Saturday, February 13, 2010

Women's Labor History Timeline: 1765 - Present Day

New York Teacher - March 3, 2009


The first society of working women, the Daughters of Liberty, is organized as an auxiliary of the Sons of Liberty, a workingman's association.

Women workers strike for the first time, in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. 102 women workers strike in support of brother weavers protesting the simultaneous reduction in wages and extension of the workday.

The first union for women only formed: The United Tailoresses of New York.

February 1600 women members of the United Tailoresses of New York, strike for "a just price for our labor."

The Female Labor Reform Association is formed in Lowell, Massachusetts by Sarah Bagley and other women cotton mill workers to reduce the work day from 12 or 13 hours a day to 10, and to improve sanitation and safety in the mills where they worked.

Antoinette Brown is the first U.S. woman ordained as a minister in a protestant denomination.

Cigar makers are the first national union to accept women and African Americans.
Daughters of St. Crispin1869

July 28, women shoemakers form the Daughters of St. Crispin, the first national union of women workers, at Lynn, Massachusetts.

Congress passes a law giving women federal employee equal pay for equal work.

Atlanta, Georgia: 3,000 Black women laundry workers stage one of the largest and most effective strikes in the history of the south.1888

NY suffragists win passage of a law requiring women doctors for women patients in mental institutions.

Jane Adams founds Hull House in Chicago to assist the poor. It becomes a model for many other settlement houses and establishes social work as a profession for women.

Mary Kenney O'Sullivan of the Bindery Workers is appointed the AFL's first female national organizer.

Secure matrons in all police stations

Charlotte Perkins Gillman wrote Women and Economics in 1898 arguing that women need to be economically independent.

The National Consumers League is formed with Florence Kelley as its president. The League organizes women to use their power as consumers to push for better working conditions and protective law for women workers.

national women's trade union leagueMary Harris "Mother" Jones leads a protest march of mill children, many of who were victims of industrial accidents, from Philadelphia to New York.

November 14, at the AFL convention in Boston, women unionists unite to form the National Women's Trade Union League and elect Mary Morton Kehew president and Jane Addams vice-president. The National Women's Trade Union League (WTUL) is established to advocate for improved wages and working conditions for women.

"Uprising of the 20,000" female shirtwaist workers in New York State strike against sweatshop conditions.

The wives of striking miners arrested in Greensburg, Pennsylvania sing their way out of jail under the leadership of Mother Jones.

In Lawrence, Massachusetts the IWW leads a strike of 23,000 men, women and children to organize the Lawrence Textile Mills: The "Bread & Roses" Strike, hailed as the first successful multi-ethnic strike (see History Matters).

Teddy Roosevelt's Bull Moose Party became the first major political party to include a woman's suffrage plank in its official platform.

Ludlow Massacre: on April 20th a small army of goons hired from the Baldwin-Felts agency backed up by the National Guard lay down a barrage of machine gun fire on a strikers' tent village at Ludlow, Colorado, killing men, women and children.

Jeannette Rankin (R-MT) became the first women elected to the United States House of Representatives. Ms. Rankin served two terms in the House from (1916-1918 and (1940-1942)

During WWI women's wartime work in heavy industry and public service jobs expanded women's roles in society.

August 26, United Mine Workers' organizer Fannie Sellins, a widowed mother of four, is shot to death by coal company guards while leading strikers in Brackenridge, Pennsylvania.

The Women's Bureau of the Department of Labor is formed to collect information about women in the workforce and safeguard good working conditions for women

September 1, Clara Holden, National Textile Workers' Union organizer is abducted and beaten by vigilantes in Greenville, South Carolina.

Francis Perkins, the first women in a presidential cabinet, served as Secretary of Labor throughout the Roosevelt administration, 1933-1945.

Florence Ellinwood Allen becomes first woman on US Court of Appeals
mary mcleod bethune1935

Mary McLeod Bethune organizes the National Council of Negro Women, a coalition of black women's groups that lobbies against job discrimination, racism, and sexism.

December 28th, a "sitdown strike" of auto workers (UAW) supported by the Women's Emergency Brigade at the General Motors plant in Flint, Michigan.

President FDR appointed Ms. Bethune to serve as director or Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration in 1936 making her the first African-American women to be a presidential advisor.

The shortage of workers caused by WWII opens a wide range of high-paying jobsto women. Almost seven million women enter the workforce, including two million in heavy industry.

women wlders - world war ii

President John Kennedy establishes the President's Commission on the Status of Women and appoints Eleanor Roosevelt as chairwoman. The report issued by the Commission in 1963 documents substantial discrimination against women in the workplace and makes specific recommendations for improvement, including fair hiring practices, paid maternity leave, and affordable child care.

