Skip to Content

5 Women Leading the 21st-Century Labor Movement

Read Post
Return to Blog

“If you want to correct the wrongs of historic and systemic racism, home care is a good place to start.”

—SEIU 2015 President April Verrett, Time magazine

Right now, the United States labor sector is going through something historic. We’re seeing a 21st-century labor movement led by women—and they’re getting things done. 

The makeup of unions from 20 years ago is now obsolete. The faces we see fighting on the frontlines are no longer just white, blue-collar males; they’re women, especially women of color. It’s a giant shift in the way our entire country thinks about labor, and in turn—changing the way we think about the labor conversation in campaigns and elections. Gone are days of just visiting a few teamsters and posing in hardhats. Now, campaigns must think of labor in a completely new light—one that includes the domestic workforce. 

This May Day, we want to highlight a few of this century’s labor leaders who are giving a voice to hundreds of thousands of workers. 

Ai-Jen Poo

Co-founder and Executive Director, National Domestic Workers Alliance

Ai-Jen Poo has dedicated her life to helping women in the workforce and beyond. She’s created multiple organizations working to empower women and fight for domestic workers’ rights. Recently, she’s been on the forefront of the fight to stop Asian hate, lift up AAPI voices, and deliver results for domestic workers, taking part in domestic worker wins across the country, including Philadelphia’s Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.

April Verrett

President, SEIU 2015

April Verrett is leading the charge for caregivers as the President of California’s largest long-term care union. As an outspoken voice on the union’s justice agenda, she’s been leading the charge on n racial justice, police reform, and supporting the care economy. April and SEIU 2015 were key influencers in the White House’s new focus on the care economy, and have shaped the path for the priorities we’re seeing in the most recent care economy legislation.

Sara Nelson

President of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA

Sara Nelson has been a flight attendant for over 20 years and become one of labor’s leading voices. In the era of COVID-19, she’s dedicated herself to protecting flight workers from unruly and aggressive passengers, as well as airlines who try to take advantage of their employees with massive furloughs or unreasonable sick leave policies.

Roxanne D. Brown

International Vice President At Large, United Steelworkers

Roxanne Brown is an unlikely climate champion—as VP of United Steelworkers, she’s been leading the charge on activism in an increasingly female and increasingly diverse workforce. As an outspoken voice on the obvious effect of climate change and the green economy on the steelworking industry, she’s helped shape environmental policies with the potential to affect USW jobs.

Mary Kay Henry

President, SEIU

Mary Kay Henry is at the forefront of one of the country’s largest and most well-known unions—the Service Employees International Union. She’s been leading the national charge to set a federal $15 minimum wage for all workers, and has helped employees unionize in their workplaces across the country—most recently, Starbucks!

More From Leadership

Back to top