This year, Labor Day comes at a time of massive economic uncertainty for women, with sluggish growth and steady unemployment. We asked Linda A. Meric, the executive director of 9to5: The National Association of Working Women, what she was hoping for this Labor Day and the upcoming fall.

Labor Day is the time to bid farewell to summer and to celebrate the many contributions workers have made to this country.  But this Labor Day weekend, America has some unfinished business.

For the sake of working women and their families, we must pass the Employee Free Choice Act. There are many reasons that EFCA and union membership are so important to working women.

Let’s face it:  many families headed by women were having a hard time making ends meet before the Great Recession became reality. But the tanked economy has hit women – particularly unmarried women with children – hard, harder than it has hit others. Last month, the unemployment rate for unmarried women was 11.9 percent, compared to 9.7 percent for the entire workforce.

Still, the problem isn’t only unemployment – it’s low wages and unequal pay.

Women are still paid only 77 cents for every dollar men receive, and women supporting children alone earned only 57 cents for every dollar in married men’s paychecks. For single-parent women of color, the pay gap is even wider.

This leaves women and their children on the margins, struggling to get by. Unmarried women are much less likely to own a home, much less likely to have health insurance, much less likely to have a retirement plan, even less likely to own a car. But unmarried women are more likely than any other adult group to live in poverty. Last year, 21 of every 1,000 single mothers filed for bankruptcy. By comparison, married couples with children filed at a rate of 15 out of every 1,000.

But in the midst of it all, there is a way for all women to earn better pay, have better career opportunities, and have access to better health care, child care, paid sick days, paid leave and a path to a solid retirement.

For women, union membership is the way. According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, union membership raises women’s wages, on average, by as much as 11.2 percent, or $2 an hour, over comparable non-union women workers. Those in unions are 19 percentage points more likely to have employer-provided health insurance and 25 percentage points more likely to have employer-provided pensions. In fact, being a member of a union has a greater impact on a woman’s economic well-being than even a four-year college degree.  That’s huge!

For women, the availability of union membership can seal the deal. They have a hope of achieving the American dream. There’s hope, too, for the next generation. Poverty can be passed from generation to generation, and prosperity can, too. It’s not a stretch to say that unions create generational family stability.

So for the sake of our families, let’s make sure that Congress passes the Employee Free Choice Act. We’ve been debating this far too long. The time is now.

EFCA would allow workers to form a union simply by signing cards indicating that a majority desire union representation. It would provide binding arbitration for employers and workers when they cannot agree on a contract. And it would strengthen penalties against employers who seek to intimidate workers when they are trying to form a union.

All working Americans would benefit from EFCA, but working women who head families would perhaps gain the most of all. And with women as breadwinner or co-breadwinner in more American families than ever before in our history, we can’t afford to be complacent about ensuring the ability to join and bargain through a union.

As you enjoy that Labor Day barbeque, remember there really won’t be anything to celebrate until all women and their families have the opportunity to not only survive, but  thrive.

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