June 10: Congress passes the Equal Pay Act, making it illegal for employers to pay a woman less than what a man would receive for the same job.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act bars discrimination in employment on the basis of race and sex. At the same time it establishes the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to investigate complaints and impose penalties.

Aileen Hernandex was the first woman appointed to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In 1971 she was elected president of NOW.

nowThe National Organization for Women (NOW) is founded by a group of feminists including Betty Friedan. The largest women's rights group in the U.S. NOW seeks to end sexual discrimination, especially in the workplace, by means of legislative lobbying, litigation, and public demonstrations.

Executive Order 11375 expands President Lyndon Johnson's affirmative action policy of 1965 to cover discrimination based on gender. As a result, federal agencies and contractors must take active measures to ensure that women as well as minorities enjoy the same educational and employment opportunities as white males.

The EEOC rules that sex-segregated help wanted ads in newspapers are illegal. This ruling is upheld in 1973 by the Supreme Court, opening the way for women to apply for higher-paying jobs hitherto open only to men.

Shirley Chisholm is the first Black woman elected to U.S. Congress. In 1972, she ran for president.

In Bowe v. Colgate-Palmolive, the Supreme Court rules that women meeting the physical requirements can work in many jobs that had previously been for men only.

Mary Moultrie organizes the successful strike of 550 black women hospital workers for union representation in Charleston, South Carolina.

In Schultz v. Wheaton Glass Co., a U.S. Court of Appeals rules that jobs held by men and women need to be "substantially equal" but not "identical" to fall under the protection of the Equal Pay Act. An employer cannot, for example, change the job titles of women workers in order to pay them less than men.

Mar. 22: The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is passed by Congress and sent to the states for ratification. Originally drafted by Alice Paul in 1923, the amendment reads: "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex." The amendment died in 1982 when it failed to achieve ratification by a minimum of 38 states.

Sally Priesand becomes the first U.S woman ordained as a rabbi.

May 30, Crystal Lee Jordan (aka "Norma Rae") is fired for trying to organize a union at the J.P. Stevens plant in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina

The Supreme Court upholds the EEOC ruling banning sex-segregated help-wanted ads in newspapers.

In Corning Glass Works v. Brennan, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that employers cannot justify paying women lower wages because that is what they traditionally received under the "going market rate." A wage differential occurring "simply because men would not work at the low rates paid women" is unacceptable.

March 22, the founding convention of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) in Chicago elects Olga Madar its first president.

November 13, Karen Gay Silkwood, a lab tech at the Cimeron plutonium plant and officer of the Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers Union local in Oklahoma City dies mysteriously en route to a union meeting with a newspaper reporter.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act bans employment discrimination against pregnant women. Under the Act, a woman cannot be fired or denied a job or a promotion because she is or may become pregnant, nor can she be forced to take a pregnancy leave if she is willing and able to work.

100,000 women and men march in support of the Equal Rights Amendment in Washington, D.C.

Sandra Day O'Connor was the first woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Sally Ride was the first American woman in space.

Wilma Mankiller became the first woman Principal Chief of a major American Indian tribe, the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma.

Sandra Feldman succeeds Albert Shanker as president of the United Federation of Teachers, becoming the first woman to head the largest local union in New York state.

The Supreme Court declares sexual harassment is a form of illegal employment discrimination.

Women serve in combat for the first time, during the Gulf War.

Carol Moseley-Braun became the first African-American women elected to the U.S. Senate.

Arlene Holt Baker is named executive vice president by the AFL-CIO Executive Council, becoming the first African-American to be elected to one of the federation's three highest offices and the highest-ranking African-American woman in the union movement.

Randi Weingarten, Antonia Cortese and Lorretta Johnson are elected to the top leadership positions in the American Federation of Teachers. It's the first time three women hold the top posts in AFT, whose membership is more than 70 percent female.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Community and Democracy

 Most Americans believe that we live in a "free" society. The United States is the land of the "free." "Freedom" is one of the most important words in this nation's political lexicon and most Americans take pride in the fact that America is a "free" society. I want to start out be examining this idea of American freedom. First I want to state that I believe that the American idea of freedom is not in fact a delusional concept. It is real. Traditional American concepts of freedom, ideas that have to do with ideas of limited, representative government, traditional ideas of freedom of religion, and press; democracy, the freedom to peaceably assemble, freedom from arbitrary state power are all valid concepts. They all have a certain degree of reality within the context of American society. They are not fictitious concepts. Americans have a right to feel pride in these freedoms.

While these freedoms are real, it is also a reality that there are aspects of American life which are lived in the antithesis of "freedom." This realm of life centers primarily within the economic sphere of work and workplace. It is characterized more by freedom's opposites, unfreedom, servitude, and submission. To initiate my discussion of this realm I will first start out by suggesting some definitions of "freedom." This is not easily done because freedom is generally not defined precisely by most people. However in spite of this, we can make some generalizations. Most people define freedom in primarily negative terms. Freedom is experienced as the lack of arbitrary oppressive restraints and limitations to one's freedom. Thus in America freedom is defined by the relative absence of governmental restraints on life, liberty, the use of property,etc. Often in the purely conservative political lexicon, freedom is simply identified as a absence of governmental power or interference in one's life.

