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Fortune - Gerri Hernández/Vote Mama

Why Give to Vote Mama on Mother’s Day

Women union leaders in my career taught me a lesson worthy of sharing today

Kris LaGrange's picture
May 12, 2019

Believe it or not, I wasn’t always this media giant you all love to loath. Like most people still in the union movement, I held different positions within different organizations. Those respective experiences influenced what I am, and who I am today.

Back in the day I was charged with mobilizing union members for job actions, new organizing blitz’s and political canvassing. I was married to a telephone before I married my bride. I met my better half, the mother of my children, in 2004. Before her, activism was my mistress. Good old fashioned troublemaking, earning me the reputation as someone who was relentless and unforgiving, getting the word out quickly and delivering bodies when the cause called for it.

Recruiting volunteers is never easy, and the union who I was working for at the time was largely composed of women – working moms who juggled the tough rigors of work life and home life. The buzz word “Work Life Balance” didn’t exist then. This union was unfairly described as lazy, petty and impossible. I remember being told this countless times by other organizers; “They are a bunch of women and you will have a tough time getting them to do anything.” That advice wasn’t entirely incorrect but I wish I paid it no mind because I learned quickly that this wasn’t the case at all.

A women in her late 40’s, whose children were high school aged, told me on a few occasions about the challenges women face in choosing between meeting their obligations at home and their duties at work. Union women who are members of active local unions bear this burden even more. In addition to being productive workers and good moms who are the backbone of the family structure, they are then called to volunteer time for their union.

Let’s be honest, when a man is called by his union, the woman is often expected to juggle the kids schedule and make dinner. If a man’s wife is called to go volunteer on evenings and weekends, you know she is going to catch flack for it.

I was advised to understand this double standard, and be patient and to expect responses to calls to volunteer that vary from “I will try and make it” or “I need to get back to you.” It was frustrating when I needed to get bodies to a rally on weekend, and of the 30 confirmations that I got, only 15 showed, 10 being men, 5 women, and the other 15 no show’s were women.

What I didn’t know then I know now. Those 15 women who were not there really wanted to be, but their kids came first. “Don’t get in the way of a Mama Bear and her cubs” I was told by a young Business Manager, a dad of 2 girls and 2 boys himself. “If you ask them to choose the union over their kids, the kids win every time” he added. He was right, and there is nothing wrong with that.

After months, this union eventually became more active than its male counterpart. Constant communications, more women taking on leadership roles and having a woman-to-woman communications outreach structure really made a difference. We encouraged them to bring their kids with them to meetings and peaceful demonstrations. We adjusted our tact and approach and we were a stronger union for doing so.

Fast-forward 15 years, after the birth of UCOMM and all our media outlets, I still remember my experiences working with a woman dominated local union. Last year, a young mother, who wanted to be my Congresswoman, sued the Federal Election’s Committee so that women candidates can pay for child day care with funds they raised for their campaign. Throughout her campaign, she spoke of many work-life balance issues that I dealt with while organizing 15 years ago.

History was made in the 2018 midterms as American’s sent a record 117 women to Congress. The reasons for it are obvious, but the movement behind it had it roots in the very same type of organizing we did in the early 2000’s. We understood, and now our nation is slowing trying to understand, that there is a double standard for women at home, in the workplace, in their union and in politics. A PAC was formed to raise money and encourage more and more women with children at home to run for public office. Optics from the website read;

  • Women still only make up 23% of Congressional Representatives and 25% of state legislatures nationwide.
  • Less than 5% of people in Congress are mothers with young children.
  • On average, women need to be asked seven times before they decide to run for office.
  • A mom with children at home needs to be asked even more times.

I believe in the PAC and I want to encourage you to give a few bucks, especially on this Mother’s Day. We are all about Mom today, making breakfast, taking her to brunch, having family gatherings and buying flowers at record rates. It's nice to be extra nice, but instead let's get super real.

Let’s give Mom more than just our love, time and attention today. Let’s give her and others like her an equal chance and opportunity to do their part to save our country from itself. Happy Mother's Day from all of us at UCOMM.


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