Union WAGE (Organization)

Alternative names

History notes:


Union Women's Alliance to Gain Equality (Union W.A.G.E.) was founded on International Women's Day, March 8, 1971, at an educational conference sponsored by the National Organization for Women (NOW), at the University of California, Berkeley. Union W.A.G.E. was a politically non-partisan, non-profit organization for "working women" which included housewives, unemployed, retired, and welfare women. The organization's purpose was to achieve "equal rights, equal pay, and equal opportunity" for working women.

Union W.A.G.E. was created at a workshop during the NOW conference entitled "Extending Protective Legislation to All Workers." The panelists included future Union W.A.G.E. leaders Jean Maddox, president of the Office and Professional Employees Union, AFL-CIO, Local 29, and Ann Draper, West Coast Union Label Director for the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, AFL-CIO. By the end of the panel discussion the participants all agreed on the necessity of a working women's feminist organization and voted to reconstitute themselves as that organization.

Maxine Wolpinsky (now Maxine Jenkins), then an American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, field organizer for Local 1695, was also a part of the NOW conference. She joined Union W.A.G.E. and served as newspaper editor for the next three years.

The main groups which first made up Union W.A.G.E. were the Committee to Extend Protective Legislation to Men, a caucus of the International Socialists; San Francisco State's Independent Campus Women; U.C. Berkeley's Graduate Sociology Women's Caucus; and many members of the Office and Professional Employees Union Local 29. Although Union W.A.G.E. considered itself a national organization, the bulk of its membership, as well as its headquarters was located in the San Francisco Bay Area.

One of the organization's main activities was publishing a bi-monthly newspaper, Union W.A.G.E., which focused on working women's issues from a feminist and labor movement perspective. Another focal point of Union W.A.G.E. activity was the California Industrial Welfare Commission. Through the members' testimony, lobbying efforts and serving on I.W.C. wage boards Union W.A.G.E. sought to represent the interests of working women. Issues they brought before the I.W.C. included the need to preserve and extend protective legislation threatened by the Equal Rights Amendment, and raising the minimum wage requirements. Union W.A.G.E. also sponsored educational conferences and events, and published literature for women workers. Topics the organization covered included: organizing non-union workplaces; fighting sexism on the job and in the unions; preventing job-related health hazards for women workers; fighting for rank-and-file control and democracy within the unions; and promoting women's labor history.

From the guide to the Union Women's Alliance To Gain Equality Records, 1971-1982, (San Francisco State University. Labor Archives & Research Center)


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