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Shae Christakis 

Nan Warren

Chat Chacon
Recording Secretary



Women “Talk Union” Across Generations

CONTACT:                                                                                 For Immediate Release      
Linda Foley 240-753-8997
Kevin Burton 202-369-6014

WASHINGTON -- Ten recommendations about what unions can do to attract and retain a new generation of young workers, especially women, appear in an unusually candid report just released by the Berger-Marks Foundation.
The report, Stepping Up, Stepping Back: Women 'Talk Union' Across Generations, details frank discussions in March among 30 women leaders invited to a two-day Foundation-sponsored ”summit” in New Orleans. About half the participants were under age 35, the other half were older. They came from more than 20 different unions and other allied organizations, including the National Organization for Women.

The activists’ recommendations ranged from adopting term limits for elective union offices to creating 'safe spaces' for women and younger activists so they could discuss their concerns. The women also recommended that unions do all they can to eradicate  sexual harassment as well as implement training programs so that young workers can learn how to 'talk union' with their peers. The recommendations appear on pages 12-15 of the report, which can be downloaded at

“It’s not enough that the door is open,” one participant said, “You have to grab them [young women] and bring them through.”

The report, written by Foundation President Linda Foley, noted that while major gains have been made for women in workplaces and in the union movement, barriers to advancement and fulfillment remain. "It’s important to get young people in the room. The younger a group gets, the more diverse it is," said another participant.  

Many young women want to spend their lives in the labor movement so they can help improve the lives of working people, the report says, but whether they actually do so depends on how quickly unions and allied organizations respond to their needs.
The report demonstrates how the dialogue in New Orleans led to a greater understanding of generational differences and similarities on a range of issues including what an ideal workplace looks like and how social justice is defined. The conversations in New Orleans also created a sense among the 30 participants that they were uniquely united as women. Judging from the final in “one breath” comments by each one at the end of the summit, the meeting itself could have a lasting impact on the women who were there and, possibly, on the entire labor movement.
As one woman put it, “I’m inspired and energized by people talking about actually challenging and changing the status quo in the labor movement."
The 30 women who were invited by the Foundation already stood out as leaders in a range of unions and organizations. The Foundation made every effort to represent diversity in age, race, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation. The conference took place at the Lowe’s Hotel in New Orleans on March 14-16, 2010.
The Berger-Marks Foundation seeks to bring the benefits of unionization to working women and to assist organizations committed to those principles. The goal is to provide financial assistance to women who are engaged in union organizing and to assist working women who want to organize other women into unions through training, research and other resources.

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How to get your copy
Download a copy of the report here: (in PDF format)