Extending the Labor Day spirit another day, the National Endowment for the Humanities yesterday announced its latest effort to raise the consciousness of working office women like secretaries and clerks.
The NEH has awared a $199,953 grant to a national advocacy organization called Working Women: National Association of Office Workers, which will conduct courses, research projects, film forums and teacher-training programs for office workers -- more than 80 percent of whom are women, the group says -- starting Oct. 1 and lasting two years.
"As the son of the first woman telegraph worker in the Ohio River Valley, I want to thank you," said NEH chairman Joseph Duffey yesterday at a press conference at NEH headquarters to the representatives of Working Women. The project will be conducted in 12 cities. Washington is not one of them. Baltimore is the closest participating city. The group expects about 6,000 office workers to participate. NEH estimates there are 14 million office workers in the country.
"The program will enable many of these women and men to learn about their rich history, their struggles for improved working conditions and dignity," said Duffey to an audience made up mostly of NEH office workers -- plus one toddler who comes to work with his mother as part of what Duffey called "the NEH day-care center."
"The reason why I invited the office staff here," said Duffey, "was because this agency could not function efficiently -- nor probably at all -- without the help of the people here in this room."
Duffey said that the office workers "have never received enough recognition or pay for the work they do for the Endowment." He also said he wanted to make improvements with a proposed series of recommendations to the NEH's office of personnel management.
"We now find office workers are the largest group of workers," said Karen Nussbaum, director of Working Women. "But our worker is characterized by pay and few promotions. I think the clerical workers' movement will be to the '80s what the industrial labor organizing movement was to the '30s."