1970s Labor Feminism

Most labor feminists were initially opposed to the ERA because they would lose protections from women specific labor laws, despite many of those laws being restrictive (Deslippe). In the 1970s, the ERA because a national issue again and some labor feminists reversed their positions, feeling that many of the remaining protections were in fact harmful (Deslippe). After the ERA debate had ended, labor feminists pushed for getting the protections restored, for all workers. Many formed women-only unions in areas like clerical work and flight attendants because male-led unions failed to adequately represent them, or because there were no male-led unions to join. The AFL-CIO viewed much of these fields such as maid services and clerical work as not their responsibility, and didn’t pay attention to their demands (Boris and Orleck). The Coalition of Labor Union Women advocated for and worked towards gender equality within unions as well as within the workplace (Cobble). Women’s unions also unionized many public sector jobs like librarians and social workers, leading to 40% of public sector jobs being unionized by the end of the decade (Cobble). This was partly facilitated by the extension of the Fair Labor Standards Act (Boris and Orleck).

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