Joyce D. Miller June 19, 1928 - June 30, 2012 Advocate for Working Women

Article excerpt

Joyce D. Miller, an influential advocate for women who believed that equality for them in the workplace could be best achieved through labor unions, and who championed that cause when she broke into the male-dominated leadership of the AFL-CIO, died June 30 in Washington. She was 84.

The cause was a stroke, her son Joshua said.

Ms. Miller was an advocate for women in the workplace for decades. She was a founding member and later president of the Coalition of Labor Union Women, a national group that since 1974 has helped organize women into unions.

In 1980 she became the first woman elected to the executive board of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations.

And in 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed her executive director of the Glass Ceiling Commission, created by the Civil Rights Act of 1991 to study the barriers to promotion that women and minority employees faced in large companies.

When she was elected to the AFL-CIO board, she had been in union management for about 20 years and used to working in a "sea of men," The Associated Press quoted her as saying. She was 52 and divorced with three children. A 1981 photograph of the board shows her in a blue outfit and pearls, smiling, smack in the middle of 33 men in suits and ties.

Ms. Miller saw union membership, collective bargaining and labor contracts as the road to equality for working women, and she believed that women should be a part of union management to make sure that attention was paid to issues like equal opportunity, equal pay, parental leave, child care, health insurance and discrimination against pregnant women in the workplace.

In 1982, at a Manhattan conference on women's difficulties in being admitted to skilled union trades like construction and plumbing, Ms. Miller predicted a "feminization of poverty."

"Employers will say that no real woman wants to work in overalls," she said. "The truth is that no real woman wants to starve."

And to anyone who argued that women earned less than men because they tended to pick less challenging work, she had a reply. …