By SHERI GASSAWAY
Thousands of women, men, teens and children, many wearing pink hats and carrying handmade signs, attended Women’s March on St. Louis Jan. 20, the same weekend as the second national Women’s March in Las Vegas. It began at Union Station and ended at the Old Courthouse with a series of motivational speakers.
While last year’s historic Women’s March on Washington began as show in unity in the fight for the rights of women and other marginalized groups who felt vilified and scorned by Donald Trump’s race for the presidency, this year’s march was about how women can affect change beginning with the upcoming mid-term election.
POWER TO THE POLLS
The theme of this year’s national march was “Power to the Polls” and it launched a national voter registration tour targeting swing states to register new voters and to channel the energy and activism of the Women’s March into tangible strategies and concrete wins in 2018.
Robbie Robinson, president of the Missouri Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) and vice president of the St. Louis Chapter of CLUW, attended the St. Louis march with her CLUW sisters and said it was uplifting and empowering.
“Everyone at last year’s march was so upset about Trump,” said Robinson, secretary/treasurer of the Postal Workers St. Louis Gateway Local 8. “This year’s march was much more optimistic – it was all about, ‘OK, what are we going to do about that?’ The answer will be seen in the power of our voices at the polls.”
LABOR WELL REPRESENTED
In addition to the state and local CLUW chapters, Labor was well represented at the march with sisters and brothers from the Missouri AFL-CIO, UFCW Local 655, UAW Local 2250, SEIU Local 1 and St. Louis-Kansas City Regional Carpenters Council.
Several union representatives carried signs highlighting the inequality for women in so called “right-to-work” states and encouraging voters to VOTE NO on Missouri’s “right-to-work” legislation, which will appear on the ballot as Proposition A.
Other union members, like UAW Local 2250’s Shana Shaw and several of her union sisters, marched with signs proclaiming, “Voting is my superpower!” Shaw a 10-year member of Local 2250, said the march was an amazing experience.
‘FIGHT THE WORLD AND WIN’
“I felt a lot of love and a lot of hope,” she said. “It’s that same feeling you have when you’re younger… like you can fight the world and win.”
Lynda Mueller Drendel, an instructor at the Nelson-Mulligan Carpenters’ Training Center and member of Carpenters Local 97, left the march echoing Shaw’s thoughts.
“The march was diverse, empowering and encouraging, and it gave me faith that we can create positive change,” Drendel said.
HISTORIC SURGE IN FEMALE CANDIDATES
The number of Democratic women expected to challenge incumbents in the U.S. House is up nearly 350 percent compared to just 41 women in 2016, according to a recent article in Time Magazine. Additionally, almost 80 women are exploring runs for governor in 2018, which would double the record set for female candidates in 1994.
EMILY’s List, the largest national resource for pro-choice Democratic women in politics, reports that over 30,000 women have contacted the organization about running for office since the 2016 election, and more than 8,000 people have signed up to help women run for office.
LOCAL INTEREST IN RUNNING FOR OFFICE
Women interested in running for office has also risen locally. Margo McNeil, president of the St. Louis Chapter of the National Women’s Political Caucus (NWPC), said the number of women attending the group’s meetings has doubled in recent months.
Last weekend, the caucus held a training session for women considering a run for a political office and those interested in volunteering for a campaign. Women who missed the opportunity and would like to know more about running or volunteering for a campaign can visit nwpc-stl.org.