Founded in Boston in 1973 by Karen Nussbaum, “9to5, National Association of Working Women” began as a local group for female clerical workers but eventually grew into one of the largest national feminist organizations in America. One of its original members, Ellen Cassedy, attended Heather Booth's Midwest Academy, which trained radical activists in the tactics of direct action and community organizing.
Today 9to5 describes itself as a “grassroots membership organization” that works for “economic justice” on behalf of “low-wage women, women in traditionally female jobs, and those who've experienced any form of discrimination.” Under the auspices of its Work/Family Flexibility program, 9to5 seeks to persuade legislators on the national and state levels to enact “family-friendly policies” for such women. Most notably, 9to5 maintains that all workers, including those with part-time and temporary jobs, should be: paid for sick days; covered by unemployment insurance; given greater access to family- and medical-leave benefits; permitted to leave work in order to attend children’s school conferences or routine medical appointments; and paid when absent from work because they are seeking safety from domestic violence. As 9to5 sees it, these are "women's issues" because women are employed disproportionately in part-time and temporary positions.
9to5's Equal Opportunity program strives to eliminate workplace discrimination against women, which it views as widespread, by expanding anti-discrimination laws and educating female workers about their legal rights on the job. To buttress its claim that sexism pervades corporate America, 9to5 laments that “women, on average, earn only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men”; that “for women of color, the gap is even wider”; and that “women and people of color are still underrepresented in engineering and the sciences, in law enforcement, in the skilled trades, and in corporate leadership.” These claims are misleading, however. Research shows that such inequalities are due entirely to the employment choices that women make volitionally, and not to systemic discrimination. Nonetheless, 9to5 calls for “stronger penalties against employers who violate existing equal-pay laws”; “affirmative action policies” that give preference to "women and people of color" in employment and education; and the enactment of “fair pay laws that end gender and race discrimination in valuing jobs.”
Noting that "women are over-represented" in low-paying, insecure jobs that offer few or no benefits, 9to5's Economic Security initiative calls for employers to implement “family-flexible policies,” create “family-supporting jobs” that pay “decent wages,” and provide “protections for [illegal] immigrant families.” It also demands that low-income women be given access to “strong,” government-funded “safety-net programs” such as childcare, healthcare, and welfare provisions. Generally opposed to welfare-reform initiatives, 9to5 decried the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, which moved large numbers of women off the welfare rolls and into the workforce, as emblematic of the “punitive approaches to welfare” that ought to be avoided.
Another key 9to5 initiative is Election Connection, launched in 1996 as a “non-partisan” voter-registration, -education, and -mobilization project targeting low-income women, who strongly tend to support Democratic candidates. In the aftermath of the Florida recount scandal that marred the 2000 U.S. presidential race, 9to5's “Count Every Vote” campaign called for states to: allow ex-felons to vote in federal elections; permit voters to register (and then promptly cast a ballot) on election day itself; require states to provide in-person, early voting opportunities before election day; prohibit states from demanding excuses from voters who request absentee ballots; give voters more options for proving their identity to election officials; and prohibit election officials from rejecting voter-registration applications “that are missing information which has no effect on the specific voter's eligibility.” All of these measures increase the potential for voter fraud.
To promote its agendas as aggressively as possible, 9to5 has published a number of best-selling books, including The Job/Family Challenge and the Guide to Combating Sexual Harassment. Further, the organization has assembled a Speakers' Bureau of “experts” on working-women's issues, who not only give public presentations but also conduct “diversity-training” seminars for private corporations and public agencies alike. A number of 9to5 speakers also have testified before Congress and in state legislative hearings on a wide range of topics.
In addition to its Milwaukee headquarters, 9to5 has local chapters in Atlanta, the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, and Colorado. These chapters and their affiliated activists receive “Action Alerts,” legislative updates, and organizing tips from the parent organization on a regular basis.