However lets attempt to define freedom positively. One definition is that freedom is the ability of people and individuals to do what they in fact want to do independent of institutional controls. Again in the American context the primary limitations of this freedom are normally seen as coming from government the power of arbitrary religion or from cultural limitations such as racism or sexism. What is intrinsically interesting about this, however, is that the structure of the economic system or the vary structure of individual economic institutions are very seldom viewed as in any way limitations on the freedom of individuals or of people. In fact even within the political left, economic oppression is normally seen as being only about the unequal distribution of economic resources. Left liberal analysis or even socialist analysis seldom questions the unjust structure of economic institutions.

Yet this is what I believe must be done. I would argue that the real limitations of freedom in the modern world of advanced capitalism in fact comes not from the governmental realm but instead from the very nature of capitalist society itself. Before developing the theme of capitalism's restraint of freedom any further, I need to introduce some other vital concepts into the analysis. These two concepts are "power" and "community." Freedom can not be defined adequately in separation from the concepts of power and community. The freedom to act in a certain way, the freedom to do what one wishes is intrinsically related to the realities of power and community. Simply stated if one has no power one has no freedom. If the power of others prevent one from doing as one wishes than one's real freedom is restricted. Community is also deeply involved in this. First community can be viewed in its largest context as that of the national community. Seen in this way, the community by its very power relationships defines the freedom that individuals can in fact experience.

I will say a lot more about community latter. It is the relationship between power and freedom which I want to explore at this time. In spite of the very real freedoms that Americans experience as citizens of this nation, it must be acknowledged that the capitalist structure of our society has very real limitations to freedom built into it. The reality is that workers as workers within capitalist society are not in any real sense "free." Except for those born to wealth all people within capitalist society must sell their labor to either the state, non profit organizations or more commonly capitalist firms in order to live. For the vast majority of people no real alternative to working for a weekly paycheck really exists. During this time of the work day, often eight to ten hours, one is not free in any real sense. One in fact is subordinated to the economic firm to whom one is employed. One lives at the beck and call of one's supervisor, boss, or the production schedule etc. The rules of the work environment in which one is employed are not controlled by oneself or by one's fellow workers. It is controlled by a cooperate office and corporate hierarchy which generally views its employees as an expendable resource, as a factor of production.

To summarize, the work place and the overall all environment of the capitalist firm is by its very nature the antitheses of freedom for the worker. By definition it is a place of submission to authority; it is governed by rules that take little regard for the workers needs or wishes; it is the realm of un freedom. All of this of course explains many aspects of American life and particularly how Americans define freedom. Freedom in the American context is always about how one spends one's "leisure" time. It is about the power of the consumer; it is about the beautiful automobile that symbolizes one's freedom. It is about the golden years of secure retirement which is freedom; it is about one's freedom as a consumer ala Milton Friedman. It is about one's clothing styles, one's sexual life style; ie it is about every thing except work.

Another point must be added here. Freedom is almost always also defined as an individual good and not collectively or communally. It has little to do with community. Now lets look at the issue of community within the context of American capitalist society. It is often stated, I believe correctly, that community has declined as an aspect of life within this society. What does this mean? What is this "community" which has declined.?
Let me start stating that there seems to be two primary ways of defining community. One form of community is what can be called organic or
traditional community. By this I mean the traditional familial hunting and gathering, horticultural, or agrarian village communities in which the vast majorities of human beings have lived through most of human history. These small scale traditional communities in which ties of kinship, common religious values, cultural ties, common political and economic activities united people in a deep net of relationships,.this form of community scarcely exists within the United States any longer. The closest this nation has to this sort of community are the old ethnic working class communities of past generations.

However the increasing suburbanization and corporate individualization of people is increasingly erasing this sort of community from American life. What then functions as community for Americans? Church and organized religion? Religion is one of the strongest sources of "intentional" community in America. However since most church members share little of their lifes together either by ways of kinship, or in common economic or political activities; the actual communal bonds created by modern American religion are in general rather weak. The other great source of communal bonds, ie workplace friendships and relationships that Americans experience in fact comes from out of the workplace. This of course is how it should be. After all out side of the family, the workplace is the place in which most people spend the greatest amount to their waking lifes. Therefore one would expect the workplace to be the source of many of the most important human communal relationships. In fact the work place in many ways is the modern equivalent of the tradition village in which the common work and shared life of the villagers was the norm.

