- Costello, Cynthia B. We’re Worth It!: Women and Collective Action in the Insurance Workplace. Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press; 1991. 154 p.
Notes: A sociological look at the process of collective action among the women clerical workers at three insurance companies in Madison, Wisconsin; all three companies had unionized workforces. The author analyzes the responses of the women workers to the different management philosophies of the three companies and the strategies employed by the women to make changes.
The first workplace was at the Wisconsin Education Association Insurance Trust, which was formed by the Wisconsin Education Association, the state teachers’ union; there the union involved was the United Staff Union (USU), the state affiliate of the National Staff Organization, an independent union to represent employees of teachers unions. The author analyzes the strategies used by the clericals in this workplace from 1975 to 1985 to gain respect and dignity on the job, including a strike in 1979.
The second workplace was at the Wisconsin Physicians Services Insurance Corporation; the union involved there was began as Retail Clerks Union Local 1401 and then became United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1444 due to a merger in 1979. The group of women at this site were followed from 1974 to 1982 and, in addition to the unionized clerical office workforce, the author looked at the strategies of the company’s non-unionized clerical homework force as well.
The third workplace was at the CUNA Mutual Insurance Society, which was formed by the Credit Union National Association; here the union was Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 39. Although the CUNA worksite was much more ‘benevolent’ than the other two worksites in this study, by the late 1970s a group of the women clerical workers had formed a Women’s Association to take collective action in the workplace beyond that of their union.
“An earlier version of chapter 2 appeared as “WEA’re Worth it!: Work Culture and Conflict at the Wisconsin Education Assocation Trust” in Feminist Studies 11, no.3 (Fall 1985): 497-518. … An earlier version of chapter 4 appeared as “Home-based Clerical Employment” in The New Era of Home-based Work, edited by Kathleen Christensen, c1988 Westview Press. …”–title page verso.
Chapter 4 has also appeared in a somewhat different form as “The Clerical Homework Program at the Wisconsin Physicians Service Insurance Corporation,” in Homework: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on Paid Labor at Home, edited by Eileen Boris and Cynthia R. Daniels (Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 1989), p. -214 (Chapter 10).
Reviewed: University Press Book News, June 1, 1992.
- Jamakaya. Like Our Sisters Before Us: Women of Wisconsin Labor–Based on Interviews Conducted for the Women of Wisconsin Labor Oral History Project. Milwaukee, Wis.: Wisconsin Labor History Society; 1998. 93 p.
Notes: Ten female union leaders of Wisconsin, including one African-American, are profiled; the women were most active from the 1940s through the 1970s. This volume also includes a list of the over thirty interviewees of the Women of Wisconsin Labor Oral History Project of the Wisconsin Labor History Society; all of the project’s audio recordings and additional supporting materials from the interviewees are available to researchers through the Archives Division, State Historical Society of Wisconsin.
CONTENTS: Evelyn Donner Day, Milwaukee (Int’l Ladies Garment Workers Union; United Auto Workers). — Alice Holz, Milwaukee (Office and Professional Employees Int’l Union). — Evelyn Gotzion, Madison (Federal Labor Union No. 19587; United Auto Workers). — Catherine Conroy, Milwaukee (Communications Workers of America). — Nellie Wilson, Milwaukee (United Steel Workers of America). — Doris Thom, Janesville (Int’l Association of Machinists; United Auto Workers). — Lee Schmeling, Neenah (Graphic Arts Int’l Union; Graphic Communications Int’l Union). — Helen Hensler, Milwaukee (Office and Professional Employees Int’l Union). — Joanne Bruch, Whitewater (Int’l Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried, Machine and Furniture Workers). — Florence Simons, Milwaukee (Int’l Association of Machinists; United Auto Workers; Allied Industrial Workers).