Saskatchewan Working Women (SWW) was a feminist organization that operated in Saskatchewan from 1978 to 1990. For only $5 per year, any working woman, whether paid or unpaid, whether unionized or not, could become a member of SWW. Chapters were formed in Regina, Saskatoon, Prince Albert, Swift Current, and Lanigan. SWW was headed by an elected provincial body and had a constitution; however, individual chapters of the organization enjoyed a fair degree of independence to mobilize on issues in their own communities.
In the mid to late 1970s, an increasing number of women were joining the workforce, many of whom were unionizing and mobilizing. However, in large part, unions were neither willing to tackle women’s issues, nor provide a supportive environment to do so. A group of women inside the labour movement recognized that women needed to find their collective voice. An alliance of trade union women and community-based feminists formed SWW in 1978.
Similar organizations had formed in other provinces, but some were restricted to unionized women. SWW’s approach was that the best way to be a powerful presence within the labour movement and yet maintain some autonomy from it was to include women who were not in unions.
The organization combined trade union concerns such as strike support for women workers with struggles around issues like daycare and organizing the unorganized.
“SWW does not choose between feminism on the one hand and trade unionism on the other; rather it poses problems and their solutions within an analysis that addresses both together.”
– Former SWW president Denise Kouri, p.164, Still Ain’t Satisfied (The Women’s Press, 1982)
SWW took on a multitude of issues important to working women, including the right to strike, part-time work, daycare, technological change, workplace rights, organizing women workers, strike support, affirmative action, equal pay, sexual harassment, violence against women, reproductive rights, effects of racism on Aboriginal communities, domestic workers’ rights, and international solidarity. SWW produced a newsletter, “Working Women”, and popular pamphlets, as well as many policy papers and briefs to government. It also held annual conventions and conferences on such issues as rural women, daycare, and organizing in the service sector. While educating the public and lobbying the government on working women’s issues was one focus, SWW also held study sessions on issues such as capitalism, socialism, feminism, racism, and other issues, in order to hone a working-class analysis.
SWW supported the development of feminist leaders within unions and put women’s issues on the bargaining table and into the public sphere. It can be credited for union policies on daycare and sexual harassment, as well as contract language in such areas as maternity leave and equal pay.
Denise Kouri, President, Saskatchewan Working Women, 1979-1981
Cara Banks, author of “Saskatchewan Working Women: Issues of Inclusivity and Diversity”, MA Thesis, York University, 2001.
Saskatchewan Working Women Documents
|Saskatchewan Working Women Information Brochure||1979||Saskatchewan|