This month, many in the nation are celebrating Women’s History Month. This is a time to honor the luminaries who came before us, while celebrating those still living among and still inspiring us. It’s also a moment to take stock of how far we’ve come — in New York, our governor and our attorney general are women, and for the first time in U.S. history, we have a Black woman serving on the United States Supreme Court. And how far we still must go — women are still paid less than their male counterparts. We work hard, we do more with less, and we are still paid less than men even in industries, such as nursing, that are predominantly female.
In 2023, there are more women in the workforce, but that hasn’t led to pay equity in many industries. Additionally, while we have more women in leadership positions, women are still experiencing attacks on issues we hold dear such as reproductive freedom. For instance, the state of Texas just introduced a bill to ban abortion pills. It is a sad state of affairs that my mother had more rights than what my daughters presently enjoy.
We Have a Choice
But what I want you to know is that every day we have a choice of whether we will accept the status quo or push back; whether we will accept other people’s vision for our lives or imagine and implement our own vision. I hope that we never adjust to the status quo, but rather continue fighting for and advancing positive change. I hope that we will acknowledge the challenges before us, without being scared into inaction. I also hope that we never lose sight of the many times we — and those who came before us — fought back and won.
Most recently, siblings at Mount Sinai Hospital and Montefiore Bronx went on strike for safe staffing and improved patient care. After three days on the picket line, nurses were able to reach groundbreaking agreements that increased staffing levels and enforcement, increased salaries by approximately 19%, protected healthcare benefits, and improved pandemic health and safety and community benefits. Our healthcare professionals could have accepted what their employers were offering. But they knew that accepting the boss’s offer meant accepting unsafe conditions for patients and nurses alike. They knew that their willingness to stand for what was right would inspire and encourage other union siblings to do the same. Their courage was publicized with profiles and coverage in outlets such as ABC Nightline, Good Morning America, CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and more. Attorney General James showed up at the picket line and countless others sent messages of solidarity.
Remember the Victories
As we reflect on the challenges facing our broader community, we must take the lessons of this strike and other victories with us. We must remember that when we fight, we win. And regardless of the challenge, nothing is impossible for people who refuse to quit.
Additionally, as we move through Women’s History Month, I hope we have a deeper understanding of our calling. The work we do is not just for us, but for those who will come after us. The wins are never just for the people struggling in the moment, but for the people who will struggle if we refuse to stand up and fight. For instance, when we negotiate for fairer contracts, we know that we are providing a precedent and roadmap that will fuel future victories, even for people we may never meet. Women in and out of the labor movement must continue to organize, raise their voices and fight for themselves and future generations.
The question then is not just how we’re doing today, but rather how we’re ensuring the next generation is positioned to thrive. When we can affirmatively say that we are leaving future generations a better world, we can rest knowing that we’ve done our jobs. Until then, the fight continues.