It’s National Women’s History Month, and while our names are not well known, we are making history of our own. We are fighting to make sure good union jobs that have propelled women forward in the workplace and given families a shot at the American dream don’t become history in the Valley.
On Feb.26, we rallied in Bakersfield and joined hundreds of working families nationwide that are sharing the story of what unions are really about: working people standing together to create financial security and a better future for all families. It’s a vital story, as a case before the U.S. Supreme Court known as Janus v AFSCME seeks to undermine our progress.
For women and mothers like us, the rally and nationwide action marked an important day. As a Tulare County family child care provider fighting for the right to unionize and collectively bargaining with the state, and as a Kern County human services supervisor whose union has fought to give my work value, rallying and sharing our stories, isn’t something we ever thought we’d do.
But the crux of Janus v AFSCME is about taking away the voice and power of working women like us. The case is backed by corporate interests who know that shattering unions is the way to rig our economy and our political system so CEOs and the rich can continue to oppress working people, particularly women and people of color.
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We will not back down or be intimidated. Just as women across our nation are standing up to demand respect in workplaces and the public sphere, so, too, are we bolstered in our fight to protect and strengthen unions. Weknow it’s the way to fight poverty, achieve better working conditions for all families, and solve racial and economic disparities.
In our lines of work, we see how Valley families are struggling to make ends meet, working two and even three jobs but still trapped in poverty. As working mothers who have languished in low-wage jobs, we know the stress sudden cuts in pay, irregular work schedules or sudden medical bills can place on a family and children.
A union cures those issues, can change the course for generations of families and ensure we build up middle-class jobs for our future workforce. That’s why millennials strongly support unions, knowing solid union jobs become careers they can support themselves and future families on.
According to a study by the Economic Policy Institute, union members earn 10 to 20 percent higher wages than those who work similar, but nonunion, jobs. The impact is even greater for women, Latinos and African American men.
Our union involvement has given us the power to fight for $15, make health care accessible to all Californians and push for improved early childhood education and college opportunities for all of our kids.
Sharing our stories is about building upon that work and strengthening the voices of people who have been shut out of the American dream for generations: women, people of color and low-wage workers and their children.
We will continue the proud history of the working women before us – those honored this month and those unknown – who paved the way for us to rise up, use our voices and show our strength even when a well-funded court case comes our way.
Sonia Chagollan is a supervisor with the Kern County Department of Human Services and member of Service Employees International Union Local 521. Alice DeLaGarza is a Family Child Care Provide in Tulare County and member of Service Employees International Union Local 521.