Global Union Movement: Making Equality for Women a Reality

As International Women’s Day approaches, the global labor movement is mobilizing to put teeth into the celebration’s 2014 theme, “Equality for women is progress for all.” Solidarity Center allies around the world also are getting set to highlight the struggles of working women with actions that include rallies by banana workers who are members of the union SITRABI in Guatemala and a conference honoring women workers from Jordan and Palestine. (Follow Women’s Day actions on Twitter with the hashtag #IWD2014.)

Two days after International Women’s Day, commemorated annually on March 8, union activists will take part in the 58th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women. There, they will push for concrete goals to redress income inequality that focus on employment, well being and security in large part by addressing gender inequality in the labor market and in social policies.

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), along with several global union federations, issued a joint statement last week detailing recommendations they will present to the CSW to ensure women’s rights to decent work, quality education and quality public services are at the heart of its post-2015 agenda. CSW’s post-2015 agenda will supplement the “Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (Beijing+20),” a plan for women’s empowerment that member states approved in 1995.

CSW, part of the United Nations, is a global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women. Representatives of member states gather at the UN in New York each year to evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality andwomen’s empowerment worldwide. This year’s meeting runs from March 10-21.

Ensuring the rights of the billions of informally employed workers, the majority of whom are women, is an essential part of the global unions’ recommendations to CSW. Fundamental rights and protections for informal economy workers, such as street vendors and domestic workers, must include coverage by national labor laws, access to social service benefits and a guaranteed minimum wage.

The global unions’ joint statement points out that the majority of jobs created in the past two decades are short-term, part-time, temporary, casual or informal—categories in which a majority of women are employed, making gender equality an essential part of meaningful solutions to the world’s growing income inequality.

Unions around the world organize and mobilize women, promote women as leaders and decision-makers and aim to achieve fair access to decent work for women. Each day this week, leading up to International Women’s Day March 8, the Solidarity Center will highlight an example of how women and their unions are taking action to improve women’s lives on the job, in their unions and in their communities.