Last week some of our Women’s Committee members got together for a Feminist Tour of Trades Hall where we learned about some of the incredible, tenacious, and fearless Union women whose efforts have made a massive impact on the lives of ALL workers, around the world.
Some of our highlights included learning about:
Zelda D’Aprano and her contemporaries made headlines with their actions and their fight for equal pay for equal work. After the Equal Pay test case failed in October 1969, she famously chained herself to the doors of the Commonwealth Building during her lunch break, with women who worked in the building supporting her.
Later that month she was joined by Alva Geikie and Thelma Solomon, and they chained themselves to the doors of the Arbitration Court, the same one which had dismissed the Equal Pay Case.
In 1970 they founded the Women’s Action Committee to get women more involved in activism.
“We had passed the stage of caring about a “lady-like” image because women had for too long been polite and ladylike and were still being ignored” (Zelda D’Aprano 1995).
They travelled around Melbourne paying only 75% of the fares, because women were only given 75% of the wage of men at the time. And because women weren’t allowed to drink in public bars of pubs, only in the lounges, they did pub crawls across Melbourne.
She was an active member of the Eight Hours Committee from 1894 and was vice-president and then a member of the executive of the Federated Clothing Trades Union until 1925.Refurbishment of the hall – quite literally revealing and bringing into the light of day the important campaigning and work done by Women throughout our history. A “fun game” was to try and spot the women on the walls, with them being identifiable by their married status…a Miss or a Mrs, regardless of whether these women were in fact still with their husbands, society defined them as counterparts to men.
Toward the end of the tour we got to visit Solidarity Hall and Paddy’s Gallery, and at the entrance to the Hall we gathered around and read loudly together the VTHC Solidarity Statement.
We are union. We stand united as part of a great movement of workers. Our diversity is our strength Our solidarity is our power We respect and take care of each other. Prejudice and discrimination – including misogyny, racism, homophobia and all other hatreds have no place in our movement. We rise together. Today and every day we commit ourselves to achieving justice, fairness, equality and dignity for all workers. Solidarity forever.
With our hearts bursting with Union and Feminist pride, we gathered for dinner and discussions around the issues we have historically, and currently face as women in the world with common themes around flexibility for working women when it comes to our reproductive health, or caring responsibilities and the reality of still earning less than our male counterparts and the risk of homelessness and poverty that looms for all women.
The work of women like Zelda D’Aprano to begin the long road to Equal Pay continues today, with the gender pay gap in Australia currently sitting at 13.3%.
In 2023 we are still earning only 87c for every $1 a male earns, sacrificing years of our careers to commit to caring responsibilities, be that as primary carer for a child or for our ageing, or at-risk family members. It’s vital we carry on the torch that pioneering women such as Zelda and her comrades lit for us all those years ago and continue to shed on light on these issues.
If you would like to take part in your own Feminist Tour of the Hall you can register for free here: https://www.weareunion.org.au/feminist_hall_tour_august
As part of our work at the Union Women’s Committee we want to provide practical resources to support workers in the workplace. To do this, we need to hear from you! We would love if you could complete our 2-minute Supporting Women Survey here to help us identify the areas that need our attention so we can use this to build our campaigns, bargaining agendas and to produce resources for you to print and post at work.