IWS NYC May Day Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:

Sarah Leonard, srl2126@gmail.com,

Sonni Farrow sonnifarrow@gmail.com

or 347-819-3511

Feminist May Day Coalition Will Build on Success of International Women’s Day for May Day, 2017

International Women’s Strike-NYC  will protest on May Day alongside workers and immigrants. Coalition partners include Brandworkers, Laundry Workers Center, Immigrant Worker Justice, Enlace and ICE-FREE NYC.

Many immigrant workers consider this May Day to be “more special than ever”, in this time of resistance to the Trump agenda. “When immigrants, women, the LGBTQ community, workers and poor people are under attack, we must fight back and organize,” says Rossana Rodriguez of the Laundry Workers Center.

IWS-NYC is organizing the rising tide of women who are not represented by “lean-in” feminism. “We oppose the boss feminism that tells women we can all get ahead if we work hard enough. Not everyone can be a boss – being represented in a boardroom isn’t feminism. The majority of us are not getting ahead. We have worked harder and harder to make up for what decades of capitalist austerity have stripped away,” said Kate Griffiths of IWS-NYC.

“I am going out on May Day for all of us workers – we are immigrants, women, LGBTQ, people of color, and we work in industries across the city. Without our labor, who will serve New Yorkers their coffee, stock their shelves, clean their houses, construct their buildings, who will make NYC run?” said Lydia Tomlin, Restaurant Opportunity Center member and member of the New York Worker Center Federation.

In joining the protests on May Day, IWS-NYC supports the NYC Freedom Cities Movement, a comprehensive movement framework born from the visions of worker-leaders in the New York Worker Center Federation. The NYC Freedom Cities Movement redefines safety and demands that our communities have the resources they need to thrive.

“We know that politicians’ hollow rhetoric of “sanctuary cities” don’t protect our communities, especially under a militarized police force that criminalizes, incarcerates, and systematically collaborates to deport our loved ones. But, our communities are powerful, resilient, and ready to fight. With May Day 2017 as yet another milestone, we’ll continue to organize and build toward the future we want, need, and deserve,” said Oscar Diaz-Jacuinde from ICE-FREE NYC.

The May Day events will include music, performances and children’s activities followed by a walking tour of workplace struggles.

At 12:30, the IWS-NYC contingent will meet on the southwest corner of Washington Square Park.

At 4 pm, the IWS-NYC contingent will meet on the northwest corner of  Union Square.

The International Women’s Strike is a network of women in more than 50 different countries that emerged through planning a day of action for March 8th, 2017.

In the spirit of that renewed radicalism, solidarity and internationalism, the International Women’s Strike US continues to be a national organizing center by and for women who have been marginalized and silenced by decades of neoliberalism directed towards the 99% of women.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zillah Eisenstein “Thinking Out Loud for Organizing”

The IWS/US stands in coalition and support of May 1st actions. And this is why I do too:

Coalitions work to recognize and allow our complex inter-weavings, `double-jeopardy’, `adverse specificity’, ‘multiple status’, ‘bothness’, all-ness, and `intersectionality’ of our being. These complex individual multiple identities exist within the structural systems of sex, gender, race and class. It is not enough to say that sex, class and race intersect with each other. They rather structure the selves and practices that already have multiple expressions. 

In this process, it is important to remove binaries, such as race or class, and instead see them both, and simultaneously, so neither is separate from the other, but remains distinct, nevertheless. Displace the notion that there should be one center and with that rethink what is understood as the margins. We are connected and divided by the threads of sexism, racism, white privilege, militarism, environmental degradation, heterosexism and transphobia. Sexist and racist violence oppresses so many of us, especially women of color, Native and immigrant women. So there is a possible complex camaraderie to build here.

