by John Mason
The Philadelphia chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) held its annual support event for Women Against Abuse, at the assembly hall of Workers United, 22 South 22nd Street in Philadelphia, on Thursday, March 28, 2013.
Participants brought donations of boys and girls clothes and maternity clothes; toilet articles such as toothpaste, soap, and shampoo, etc.; baby formulas and pacifiers; bed sheets and blankets; kitchen utensils; wash cloths and towels; stationary supplies such as notepads and pens; yarn and knitting needles; and children’s’ DVDs.
Kathy Black, President of Philadelphia CLUW, greeted the participants, saying, “This is the first time I can remember that I didn’t know pretty much everybody in the room, so that’s a really good sign for a CLUW event…This is the fifteenth year we’ve held a benefit for Women Against Abuse, often in conjunction with the Women’s History Month Program, so we’re really pleased with that relationship (which) we’ve cemented with them over the years.”
CLUW selected Women Against Abuse to work with for two reasons, said Black: “One, they run the only shelter in (Philadelphia) that’s exclusively for victims of domestic violence and their children, and in Montgomery County also. And their staff are UAW (United Auto Workers) members, the only shelter that’s represented by a union…The agency’s services remain in very high demand, especially in the last few years, while we’ve suffered economically nationwide, and they’ve suffered specifically from massive cuts in funding from (elected officials).
“Over the years,” added Black, “we’ve raised tens of thousands of dollars for this agency, and our members have always been very generous,” as she pointed to the piles of donated items. Black also spoke of CLUW’s involvement in the campaign for Earned Sick Leave, calling it “the biggest campaign, and the main focus of our work for the last three years.” That campaign, said Black, is to have passed in Philadelphia City Council an ordinance for businesses “to provide a fundamental few paid sick days per year for the almost two hundred thousand low-wage workers in Philadelphia who do not have a paid sick day. They are overwhelmingly women, in the service and care-giving professions generally.” Black urged participants to contact members of City Council to pass the bill and to override a possible veto by Mayor Michael Nutter.
Katie Young-Wilder, Development Director of Women Against Abuse, spoke of the relationship between CLUW and her agency, saying, “CLUW, for fifteen years, has been supporting women Against Abuse, and we’re very grateful for your contributions. They go a long way, and they’re really important.”
Describing the services of Women Against Abuse, Young-Wilder said, “We are a leading domestic violence service provider here in Philadelphia. Our mission is really twofold, the first part of it is to provide quality, compassionate care to survivors of domestic violence and their children. The other part of that mission has to do with changing the system, working across the city to improve our response to domestic violence, in hopes that one day, we will end domestic violence. We do a lot of direct service, as well as advocacy work in the community. We serve over thirteen thousand individuals each year through comprehensive services. We do emergency housing, legal aid, community education, hot line, and as Kathy mentioned we operate the only emergency shelter in Philadelphia for victims and their children.”
Kathy Black followed, and she spoke of the Young Women’s Committee of the chapter, named the Young Emerging Labor Leaders (YELL) organizing the event. Two members of the committee, Sandra Lane (SEIU) and Dina Yarmus (UNITE HERE), spoke of the video the committee produced, “Our Movements, Our Voices, Our History.” the video shows the experiences of women trade union activists-Gwen Ivey’ American Postal Workers Union; Evette Jones, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers; Margarita Padin, Carpenters Union; Corean Halloway, UNITE HERE; and Patty Eakin, Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals.
Lane said, “This film came out of a process which started about a year ago, when we as the young women in the organization were asked to play of a leadership role in our CLUW chapter, and I’m happy to say that we willingly took the push. We had several conversations where we thought about, ‘What is the history of CLUW? Why is it important to have a gender lens in the Labor movement, and have a class lens in the gender-women’s movement?’…We thought about the big questions that lay before us, and what experiences we need to learn from.”
“To think about some of these really broad questions,” said Yarmus, “we decided to start right here in Philadelphia, with women who have been at the forefront of really significant fights in this city, and we wanted to understand first their experiences and also incorporate their analysis, which is really directly grounded in this work, so that we can build upon their work tomorrow in five months and in five years and in thirty years from now.”