[Excerpt] The Women's Committee of IUE Local 201, established informally in 1976 and officially in 1978, is one of the oldest and longest-lived union women's committees in the country. It took root and thrived within a large and overwhelmingly male General Electric manufacturing complex in the Greater Boston area and within one of the oldest, most democratic and most progressive union locals in the labor movement.
For the past 11 years, the Committee has battled an extremely insensitive and recalcitrant GE management over a wide range of issues — winning substantial victories for training and entry of women into skilled jobs, for comparable worth wage adjustments in traditional jobs, and for pregnancy disability benefits and parental leave. Committee members have counseled hundreds of women and spearheaded fights for individual grievances on pregnancy disability, sexual harassment and discrimination.
Within the local, the Committee's activities have created a more positive climate for women to become stewards and committee members and to run for offices on the Policy Board. Most of the Committee leaders and many of the active members are a key part of the progressive wing within Local 201.
But the local now faces massive layoffs triggered by GE's transfer of work to other plants in the U.S. and abroad. The cuts began in June 1987 and are expected to reach 3,000 or 4,000 members by the middle of 1989. With its ranks being cut in half, Local 201 membership is understandably uneasy about its future, and many of the Women's Committee's past accomplishments are now in jeopardy.
As preparations begin for the national GE contract, which expires in June, GE is pushing for major concessions as the price to pay for job security. The progressive movement is faced with the dual tasks of opposing concessions and pushing to save jobs. In this context, the Women's Committee's challenge is to push ahead with its agenda in a very difficult political climate. As 1988 begins, both Local 201 and its Women's Committee are in rapid transition.
Brown, Alex and Sheridan, Laurie
"Pioneering Women's Committee Struggles with Hard Times,"
Labor Research Review:
11, Article 5.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/lrr/vol1/iss11/5