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Pittsburgh Women in Organized Labor @ Pitt Archives: Unemployment Action

The Roles of Women in Pittsburgh's Labor History as seen through the University of Pittsburgh's Archives & Special Collections

Mon Valley Unemployed Committee

The Mon Valley Unemployed Committee was established in 1982 in response to massive unemployment from the closure of many western Pennsylvania steel mills. It is a sub-committee of the Unemployed Committee of Southwestern Pennsylvania (USCP) and it is affiliated with the National Unemployed Network (NUN). The Mon Valley Unemployed Committee is largely involved in peaceful protesting, lobbying, conferences, and hotline services. This organization still exists today.

The organization was very inclusive as to who it would help and who could gain membership. In its bylaws and constitution, dating back to May 1895, membership was open: “Any human being may apply for membership…” The purpose of the organization was “to provide all unemployed people, and other concerned individuals, with a means to meet the following objectives”. The Mon Valley Unemployed Committee did not discriminate with membership, regardless of sex. 

The Mon Valley Unemployed Committee offered hotlines and resources for those affected by layoffs and unemployment. Steffi Domike worked for the MVUC for a period of time and was responsible for St. Peter's Church Food Bank's newsletters.

Fred Wright Cartoon

Steffi Domike's "Mon-Valley Unemployed Committee" Pin

The Rainbow Kitchen

Founded in 1984 by Bob Anderson, Theresa Chalich, and Dolores Patrick, the Rainbow Kitchen opened in response to the devastating impact on local communities of the closing of area steel mills. Originally known as the Homestead Unemployed Center, this organization aimed to help low-income families become self-sufficient through its food pantry, job training classes, and other programs. The Rainbow Kitchen is still open today.

Many women who worked in Pittsburgh industry prior to the de-industrialization of Pittsburgh came to be associated with the Rainbow Kitchen. Sheryl Johnson, a prior steel worker who was featured in the Women of Steel documentary as well as the Struggles in Steel documentary, came to work as a consultant in the Job Bank Outreach department for the Rainbow Kitchen in 1986.

Tri-State Conference on Manufacturing

Founded in 1979 as the Tri-State Conference on Steel, the Tri-State Conference on Manufacturing was a coalition of labor unions and activists that fought the effects of de-industrialization in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Although generally fighting the overall effects, the Tri-State Conference on Manufacturing also included women’s struggles within the steel industry. Materials included within this subsection were Women of Steel newsletters and flyers, information on new pieces of legislature, and booklets from the United States Department of Labor Women’s Bureau. On April 29, 1979, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed, which prohibited sex discrimination based upon pregnancy.

Additionally, there is information on a “Conference of Concerned Women Steelworkers for a Decent Contract”, an Ad Hoc Committee of Concerned Women Steelworkers. Informational booklets released by the US Department of Labor Women’s Bureau included:  “The Earnings Gap Between Women and Men” (1976); “Most Women Work Because Of Economic Need” (1977); “Steps to Opening the Skilled Trades to Women” (1974); and “Women Workers Today” (1976).