Every day is Mother’s Day for these inspirational union leaders

Being a union leader and working mum produces a huge variety of challenges but not always the ones you might expect.

Unions Tasmania secretary Jessica Munday finds her daughter using her mum’s union work in creative new ways. When asked to clean her room, she responds in true Scott Morrison fashion: “not my job.”

“They are very much union kids who adopt union campaigns and run with them,” Munday says.

Munday comes from a strong union family and was an SDA union member at her very first job at Coles.

Since then, she has participated in massive campaigns such as the defeating the Howard Government’s anti-union WorkChoices legislation in 2007 and the campaign for universal paid parental leave in 2011.

There’s a lot of individual member stories along the way of members who have been unfairly dismissed or who haven’t been treated well from a worker’s comp point of view – there’s a lot of those you don’t see much or don’t make headlines.

Jessica Munday
Unions Tasmania secretary

Jessica Munday - Unions Tasmania secretary

She notices that as a full-time worker with children, she meets with questions that her husband – also a full-time worker with kids – never seems to be asked.

Jessica Munday at the podium with a baby strapped on
Unions Tasmania secretary Jessica Munday

“No one ever asks him how he works full time and has children. I am constantly asked.”

“I remember feeling that really acutely when my first couple of children were very young. I would get asked almost every day or second day.”

“I think that just goes to show that people still have very ingrained bias around expectations of where mothers should be,” Munday says.

Women leaders creating “power and space” for others to follow

In the past couple of decades, more and more women have taken up leadership roles in the Australian union movement, demonstrating powerful styles of leadership that have not before been seen.

Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) national secretary Melissa Donnelly cites former CPSU national secretary Nadine Flood as one of the many women unionists who have supported her career.

“When I think about women in the [union] movement, I think one of thing we’re really lucky to have now is a number of people to look to,” Donnelly says.

Melissa Donnelly with her young daughter
CPSU national secretary Melissa Donnelly

“To be a good female leader – whether you’re a mother or not – there’s a whole range of examples that you can look to or inspired by or be guided by.”

“Even being a working mum in the role I’m in now – 10 or 20 years ago, that wouldn’t have thought to be possible. But seeing other people do it in all sorts of roles actually creates power and space,” she says.

Donnelly is the first working mum to be in the role of national secretary at the CPSU – and is also the youngest to hold the position.

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