Help build solidarity, rather than unity, on May 1 for the resistance against Trump. We are coming out in support of the “Beyond the Moment” campaign, initiated by the national Black Lives Matter (BLM) network and their partners, that has hailed May 1st as a day to stand up against the ICE raids, and for worker’s rights, especially immigrant and undocumented worker’s rights. Black and Brown people, immigrant communities, the economically unstable, women, children, the disabled, the LGBTQ community, those working to protect our right to work and those fighting for our right to clean air and water, are all facing attacks because of a minority whose values are rooted in misogynist white supremacy.

Joint Statement for May Day

No Ban. No Wall.  No ICE.

On May Day 2017 we will strike from work, we will walk out of classes, we will shut our stores, we will not buy anything: instead, we will march, rally, boycott, and make our voices heard to say that we’ve had enough.

We are a coalition of grassroots organizations, pledging to use the power of solidarity to stop Trump and everything he represents.  We come together with the understanding that our exploitation as waged and unwaged workers has a common cause and our oppressions as people of color and immigrants are connected by threads of sexism, racism, anti-blackness, militarism, environmental depredation, homophobia and transphobia.  The violence of ICE against immigrants is part of the systemic police violence against Black people, Latinx and Native Americans, and the mass incarceration of people of color. Sexist and racist violence oppresses and humiliates women of color, including Native women and immigrant women, every day of our lives.

Trump wants to build walls, ban Muslim people and refugees, while at the same time he is bombing Syria and supporting the dictatorships and oppressive regimes that produce millions of refugees and migrants. It is time to unmask this hypocrisy. To those who say immigrants have no right to be here, we say that we have fled countries that were bombed, occupied and impoverished by the US imperialism and the brutal governments they imposed or supported. On May Day we strike to reclaim the wealth we immigrants helped produce and to establish our right to be here.

We are the workers that grow, harvest, transport, process, cook and serve the food you eat, yet we are paid the lowest wages. On May Day we strike for our fair share of the wealth we create.

We are aware that none of these problems have started with the current administration: we have been deported, exploited, dispossessed, imprisoned, raped, and harassed for years, under both Democratic and Republican administrations. This is why it is time to fight back for our rights, to protect our lives and our future, and to reclaim the wealth we have produced.

We are the 99 per cent: let’s show them our power.

Solidarity is our weapon!

Signatory Organizations:

IWS
Movimiento Cosecha
NARAL Pro-Choice America
Food Chain Workers Alliance
AF3IRM
DSA, Albany
National Women’s Liberation

International Women’s Strike LA, March 8 2017

Click here for PDF version with photos.

As part of the International Women’ Strike (IWS) which took place in over 50 countries around the world, in Los Angeles up to 1000 women, men and children gathered in front of the downtown Federal Building on Los Angeles Street between 3 and 7pm to protest against violence, poverty, discrimination, exploitation, war, the destruction of the environment . . . and for a caring society, for a feminism of the 99%.  Everywhere you looked you saw a sea of women wearing red, with homemade signs ranging from ‘’We are the Resistance’ to ‘Our Rights are Not Up for Grabs’  to ‘No  Separation of Families, No Deportations’ to ‘Labor Rights and a Living Wage for All Workers Including Mothers and Caregivers”.   Prior to the start of the event, participants made beautiful art, drawings and slogans on the street in front of the Federal Building.

Los Angeles sits on Native American Tongva land, and the event opened with words and a prayer by Gloria Arellanes, a Tongva elder.  A broad range of LA communities were represented in the planning of the event and as participants and speakers.

The event MCs were a multi-racial mix: anti-poverty campaigner Nancy Berlin of Alexandria House; Felicia Montez, founder of Mujeres de Maiz;  Margaret Prescod, Women of Color in the Global Women’s Strike and host of Sojourner Truth on Pacifica Radio including KPFK; and Ivy Quicho, national chair of AF3IRM.  They all participated in welcoming the crowd and in the reading of the International Women’s Strike Manifesto (attached) as well as the IWS/US Platform https://www.womenstrikeus.org/our-platform/.

