Boulder, CO — The labor that women do is often undervalued compared to men. Stephanie Solis can speak to this firsthand. Solis, an organizer with the National Domestic Workers Alliance, found their calling for the labor movement while growing up with her mom working in the domestic labor sector.
As someone who cleaned houses during a time before clients were more easily found online, Solis’s mom would walk around knocking on people's doors for work. And Solis served as an interpreter for only her mom.
“She would bring me to work sometimes to help her clean, to be with her because she couldn't afford child care,” Solis said, recalling her experience growing up. “And being in this role and living in this community, there is a lot of internalized whiteness and anger inside of me.”
Growing up, Solis remembers struggling with their identity as a queer person of color in Louisville, Kentucky. So on top of navigating their teens and identity, they were also helping their mom navigate her rights in the workplace from a young age. And Solis said they felt a sense of bitterness about their family’s economic status. However, when they were formally introduced to organizing, their perspective changed.
“It was through community organizing and political education that I began to understand all the resentment and all the anger that I held,” Sollis said. “It wasn't because it was because of my mom's choice. It's like systems of oppression that shaped her life.”
Solis started learning more about community organizing when they were around 18 years old. But they realized that they’ve been doing advocacy work for almost their whole life. Practicing language justice while translating for their mom or going together to their mom’s workplace when there were inconsistencies in her pay. These are often struggles domestic workers face.
And while women and nonbinary people who work across different industries may face unique challenges, one issue they likely have in common is wage inequality.
Women only get paid 0.82 for every dollar a man makes on average in America. Black women make 0.63 for every dollar a white man makes, while Hispanic women make up 0.58 for every dollar a white man makes, according to the U.S. government of accountability office.
Most people who are capable of giving birth only receive up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave. This could force many people to go back when they do not have resources such as child care, and could leave parents in a more vulnerable position to deal with discrimination and suffer great economic loss.
People being able to take time off to get an abortion can often be at the mercy of an employer. That is unless a group of people were to collectively bargain and put the right to be able to have that time off into their contracts.
Virginia Rodino, the Executive Director of the Coalition of Labor Union Women, is someone who sees the power of what collective bargaining can do for workers.
She said real change does not come from billionaires or politicians, but from the workers and parents supporting reproductive justice. “People of all genders are coming together and saying, we want to fight for those rights,” Rodino said.
Coming together to make change has been a worker super power used to meet many workplace demands — such as when workers successfully came together to form a union at Amazon.
However, forming a labor union or going on strike may be easier said than done.
These fights for better workers' rights can often feel like an endless climb up a hill, and folks may find it hard to feel hopeful. However, Solis said, “Hope opens up our imagination. Hope allows us to create and build and stay connected to people. And to me, the route of organizing.”
There are many ways for young people to get involved. Solis recommended that young people try to look at what organizations are already working to serve people in their community and to get involved in those.
They said, “If you are in the DMV area, there are a lot of ways to work. We also have various chapters and affiliates that I'm sure would love to receive support. Depending on where you live, I think it's important to honor the history and the community and the organizations that have laid a lot of work before.”
Both Virginia Rodino and Stephanie Solis feel that young people are going to carry the fight forward. When we carry it, it's not an if things will change, it's a when.
Correction: This story has been edited to correct the spelling of Virginia Rodino's name.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this piece included a quote that has since been removed, and the story has been edited for clarity.