. The latter was strong but not specific on follow-up. Sardo proposed a friendly amendment for CLUW leaders to act on the Mobilization’s call for the AFL-CIO to organize an emergency national labor conference in defense of reproductive justice, and for other CLUW members to raise the demand in their unions.
The amendment was accepted with no debate and the entire resolution passed overwhelmingly. The need to push the AFL-CIO to action was underscored by Federation President Liz Shuler, who addressed the convention via video and never mentioned reproductive justice.
Many other speakers did address the need for CLUW to defend working women on the job and in controlling their bodies. U.S. Representative for Minnesota, Ilhan Omar, raised the need for reproductive justice. Grace Larson, a staffer who was fired by Planned Parenthood Central U.S. for organizing with SEIU (Service Employees International Union), told of horrific working conditions and a grossly hostile management.
The enthusiasm and commitment of the attendees revealed an exciting opportunity for labor to grow if it takes the lead on this and other important fights. A reinvigorated union movement could also stop the ongoing dismantling of voting rights, defend LGBTQ+ workers on the job, halt the abuse of immigrants, and win the battle for publicly funded comprehensive healthcare.
Rank-and-file activists and officers can go to their unions with the example of solidarity embodied in the reproductive rights and other important resolutions. A sample resolution calling for the AFL-CIO conference on reproductive justice can be found at reprojusticenow.org/labor.html.
Labor must seize this urgent opportunity to organize unions and battle to broaden social welfare for everyone.
“CLUW and the AFL-CIO have voiced clear support of healthcare, housing, voting, immigrant rights, etc., because these are all workplace rights, and the health & wellbeing of union members depends on a strong, intersectional movement. Labor should not treat reproductive issues any different, and to silo reproductive rights as a “social” issue unrelated to Labor is archaic.”
from the CLUW resolution on reproductive rights