The real mystery here is not that the work place provides the context for the communal ties to the majority of people but the mystery lies in fact does it not do this much better than it does. Why for instance are there so few television shows such as "The Office" in which the life of work is shown as a dominant context of social life. I think the reason lies in the fact that the work place as is portrayed in "The Office" is in generally not experienced as the place on which workers experience any kind of collective power in working together. It is not the place of freedom in which workers act freely by collectively making the economic decisions that effect their lifes. Instead the work place of "The Office" is a place in which they simply must be if they are to earn a living. Work simply in this context is not about freedom but submission and arbitrary authority.

Now to the issues of Cooperativist thought. Cooperativism wishes to destroy the dictatorship of capitalist control of the workplace. It seeks to end capitalist power and replace it with worker control over the economic institutions of society. The purpose of work within the cooperativist society will be not just to receive a bi weekly paycheck. It will also be about the expression of one ability to make decisions, to express one's power and creativity through one's work. In contrast to the situation within the capitalist firm in which the surplus value of one's work goes to the capitalist or boss, in the cooperatives of the cooperative commonwealth the value of one's work will accrue to the worker himself. It will accrue to all of the workers of a firm communally. I would argue that within a cooperativist economic order real concrete power will be returned to workers as individuals, but also to workers in community. because the workplace will now be experienced as one of the primary places in which the freedom of workers is experienced. I will argue that the workplace will become the primary center for the revitalization of community in the post capitalist, cooperative commonwealth.

Glenn King

Toward Cooperative Commonwealth

Social Democracy, Social Credit and the Cooperative Commonwealth

Several years ago someone commented on the checkered state of the cooperative movement overall. The commentator asked why do cooperative movements often lose steam? Why do the greater part of cooperatives behave in much the same way as other firms in terms of management and in terms of the links they develop, or don't develop, in their communities?

What we are reminded of here is that the history of the quest for a cooperative commonwealth is a story of missed opportunities and roads not taken. I've concluded that the essense of the challenge activists for economic democracy face is that we can never negotiate a cooperative commonwealth based on orthodox economic terms.

So what does this have to do with Social Democracy in the 21st. century? Plenty. Historically the Social Democratic Party here in America was committed to an actual demonstration of a non-statist cooperative commonwealth, many within the party going so far as to plan an actual colonization effort of an American state to do so.

It's in our genes....shining city on a hill and all that.

The prairie populists of Canada and USAmerica once had a unique opportunity for a breakthrough past the restraints of the orthodox economics of the early twentieth century. It was a time when new denominations of socialist thought arose alongside that of guild socialism. Social democratic Fabianism, which would be an early adopter of Keynesian policy prescriptions, came to dominate socialist thought and shape the limits of a socialist agenda. It also displaced guild socialism and its historic project of building the decentralized and non-statist social economy that the greater part of the American people wanted. Fabianism more-or-less adopted the conventional wisdom of orthodox economics and through this route social democratic parties the world over have been drawn into the corporatist agenda.

Populists and socialists in USAmerica and Canada squandered their opportunity to build the cooperative commonwealth in North America when the larger part of the movement gave way to a Fabian form of social democracy. This split the populist movements on North America's prairie country. In Canada in particular the populist movement would eventually find itself split between the CCF, the Progressive Conservatives and Social Credit. Today Social Credit is often dismissed as the ideology of right-wing monetary cranks. But lately Social Credit has been undergoing a revival among many on the European Left, particularly within the UK Green Party, which has a "sustainable economics working group" with a sizable congregation of devotees of Social Credit. Thanks to Richard Cook, formerly of the Carter Whitehouse, Social Credit principles are once again getting a hearing in these United States.

According to Frances Hutchinson, a British Green Party activist and academic, Social Credit has its origins in guild socialism. According to Hutchinson Social Credit was "formed within the broad alternative school of thought which opposed the growing domination of finance over the economies of the developed and underdeveloped worlds. It was equally opposed to economic and military warfare, to wasteful production, the degradation of farming to a commercial activity and to environmental degradation."

What precisely is Social Credit? According to Hutchinson, it is a means " approach the creation of alternative structures of production and distribution in order to meet local needs free from the restraints of distant financial institutions." According to advocates of Social Credit, the way in which central banks and financial institutions interact with productive firms creates a shortage of purchasing power. Social Creditors believe the structural problems creating this shortage of purchasing power can be overcome with a new means and new criteria for the creation of money that will allow a sufficient pool of purchasing power to liquidate the costs of production.

Perhaps it is time for the cause of Economic Democracy to recover its two wings. It may be that the cooperative movement has suffered most from the constraints of orthodox economics, and that the cooperative commonwealth is in need of a full pair of wings in order to fly. Perhaps the remarriage of Social Credit and the cooperative cause is just the kind of breakthrough that can allow cooperatives and cooperative communities to develop on their own terms.

By Alan Advans