Speakers included: Black Lives Matter/LA, Black Women for Wellness, Veterans for Peace, Hunger Action LA, Every Case Matters, AF3IRM, Global Women’s Strike/LA, Feminist Majority, Gabriela LA, the Women’s March/LA Foundation, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Military Families Speak Out, the International Action Center, ANSWER coalition, 350.org  and more.  Jackie Goldberg, the first openly-lesbian LA City Council member, former President of the LA Unified School Board and former California Assemblywoman, had the crowd fired up as she said, ‘We don’t want to live in the past, we refuse to go back,’ and listed many reasons why; she also noted ‘No woman is out of work, we may be out of paid employment but we are all working’.

Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers and lifelong activist, urged women to use our own voices, and to divest from the Bank of America, Wells Fargo and other banks which invest in the Dakota Access Pipeline.

We also celebrated with music by the Miracle Dolls, Megan Foranda, and Sheila Nichols, and moving poetry by Sabreen Adeeba, DCFS Give Us Back Our Children, and student Hannah Harris of the Get Lit Players.

Knitters from the now-famed pink hat project named after Trump’s boast of molesting women were part of the event’s Knit-In, yarn of many colors were used including  to make the widely known pink hats; the knitters taught participants to make hats, and photos were taken to be posted as part of their Global Virtual March.   AF3IRM brought computers so women could log in the number of hours we were striking – part of their Women’s Strike Calculator to total the number of hours women didn’t work – paid, unpaid, formal, and informal – and its economic value.  An action area was set up and cards were written for women and children held in immigration detention centers, and children did art projects in a mini Kids Village.

At sunset Salina Begay, Diné Grandmother and weaver, had many in tears as she told of their decades-long resistance to the coercive US Government relocation program intended to depopulate the Big Mountain/Black Mesa, AZ, area for the benefit and expansion of Peabody Energy – one of largest coal mining companies in the world.

And at 6pm participants all made LOUD NOISE together, as women did in all cities and communities that took actions as part of IWS; the LA noise was incredible, lasting a good two minutes https://www.facebook.com/peterp.nova?fref=nf.   Many people signed up to continue to work together in unity and resistance.

Earlier in the day the Women’s March/LA Foundation held “A Day Without A Woman” rally which they called the first act of the day, from noon-2pm at LA City Hall’s Grant Park.  Crowds were estimated at 2,000, a sea of pink hats, who danced to the music of two women DJ’s and heard messages of solidarity in this the first mass action by WMW since the huge inaugural weekend protests.   About the International Women’s Strike the Women’s March issued the following: ‘The Women’s March stands in Solidarity with the International Women’s Strike organizers, feminists of color and grassroots groups in planning global actions for equity, justice and human rights.’

The IWS/LA event was organized in 2 ½ weeks.  The planning group was coordinated by Women Of Color in the Global Women’s Strike and GWS/LA and included:  Alexandria House, AF3IRM, Every Case Matters, Feminist Majority, Gabriela LA, Guerilla Food Not Bombs, Martin Luther King Coalition of Greater LA, Military Families Speak Out, Veterans for Peace, and a range of other women including mothers, labor union members, students, an lgbtqia activist.

Media at the event included:

Covered also on radio:

Radio interviews on KNX, KABC, and Insurgencia Femenina on KPFK

Call to Action

Tacoma, WA – More than 750 immigrants join hunger strike at Tacoma immigration prison; detained immigrants also initiate work stoppage to protest their conditions.

Beginning Monday, April 10th people detained in the Northwest Detention Center went on hunger strike protesting terrible livingconditions. The numbers of hunger strikers have grown over the last couple days from 100 to 750. Detention conditions, already terrible under Obama, have worsened under Trump, triggering this latest strike. Under the Obama administration, federal officials at least pretended to be concerned about the immigrantsthey incarcerated. Trump has staffed his immigration force with openly anti-immigrant officials with links to white supremacist organizations, leaving people detained with little choice but to put their bodies on the line to fight for their basic dignity. Attorney General Jeff Session’s newly released memorandum calling for increased prosecutions of immigrants and their supporters, combined with a roll-out where he referred to immigrants as “filth,” highlights the continued need for local resistance to the federal deportation and detention dragnet.

