Union leaders are trying to come up with ways to respond to a survey of black women in the labor movement, which revealed that the unionization of black women was extremely high – only second to black men. Despite this fact, the survey showed black women remain severely underrepresented in union leadership positions. Less than 3% of the women surveyed said they had held elected leadership positions, and almost half said they felt there were many things in the way of their advancement.

The study, released last week by the Institute for Policy Studies, already has some of the country’s biggest unions promising to do more to get black women in leadership — a promise that has been made in times before. In 1995 the AFL-CIO, the country’s biggest federation of trade unions, made a promise to have more diverse leadership, and almost 2 decades later, that has yet to happen.

The study surveyed 467 black women in the labor movement about various issues. Specifically, the women surveyed seemed to care about social issues including “incarceration, criminalization, police brutality, fair scheduling, and access to child care.”

The American Federation of Teachers has been acting on this trend, according to Dr. Lorretta Johnson, secretary-treasurer for the union. It has planned a series of meetings within communities of color on racial justice in the wake of events in Ferguson. “You can’t just be a part of a community when you need something. You have to be a part of a community when they need something,” said Johnson.

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