More than a dozen women organizers joined U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett for a national forum with women workers and organizers to share their stories of courageous organizing and action.
The “Women Organize!” event, held Monday, March 28, was part of Women’s History Month and commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, in which 146 workers were killed because of employer negligence. Just prior to the tragic fire, workers at Triangle Shirtwaist were trying to form a union to improve their working conditions.
A significant part of the DOL forum focused on what it’s like for workers to form unions today. Speakers included Ohio childcare provider Deanna Vizi, domestic worker Allison Julien, Wal-Mart cashier Ernestine Bassett, and T-Mobile Customer Service Rep Liliana Bequer. At the end of the program, about a dozen women organizers took the stage with Solis to briefly describe how they were helping to unite their co-workers in new unions.
Among the group was Christine Dexter, a Comcast technician who represented her co-workers from the company’s Fall River and Fairhaven garages. Christine has worked at Comcast for nine years and installs cable TV and Internet hook-ups for customers throughout Southeastern Massachusetts.
Along with her co-workers, Dexter was able to help build majority support for forming a union with IBEW Local 2322 at the two Comcast garages. Now the techs are working to get management to recognize their union and begin collective bargaining to improve their wages and working conditions.
“As Comcast employees, we feel that we work for a great company,” said Dexter. “And we want Comcast to recognize our union. We’d like the chance to sit down with management and begin collective bargaining for things that we believe can greatly help us. We’re fighting for job security and most importantly, to have a voice in the workplace.”
The entire “Women Organize!” event can be seen on the White House website. Photos from the event are posted on Picasa, and a short video of Christine Dexter speaking at the event is posted on YouTube.
While in Washington, Dexter met with top officials of the AFL-CIO and the IBEW and with Congressman Barney Frank’s labor liaison, Diego Sanchez. For more updates about the Comcast workers union, visit the Comcast Union Bulletin Board.
Rand Wilson is an AFl-CIO communications coordinator.
Rand Wilson is an organizer and chief of staff at SEIU Local 888 in Boston.