The Solidarity Center empowers women workers to confront and challenge global systems that subject them to discrimination in the workplace.
The global economy is not working for working women. Women contribute 66 percent
of the world’s work and produce 50 percent
of the food. Yet they earn 10 percent
of income and own 1 percent of property. Millions of women live in poverty—they account for 70 percent
of the world’s poor. Women also are highly likely to experience violence at home or at the workplace: Up to seven in 10 women
globally will be beaten, raped abused or mutilated in their lifetimes.
Women have long represented the majority of teachers, health care workers and public-sector employees—services fundamental to people's well-being. Less recognized is the essential nature of their labor in the informal economy. Toiling as domestic workers and cart vendors, women are paid low incomes and have few rights, even as their labor makes up a significant portion of national economies. At the same time, women retain primary responsibility for the care and survival of their families. In the home, at the workplace and even within union structures, women everywhere face persistent and pervasive discrimination. Worker rights mean an end to such discrimination.
Through Solidarity Center programs, women are joining and leading unions, advocating for themselves and their families and standing up for the rights of all workers worldwide. We provide training and foster the leadership skills needed to give women a voice in their unions, in their workplaces, and in the global economy. Tens of thousands of women have participated.
As more join together in unions and allied networks, women are increasingly empowering themselves and each other in the struggle for economic fairness.
Working Women Speak Out for Their Rights.
March 12, 2013—In Hong Kong, domestic workers took to the streets to demand an end to sexual abuse on the job. In South Africa, union members held vigils and urged the government to halt the epidemic of violence against women. And in Tunisia, women rallied to support the protection of their rights in the country’s proposed draft constitution. Throughout the past week and on March 8, International Women’s Day, activists highlighted the need to end violence against women and spoke out for the protection of women’s rights on the job, at home and in the community.
Working Women Empowered: Challenging Violence in South Africa.
March 7, 2013—Although post-apartheid South Africa has one of the most progressive constitutions in the world and women comprise more than 40 percent of Parliament, the country also has high rates of gender-based violence, including “excessive rates of female homicides,” according to the World Health Organization.
Working Women Empowered: Honduran Women Build Leadership.
March 6, 2013—In Honduras, a country where women laboring in fruit packing plants and textile factories endure especially difficult conditions, two union leaders are empowering women to take on important roles in their unions and their communities.
Working Women Empowered: Making Democracy in Tunisia. March 5, 2013—In December 2010, Mohamed Bouazizi, a 23-year-old market vendor in Tunisia, self-immolated to protest deep-seated government corruption that made it impossible for him to earn a living. Following his desperate action, Tunisian women helped spur protests and end autocratic regimes in Tunisia and throughout the Arabic-speaking world. Today, Tunisian women remain in the forefront of ensuring democratic change in their country during the difficult years of government transition.
Working Women Empowered: Building Strength Through Unions.
March 4, 2013—Women make up more than 40.5 percent of the workforce worldwide, according to the most recent data by the International Labor Organization. But their labor has not resulted in a similar increase in financial well-being.
AFL-CIO Gives Human Rights Award to Domestic Workers Network.
February 28, 2013—The AFL-CIO will give the International Domestic Workers Network (IDWN) the 2013 George Meany-Lane Kirkland Human Rights Award. The IDWN, a Solidarity Center partner, brings together domestic workers from around the world, building bridges between unions and domestic worker organizations and providing a voice for domestic workers.
Unions Mark No to Violence against Women Day.
November 26, 2012—At a Turkish-owned textile plant in the Democratic Republic of Georgia a few years ago, female employers were repeatedly forced to remain on the job without pay for hours a day. When they ultimately demanded to be released, the factory manager responded by yelling and throwing a heavy load of unfinished dresses at one woman. The blow knocked her unconscious. The factory manager returned to Turkey to avoid prosecution—but likely would not have faced charges even if he had stayed, says Bob Fielding, Solidarity Center country program in Georgia, who described the incident.
Peru: Support Women Workers, Grow Economy.