We need your support!! Call the City of Tacoma and ICE
Call the City of Tacoma’s Finance Department and urge them to revoke GEO Group’s Business License. In a March 2017 letter to GEO, Mayor Strickland noted that the City of Tacoma can revoke GEO’s business license if it is a “danger to the public health, safety and welfare of the individuals [detained] as well as the community as a whole.”

• Finance Department, Andrew Cherullo, Finance Director, 253.591.5800

Call ICE and demand that 1) they meet the Hunger Strikers Demands (see below) and 2) GEO Group not retaliate against hunger strikers. We have reports that strikers have been threatened with transfer to facilities away from their loved ones as punishment.

• Acting Field Director, Bryan S. Willcox
• Assistance Field Director (Detention): William Penaloza
• Facility Main Telephone: (253) 779.6000
• Field Office Main Telephone Line: (206) 835.0650

Hunger Striker’s Demands

▪ Change the food menu
▪ Lower commissary prices.
▪ Improve hygiene, including the ability to wash clothes with soap and water.
▪ Increase recreation time.
▪ Have schoolwork and other programs available to keep detainees occupied.
▪ Improve medical attention.
▪ Increase wages for working detainees.
▪ Help speed up the legal process for detainees.

Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/local/article143832854.html#storylink=cpy

Call for an Academic Moratorium on May 1

(Sign the petition here!)

We face a moment of great uncertainty. Elements of the social safety net and basic rights provisions are being rescinded and amended more swiftly than they can be challenged through traditional legal and legislative interventions. Millions of immigrants live under daily threat of separation from their families and communities by intensified ICE raids.

Many of the attacks we face directly affect the university. The arts, humanities, and sciences face not only funding cuts but an assault on the concept of free inquiry itself. Climate change data is being removed from the public domain, university budgets are being held hostage by state governments and the threat of political retaliation by the federal government, white supremacists have been emboldened to commit hate crimes on our campuses, and basic facts have diminishing import in the national debate.

May Day 2017 will be a day of struggle against the Trump administration and the structural conditions under which it originated. A day in which workers across the country, waged and unwaged, will strike, march, rally, boycott, and make our voices heard against the sexism, racism, xenophobia, and homophobia of this administration and against the global system of production that makes it possible. This charge will be led by immigrant workers, hundreds of thousands of whom have already pledged to strike, with several hundreds of thousands more expected, in what could be one of the largest strikes in US history.

We call on the academic community to live up to the promise of higher learning by halting business as usual on May Day as an act of solidarity. While the nation’s workforce pauses to engage in a day of action, universities must pause as well; for staff, adjuncts and student workers on our campuses know well the severity of neoliberal policies and the precarization of work conditions, while students are already facing the terror of ICE raids.

We call on universities nationwide to engage in a moratorium on university operations this May Day so that students, staff, and faculty—domestic and international, documented and undocumented—can engage in a day of demonstrations and teach-ins in solidarity with A Day Without Immigrants. We call on university administrators and faculty to cancel classes, close offices, and postpone maintenance to demonstrate our solidarity with immigrant workers and our support for thoughtful strategies of resistance.

As administrators, we pledge to place a moratorium on all normal university operations to allow faculty, staff, and students to participate in this momentous day of civic engagement, with pay and without retaliation.

As faculty, we pledge to hold teach-ins or join our students participating in protests in lieu of regular coursework.

As staff, we pledge not to work and to afford our student workers the same opportunity.

As students, we pledge to attend teach-ins, demonstrations, and marches instead of classes.

And as members of the university community as a whole, we pledge to take action to defend all those who face retaliation for their participation in the moratorium and other May Day strike actions.

