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Labor Initiative Hopes To Keep Working Women Involved After Election


When people congregate in a breakroom at work, they talk. And the things they talk about usually have to do with their lives.

“I can’t afford childcare” can lead to a discussion about paying for childcare versus paying for housing, which comes back to what people are earning. This can also cause stress, which brings up issues of access to healthcare.

In the past, these conversations have been just that – conversations. People don’t necessarily look to their employers to solve this issue. And they haven’t traditionally looked to their union. Unions tend to focus on wages and working conditions, not quality of life.

But the AFL-CIO is trying to change that – especially for women. They are sponsoring a series of roundtable discussions called “Women in the Breakroom,” which will focus on the lives of union members and how their union can help them.

The first Nevada roundtable was held on October 3.

Liz Shuler is the Secretary Treasurer of the AFL-CIO, and she came into town for the event. 

“It was a chance to give women a space," Shuler said, "A chance to express themselves and the issues that they’re facing.”

Shuler said the issues range from stagnate wages to equal pay to scheduling problems and work-life balance. Shuler said many of the issues brought up by women in the roundtable speak to how the world has changed but many work environments have not.

“I think it really speaks to the fact that women are now half the work force but the policies have not caught up to the work place,” she said.

Shuler said the issues the women talked about are now "front and center for the labor movement" because so many women are not just part of the labor force but also primary bread winners in their families. 

Shuler said the labor movement goes beyond just talking about the issues but now discusses them during contract negotiations.

"Those issues are now becoming part and parcel of our core economic issues that we bargain for at the table with employers," she said.

Liz Shuler, Secretary Treasurer, AFL-CIO

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(EDITOR'S NOTE: Carrie Kaufman no longer works for KNPR News. She left in April 2018)