'Lean In' All You Want -- But If You Want a Better Job, Unionize! (What the CEOS of Facebook and Yahoo! Won't Tell You)
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In short, the “other women’s movement” is alive and fighting. Unions, advocacy groups, and community organizations pursue strategies that include lawsuits, demonstrations, leadership training, mentoring programs, media skills workshops, and organizing. What this year’s Women’s History Month can do is expand the conversation beyond the executives of Facebook and Yahoo and the Fortune 500 to look at workplace issues for our mothers, sisters and daughters in the jobs that support us every day.
“Leaning in” might well help get more women into the top echelons of the corporate world and that is progress for equality. Sheryl Sandberg sets an important precedent by going home for dinner with her family, but can a non-management worker at Facebook do the same?
What I found most troubling about Marissa Mayer’s decision at Yahoo was not the merits of telecommuting, but the way in which this new high-tech company was able to make such an important decision in such an old-fashioned top-down way, apparently without input from employees. While having more money and great perks are important, in the area of negotiation, dignity and respect, Yahoo seems little different than workers at Walmart. Democracy at work, the right to join a union and have a voice in decisions that affect you every day on the job, has been established as a fundamental human right in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Yahoo workers need a union.
In 1936, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt wrote in her My Day column that there were only two ways to bring about protection for workers -- “legislation and unionization.” She explained to delegates at the United Nations that unions were a “fundamental element” of democracy. Sisters can cheer on the struggle for equality among the CEOs, but also use that struggle to remind people of what is needed in the “other women’s movement.” We can seize this moment of discussion and organize. s Eleanor Roosevelt told delegates to a CIO convention, “We can’t just talk. We have got to act.”