In solidarity,

Linda Martín Alcoff (CUNY and International Women’s Strike)
Sonia E. Alvarez (University of Massachusetts Amherst)
Amanda Armstrong (University of Michigan and IWS)
Elisabeth Armstrong (Smith College)
Cinzia Arruzza (The New School and IWS)
Colleen Asper (Yale University and IWS)
William Aviles (University of Nebraska at Kerney)
George Baker (UCLA)
Etienne Balibar (Columbia University)
Joel Beinin (Stanford University)
Seyla Benhabib (Yale University)
Tithi Bhattacharya (Purdue University and IWS)
Omri Boehm (New School for Social Research)
Ashley Bohrer (Hamilton College and IWS)
Yve-Alain Bois (Institute for Advanced Study)
Chiara Bottici (New School for Social Research)
Samantha Bowden (Rutgers University)
Daniel Bozhkov (Hunter College, CUNY)
Lorna Bracewell (University of Nebraska at Kerney)
Tim Brennan (University of Minnesota)
Robert Brenner (UCLA)
Natalia Brizuela (UC Berkeley)
Katarina Burin (Harvard University)
Ximena Bustamante (CUNY and IWS)
Judith Butler (UC Berkeley)
Jordan T. Camp (Brown University)
Conall Cash (Cornell University)
Benoit Challand (The New School)
Ajay Singh Chaudhary (Brooklyn Institute for Social Research)
George Ciccariello-Maher (Drexel)
Christen Clifford (The New School)
Joshua Clover (UC Davis)
Gus Cochran (Agnes Scott College)
Drucilla Cornell (Rutgers University)
Alice Crary (New School for Social Research)
Altha Cravey (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Simon Critchley (New School for Social Research)
Elyse Crystall (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Erik Davis (Macalester College)
Rochelle Davis (Georgetown University)
Jodi Dean (Hobart and William Smith College)
Doreen Densky (New York University)
Alexis Dianda (The New School and IWS)
Ashley “Woody” Doane (University of Hartford)
Kate Doyle Griffiths (CUNY and IWS)
Susana Draper (Princeton University and IWS)
Mark Driscoll (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Lisabeth During (Pratt Institute)
Zillah Eisenstein (Ithaca College and IWS)
Arturo Escobar (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Samuel Farber (CUNY)
Liza Featherstone (Brooklyn College)
Rochelle Feinstein (Yale University)
Erik M. Fink (Elon Law School)
Kevin Floyd (Kent State University)
Amy Foerster (Pace University)
Erik Forman (CUNY/SUNY)
Hal Foster (Princeton University)
Frances Fox Piven (CUNY)
Anne-Lise Francois (UC Berkeley)
Nancy Fraser (New School for Social Research and IWS)
Elaine Freedgood (New York University)
Eli Friedman (Cornell University)
Charles Fruehling Springwood (Illinois Wesleyan University)
Coco Fusco (University of Florida)
Christina Gerhardt (University of Hawai’i at Mānoa)
Jeremy Glick (Hunter College)
Jeff Goodwin (New York University)
Andrej Grubacic (California Institute of Integral Studies)
Melissa Gruver (Purdue University)
Lisa Guenther (Vanderbilt)
John Gulick (Brooklyn College, NYC College of Technology)
John Halle (Bard College)
Marc Handelman (Rutgers University)
Donna Haraway (UC Santa Cruz)
David Harvey (CUNY)
Christina Heatherton (Trinity College)
Nancy Holmstrom (Rutgers University, Emerita)
Christopher Isett (University of Minnesota)
Aaron Jaffe (Juilliard and IWS)
Aaron Jakes (New School for Social Research)
Joy James (Williams College)
Pranav Jani (Ohio State University)
Donna V. Jones (UC Berkeley)
Branden W. Joseph (Columbia University)
Susan Kang (John Jay CUNY)
Rebecca Karl (New York University)
Joe Keady (University of Massachusetts at Amherst)
Robin D. G. Kelley (UCLA)
Deepa Kumar (Rutgers University)
Despina Lalaki (CUNY)
Kristin Lawler (College of Mount Saint Vincent)
Nicole Legnani (Princeton University)
Zachary Levenson (UC Berkeley)
William S. Lewis (Skidmore College)
Jacques Lezra (New York University)
Laura Y. Liu (The New School)
