The Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) was established in Chicago in 1974 as a constituency group within the AFL-CIO. Gloria Steinem was one of the founding members. Philadelphia’s chapter was chartered in 1975. CLUW united a diverse body of women across a broad spectrum of organizations. Broadly speaking, it aimed to connect the feminist movement to the labor movement, advocating for women’s health and equal pay, as well as organizing women and increasing their numbers in union leadership as well as in politics everywhere.
Locally, the Philadelphia CLUW has worked on a variety of advocacy campaigns with labor unions and other community and interest groups to advance the joint cause of labor and women. CLUW lobbied for a national single-payer health care system, as well as a women’s health agenda in the Pennsylvania state legislature that included contraception coverage and continued access to legal abortion. It fought for mandated paid sick time in Philadelphia, which was realized in 2015. It has also fought against the privatization of schools and Social Security and other governmental benefits.
The March 2023 pop-up exhibit in the Special Collections Research Center reading room features the records of the Philadelphia Chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women, a recent donation to the Urban Archives. They complement a large body of records already in the SCRC that document labor and unions in Philadelphia, extending back into the 1800s. Other collections include International Ladies Garment Workers Union; United Saw, File, and Steel Product Workers of America; and the Harold Ash Papers. Many of these colections were acquired for the archives in the early 1980s during an two-year National Endowment for the Humanities-funded special initiative to acquire Philadelphia labor collections.
–Courtney Smerz, Collection Management Archivist, SCRC