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Liz Shuler's picture

First, let me introduce myself. I’m a top officer of the 12.5 million-member AFL-CIO, the federation of America’s unions. It surprises a lot of people to hear that 6.5 million women in this country are union members. MomsRising and the AFL-CIO have partnered together on tweet chats and other efforts around issues like paid sick days. And now I’ll be writing here every couple weeks on issues that are important to moms and families, sharing things I’ve been talking about with working women, reading and watching, and adding my two cents’ worth.

This week I’m going to raise something everyone seems to be talking about, from the pope to Beyoncé: Economic inequality. I particularly liked this recent quote:

“We need to stop buying into the myth about gender equality. It isn’t a reality yet. Today, women make up half of the U.S. workforce, but the average working woman earns only 77 percent of what the average working man makes. But unless women and men both say this is unacceptable, things will not change….We have to teach our boys the rules of equality and respect, so that as they grow up, gender equality becomes a natural way of life. And we have to teach our girls that they can reach as high as humanly possible.”

Beyoncé wrote that in The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back From the Brink, newly released by Maria Shriver. The report tells us 42 million of us, with 28 million children, are living in or on the brink of poverty.

MomsRising’s own Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner followed up with this shocker: Motherhood is now an even greater predictor of inequality than gender in this country.

And here’s what none other than Pope Francis had to say: “We need…to avoid the widening gap between those who have more and those who must be content with the crumbs.”

It’s a rare day when you have the pope and Beyoncé preaching the same message—so clearly, this widespread focus on the need for equal opportunity provides us a powerful moment for action. Eighty million moms speaking out together would be a mighty force for change. It’s time for employers, government and society to catch up with the realities of today’s workforce and get serious about paid sick days, child care assistance and flexible schedules. It’s time to raise the minimum wage (women are nearly two-thirds of workers paid the painfully inadequate minimum wage). It’s time to close the wage gap, which would cut poverty in half for working women and their families (one in five children lives in poverty). And it’s time for women—and men—to have real bargaining power.

Because, let’s face it, we’re stronger together. That’s why coming together through places like MomsRising and the AFL-CIO is so important.

Beyoncé is right about that, too. “We have a lot of work to do,” she says, “but we can get there if we work together.” Or, as she sings it, “Together we got plenty superpower!”

I’d love to hear what you think.

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