Adriano Espaillat (211467)
Rep. Adriano Espaillat Credit: Contributed

This month, New York Rep. Adriano Espaillat introduced a resolution recognizing Women’s History Month and, specifically, the contributions of women to the labor movement.

Part of the resolution reads that the House of Representatives “recognizes the historical and current role of women in the workforce and the contributions they have made to the labor movement” and “recognizes that there is still yet much more work to be done in order to ensure the value of women’s work, the dignity of equal pay, respect for women’s leadership, and high standards for labor rights for all workers…”

In a statement, Espaillat acknowledged the women who have held high positions in and continue to lead labor unions and their impact on the economy and workforce.

“Historically, women heroically flooded into our nation’s factories during World War II, and by way of such patriotism, they helped win the war and drive economic prosperity through the following decades,” stated Espaillat. “Women of color in the labor movement, such as legends Lucy Parsons and Dolores Huerta, battled through both gender barriers and racial prejudice in pursuit of a more equitable workplace for all Americans, and their contributions continue to impact our efforts today to ensure equality and fairness in the workplace.”

Espaillat’s district includes most of Upper Manhattan and parts of the Bronx that, despite a change in demographics via gentrification, many working class New Yorkers call home. Espaillat wanted to acknowledge that fact.

“New York’s 13th Congressional District is home to tremendous talent and skilled workers, including a significant number of women leaders in the labor community,” stated Espaillat. “From teachers, child care workers to transportation workers, women have demonstrated true leadership within key unions and labor organizations, including CWA Local 1180, the Central Labor Council—AFL–CIO, 1199 and 32BJ’s of the SEIU, HTC, RWDSU, UFT, UNITE HERE Local 100, DC37, TWU, NYSNA, AFT, UFCW’s Local 888, and AFSCME’s Local 299 and Local 372.”

Espaillat’s resolution comes with the month-long celebration of women in the labor movement overall. The AFL-CIO’s website has devoted this month to honoring prominent women in the labor in Civil Rights Movement including Septima Poinsette Clark, who assisted in a class-action lawsuit that led to pay equity for Black and white teachers in the first half of the 20th century, and Fannie Lou Hamer, instrumental in organizing the Mississippi Freedom Summer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

On Wednesday night, March 20, Espaillat hosted an event at the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building Art Galley honoring the contributions of women in the labor movement. Many of the honorees were women from various labor organizations including RWDSU National Political Legislative Director Camille Rivera, AFSCME Local 299 President Jackie Rowe-Adams, New York State Nurses Association Vice President Marion Parkins and CWA Local 100 President Gloria Middleton.

“We have made progress, but much work remains in our efforts to fully recognize the historical and current role of women in the workforce and the contributions they have made to the labor movement,” stated Espaillat. “There is still much more work to be done to ensure the value of women’s work is respected, the dignity of equal pay is upheld, respect for women in leadership roles is guaranteed, and high standards for labor rights for all workers is maintained.