Today, on Equal Pay Day, One Fair Wage remembers a few sheroes from the labor movement.


Today, on Equal Pay Day, One Fair Wage remembers a few sheroes from the labor movement.







In 1966, Lorena Weeks was eager to apply for a promotion. However, her employer, Southern Bell Telephone & Telegraph Company, did not believe that women should receive advancement at work or higher pay. Instead, the job was given to a man with less seniority. As a result, Weeks sued Southern Bell and won in Mrs. Lorena W. Weeks, Appellant, v. Southern Bell Telephone & Telegraph Company. Her win was the first Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. In addition, they awarded her the job position and $31,000 in back pay.




Before Lorena Weeks’ win, mill and textile workers were making strides for safe working conditions, shorter working days, and to end child labor. The Lowell Mill Strike of 1834 was in response to receiving an immediate 12.6% reduction in pay as the textile industry slowed. Although 800 striking women did not win, partially because of disorganization, they would win concessions in 1836. What make later demonstrations more powerful was that their movement kept growing, and developed means of organizing and support. Their establishment of the Factory Girls’ Association helped pay for the boarding of these women while on strike, so that they could go for months without working, and could negotiate for better wages and working conditions at textile mills.




The garment industry struggle remains today, and the fight for fair wages and safe working conditions never stopped. In 1933, a New York labor organizer, Rose Pesotta, came to California to help garment workers. 75% of the workers were Latinx. However, the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) was run by white men that sought to keep women out of the workforce. When Rose Pesotta arrived in 1933, she helped organize a walkout of 4,000 workers who demanded a 35 hour work week and won!




Following the garment worker’s success in California, Frances Perkins became passionate about helping garment workers after witnessing employees jump to their death in the Triangle Shirtwaist fire.  The experience lead to her role as the US Labor Secretary and was the first woman to hold a US cabinet position. The labor laws she helps pass are the 40-hour workweek, minimum wage, workers’ compensation, unemployment, social security for the elderly, and financial help for people with disabilities.




The work of these sheroes is inspiring. However, none have them would not have been possible unless people regularly organized and challenged the status quo of low wages and poor working conditions. While many employers are eager to make cuts, it is up to the employees to say ‘enough is enough!’ Together, we can work for safe working places and wages that pay the bills.




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