Not unlike the adage, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder," an employee's value in the workplace is in the eye of management. This reality goes to the core of why women are only paid 78 cents for every dollar their male counterparts are paid. Even if a woman performs excellently and generates healthy profits for the company, if she is a single mother struggling to pay her bills, her boss knows he doesn't have to reward her performance to retain her. And the farther away you get from areas with a lot of job opportunities, the stronger those situational bindings. It's also where unions are needed the most:
As a steward at the Smithfield Farmland plant in Tar Heel, I represent many mothers who work day after day to help provide for their families. I’ve worked there 11 years, and I also stood on the line with many women in 2008 to fight for better working conditions for all. Ever since I became part of the union, the working conditions have improved. Now that we have a union, we have people who support us and the work that we do. But much more needs to be done.
Nationally, according to a National Women’s Law Center study, the poverty rate of women-led households with children was nearly 40 percent compared with only 20 percent of male-headed households with children in 2013. The same year, Working Poor Families reported 10.6 million low-income working families in America. Of those, nearly 522,000 single mothers who worked full-time, year-round, lived in poverty.
This is compounded by low-wage work, lack of paid family leave and little to no paid sick days. What’s more, numerous studies show that a lack of affordable child care and early childhood options are barriers to finding steady employment.
That is slowly changing state by state and, in some cases, county by county. Mothers and allies have pushed for that change. Now that an election year is around the corner, workers’ rights and issues like family leave are front and center. We will keep it there.
Even before Republicans took over, North Carolina was not a worker's paradise. But since then, the situation has degraded considerably. Working mothers are now in such a precarious position that they have almost zero voice in determining their economic future. Expanding union membership is not just, "a good idea," it has become an imperative. It may be the only way to keep tens of thousands of families from spiraling into poverty. That's the revolution people keep mumbling needs to happen. Not an armed uprising, but a collective economic one. And I can think of no better leaders for that than working mothers.