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DARE: The Direct Action for Rights in Employment
by the CWLU Herstory Editorial Committee

(We have photos of DARE activities in our Gallery Section)

Grassroots working class organizing was an important part of the CWLU's work. As socialist-feminists, the CWLU believed that a progressive working class political movement was essential to transforming American society. Focusing their efforts on working class women, DARE sought to organize women at workplaces across the city.

DARE's most successful activity was its steadfast support of the Chicago City Hall janitresses. These women, who cleaned up after Chicago's most prominent politicians, made less than men for harder work. Subjected to demeaning racial and gender discrimination, they were denied fair advancement opportunities.

Led by a janitress named Susan Bates, the janitresses worked with DARE and the CWLU to publicize their situation and bring suit under the Fair Employment Practices Act. Allying with the City Hall janitresses brought the CWLU into direct confrontation with the powerful Mayor Richard J. Daley political machine. After a long and difficult struggle, the City Hall janitresses won the campaign.

DARE also published a newspaper called Secret Storm( not to be confused with a newspaper of the same name published by the Outreach Committee) which publicized struggles at Stewart-Warner, Campbell's Soup, and other Chicago workplaces. Stewart-Warner was a large auto parts plant on Chicago's Northside, which had a core of union activists who were challenging both the company owners and the conservative leadership of their union. Like many plants of that time, there was widespread gender and racial discrimination in pay and promotions. At Campbell's Soup, women workers fought for plant-wide seniority and an end to dual seniority lists, both of which were clearly gender discriminatory.

DARE members were also present at the founding convention of the Coalition of Labor Union Women(CLUW) and were active in its local Chicago chapter. CLUW attempted to unite trade union women, a difficult task because of deep divisions in the AFL-CIO between union bureaucrats and rank & file as well as the divisions among unions.

Reflecting upon their experience in DARE, former members recall the intense effort put into the group as well as the immensity of the tasks that they took on. Working class organizing is often a slow frustrating process of small victories and many heartbreaking defeats. DARE was no exception.