October 16, 2012--Women--and the work they do—are central to productivity and economic growth, to breaking the cycle of poverty and to ensuing more inclusive and just societies. Yet too often they face unnecessary barriers and terrible choices when it comes to work. Far from being economically empowered, millions of women around the world, including here Peru, find themselves vulnerable to abuse, exploitation, below-poverty wages and unsafe working conditions. The legal environment either enables their condition or fails to protect them.
New Laws Would Grant Social Protections to 300,000 Dominican Domestic Workers. July 9, 2012—Two groundbreaking pieces of legislation are poised to bring 300,000 domestic workers in the Dominican Republic into the national social security system, providing them for the first time with a minimum wage, health care, pension, and other social protections to which formally employed Dominican workers are entitled.
International Domestic Workers Day.
June 20, 2012—A year after the adoption of International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 189, Decent Work for Domestic Workers, domestic workers declared June 16 International Domestic Workers Day. Domestic workers worldwide celebrated this historic victory. The Solidarity Center along with 50 other migrant worker advocacy groups signed a letter calling on countries to ratify C189.
No Union Movement Can Afford Not to Bring Women to the Table: Interview.
January 4, 2012—Rosalyn Pelles, director of the AFL-CIO’s Civil, Human, and Women’s Rights Department, recently spent nearly two weeks in Uganda and Tanzania, where she facilitated women’s leadership training sessions and attended a trade union convention. In her 25 years in the labor movement, this was Pelles’s first trip to Africa and her first opportunity to work with the Solidarity Center. Pelles spoke with Solidarity Center Communications Program Officer Joan Seidman Welsh about the many cultural differences and similarities she shared with her union sisters in Africa and the global need for more women union leaders.
Celebrating Women's Contributions to the Global Labor Movement.
Today is the 100th anniversary of the first International Women's Day—an official holiday in more than two dozen countries from Afghanistan to Zambia and unofficially celebrated by women, unions, and other movements committed to gender equity throughout the world. This year's theme is "Equal access to education, training, and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women."
Solidarity Center Commemorates International Women's Day.
On March 8, 2010, Solidarity Center partners and unions around the world commemorate International Women's Day to honor women's struggle for justice and equality. Read the AFL-CIO Executive Council Resolution.
"We Have to Work Together If We Want to Protect Our Rights."
Seventy percent of the 60,000 workers in Peru's $300 million per year asparagus export industry are women. Santos Cruz, who works for the Talsa company in Trujillo, La Libertad, is the only female general secretary of an asparagus workers union. At a recent Solidarity Center sponsored training program for union activists in Trujillo, Cruz talked about their struggle.
On May 1, A Call for Domestic Worker Rights
. On May 1, 2009, the Solidarity Center adds its voice to the global call for an international convention on domestic worker rights.
U.S. Labor Leader Marks International Women’s Day
. To commemorate the annual observance of International Women’s Day, in 2009 AFSCME International Secretary-Treasurer and civil rights leader William Lucy addressed a United Nations panel to mark the progress made by women globally, and to raise awareness of continued violence against women, particularly in the workplace.
Iraqi Women Unionists Join Their Turkish Sisters for Historic International Women's Day
. In 2008, for the first time ever, Iraqi women unionists visited Turkey to celebrate International Women’s Day with their Turkish sisters.
Migrant Worker Associations Provide Safety Net for Sri Lankans
. Ten years ago, Solidarity Center union partners in Sri Lanka began a process to organize migrant workers and integrate them into a comprehensive economic and social safety net before, during, and after migration.
Nigerian Unions Address Gender Imbalances in the Fight Against HIV/AIDS
. Worldwide, nearly 18 million women live with HIV/AIDS. The majority of these women are workers.
When a Dominican Factory Closes Its Doors, We Lose More Than Decent Jobs
. Jenny, a single working mother, had lost her job at the BJ&B factory. In 2003, BJ&B was a leading supplier of logo caps to U.S. universities and athletic teams. Jenny was one of 1,600 workers, almost all women, until she was fired for standing up for her right to form a union.
Empowering Women Workers
. As increasing poverty forces women into the job market and the global economy opens new job opportunities, the number of working women in the Middle East and North Africa is growing. But despite their importance to their own families' survival and the economic health of their nations, working women face discrimination in society and on the job.
Solidarity Center Publications