USW International Vice President Leeann Foster last week joined the Leslie Marshall Show to highlight some important strides the union has taken to negotiate more holistic and equitable health and safety language into its contracts in the paper sector and beyond.
In addition to more familiar health and safety issues like identifying workplace hazards and tracking injuries, Foster spoke about domestic violence protections and other gender-inclusive policies now included in many contracts at USW-represented workplaces.
The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated rates of domestic violence across the gender spectrum and the Department of Labor estimates that domestic violence victims lose nearly 8 million days of paid work per year.
“What we want to do is make sure that if people are facing domestic violence, they’re not also worried about losing their job,” said Foster.
The USW recently bargained domestic violence provisions into contracts with two major employers in the paper sector: Domtar and Packaging Corp. of America, covering 29 mills, 44 box plants and thousands of workers.
“Once we bring it to employers’ attention, they really see the value of making sure that there’s a policy in place so that anyone who’s encountering this issue in their life can bring that forward to management and it’s dealt with confidentially,” Foster said.
Foster also mentioned other important measures to increase gender equity in the workplace like ensuring there is PPE to fit all body shapes, creating comprehensive bathroom policies and providing accommodations for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
“I’ve been so proud of our brothers and sisters because this language is being brought to the table across the U.S. and Canada, and it makes a woman feel she can be successful and thrive in the workplace.
“Women face special challenges at work, and it’s all about support – we often have a second shift of family responsibilities, and this is helping our sisters balance that load.”
Click below to listen to the full interview with USW Vice President Leeann Foster.
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