Women Workers Are on the Frontlines of Change

03/08/2007 01:04 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

We are undergoing a moment of immense economic transformation. The global economy and rapidly changing technology are profoundly shifting our industries and the way we live.

A century ago, America was amidst the industrial revolution, another moment of great economic expansion, but like today, many workers weren't seeing the benefits. So in 1908, 15,000 women took matters into their own hands, and into the streets of New York to demand safer working conditions in the factories, decent pay, and the right to vote. Their action was the spark that ignited the modern struggle for women's rights and helped expand other social and economic justice movements worldwide. Generations of women have continued to speak out for greater equality in education, the workplace, and throughout society; to call for civil and human rights; to end wars and to protect their freedom to choose.

Because women united in the workplace, they helped narrow the gap in income equality, create affirmative action in hiring, and outlaw sexual harassment and discrimination for all women. Through their unions, our mothers and grandmothers were instrumental in helping to build an America in which hard work is rewarded with a paycheck that supports a family, health care and a secure retirement.

Their efforts and inspiration have opened the door to wider opportunities for women and girls in the 21st century. Today, a woman can be the front-runner in the presidential primaries, or Speaker of the House. She can have the privilege of representing millions of hard-working union members, or, she can proudly become one. My own daughter, Erin, is a certified scuba dive trainer and is among the first generation of young women to believe there's nothing she can't be (once she graduates college).

Despite decades of struggle and great strides, our work isn't over. Health care costs are soaring. The growing service sector is a predominantly female, immigrant and underpaid workforce. Outsourcing and offshoring reflect the forces of globalization have tilted enormous power to multinational corporations.

As a result, workers' voices are weaker, and the American Dream is slipping away for many. Eight out of 10 workers now say they don't think their children will have a better life. Fully half fear the next generation will do worse. But there is also hope: A majority of workers are united

in their belief taking action will make change. 80 percent say if workers joined together in an association or union, things could be better. That number is even higher among those under 30.

Change to Win is committed to helping American workers unite and enact their agenda for change, particularly one that will help women achieve full equality and meet the realities of today's global economy. On International Women's Day, we celebrate the achievements of the ordinary women who together, can accomplish the extraordinary. Today we renew the call to use our strength and our voices to win a better life on the job, for our families, in the community, and for our world.