The Importance of Women’s Labor Rights

By: Daniela Carrion, Esq.

Attorney, Daniela Carrion at the Women’s March in Washington, DC.

Recently women have risen to gather and protest for their rights in the workplace. During the women’s march in January, approximately three (3) to four (4) million people marched for gender equality and human rights worldwide. Recently on International Women’s Day many gathered in protest by holding “A Day Without a Woman” a “demonstration to spotlight the indispensable role women play in the daily functions of life in all of society, paid and unpaid, seen and unseen labor.” However, these protests have been criticized by many as to their purpose and even the of lack of women’s rights in today’s workplace.

The reality of a women’s work life balance is a clear double standard. Currently, in the United States women’s labor is still undervalued and underpaid; women who work full time, are paid 80% of what men are paid. This means that women will not reach equal pay until the year 2152! The pay gap is even greater for women of color, and for those women who would like to have a family, the U.S. currently does not have paid maternity leave. Despite having one of the world’s most advanced economies, the U.S. falls far behind other countries and is one of nine countries in the world with no maternity leave. Some countries like Norway, Canada, and Sweden provide at least twenty-six (26) weeks of paid leave and many countries provide  a minimum of fourteen (14) weeks!

The idea of fighting injustice through economic equality isn’t a new idea. It was not so long ago, 1920 to be exact, that women received their right to vote.  In 1960 women came together once again, their voices were heard which led to the amendment of the Fair Labor Standards Act, that included   the elimination of child labor and strict guidelines for employment of children who had reached the  age of 16 years old;, and helped create the  minimum wage requirement for employment.  A little over twenty (20) years ago  President Clinton signed the Family and Medical Leave Act which allows for companies of fifty (50) or more employees to grant a maximum of twelve (12) weeks of unpaid job protected leave. Lastly, the Obama administration launched in January 2016 a new rule that would require every big company to report salary data based on race, gender, ethnicity which would create more transparency to crack down on companies paying less to women than their male counterparts.

Like any other movement, women’s rights, especially those in the labor place, is not perfect. Nor should it be expected to be. This movement provides us the opportunity to raise the value of women’s work, and engage the community to analyze, raise awareness, and demand the immediate efforts to find solutions. As Elizabeth Warren has reminded us in our struggle to seek change; “Nevertheless She Persisted.”