James Livingston (Rutgers University)
Lisa Lowe (Tufts)
Stephanie Luce (CUNY)
Dana Luciano (Georgetown University)
Yolanda Martinez-San Miguel (Rutgers University)
Liz Mason-Deese (University of Mary Washington and IWS)
Todd May (Clemson)
Michael McCarthy (Marquette University)
Yates McKee (CUNY)
Eduardo Mendieta (Penn State)
Frann Michel (Willamette University)
Karen Miller (La Guardia Community College, CUNY)
Adam Miyashiro (Stockton University)
Jason W. Moore (Binghamton University)
Bill V. Mullen (Purdue University)
Premilla Nadasen (Barnard, Columbia University)
Karen Ng (Vanderbilt)
Dmitri Nikulin (New School for Social Research)
Michelle Esther O’Brien (New York University)
Kevin Ohi (Boston College)
Johanna Oksala (University of Helsinki, Pratt Institute)
Amy Abugo Ongiri (Lawrence University)
Yekaterina Oziashvili (Sarah Lawrence)
Dushko Petrovich (School of the Art Institute of Chicago)
Ross Poole (New School for Social Research)
Charles Post (CUNY)
Vijay Prashad (Trinity)
Jasbir Puar (Rutgers)
Michael Principe (Middle Tennessee State University)
Sid Ray (Pace University)
Eliza Rodriguez y Gibson (Loyola Marymount University)
Avital Ronell (New York University)
Andrew Ross (New York University)
Maria Josefina Saldaña-Portillo (New York University)
Matt Saunders (Harvard University)
Mira Schor (Parsons The New School for Design)
Catherine V. Scott (Agnes Scott College)
Nandita Sharma (University of Hawai’i at Mānoa)
Wilson Sherwin (CUNY)
Jeffrey Skoller (UC Berkeley)
Anthony Paul Smith (LaSalle University)
Ann Snitow (Lang College, The New School)
Eva Soto Perelló (Portland State University)
Carol Stabile (University of Oregon)
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor (Princeton University and IWS)
Millie Thayer (University of Massachusetts Amherst)
Andrew K. Thompson (Fordham University)
Miriam Ticktin (New School for Social Research)
Saadia Toor (College of Staten Island)
Jennifer Tyburczy (UC Santa Barbara)
Ivonne del Valle (UC Berkeley)
William Villalongo (Cooper Union)
McKenzie Wark (The New School)
Cornel West (Harvard University, Princeton University)
Blanche Wiesen Cook (John Jay College, CUNY)
Didier William (Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts)
Deva Woodly-Davis (The New School)
Rocio Zambrana (University of Oregon)
Catherine Zimmer (Pace University)

The First Strike – an interview in Jacobin

by Cinzia Arruzza & Doug Henwood

 

On March 8, International Women’s Day, formerly known as International Working Women’s Day, there was a global strike in the name of feminism. The combination of the strike and an explicitly left feminist agenda drew some criticism from Hillary-style Democrats, and even some people further to the left. It would be too small, too radical, too adventurous to make any kind of political difference.

But March 8 showed that, despite such criticisms, women in the United States were drawn to the political project signaled by the women’s strike. The “Day Without a Woman” saw three school districts close and protests across the country.

Yet the action’s organizers aren’t stopping there; instead, they are already mobilizing for May Day. To discuss March 8’s mobilization, the goals of the women’s strike, and the movement going forward, journalist Doug Henwood spoke to Women’s Strike organizer Cinzia Arruzza, for Jacobin‘s Behind the News podcast.

Below, a lightly edited transcript of their conversation.

How did this idea for a women’s strike come up?

The idea came up after the Polish women’s strike and the women’s strike in Argentina. It was launched by the Polish feminist activists; they were the ones who started working on this project in the fall.

Of course, one big motivation to do so was the extraordinary success of the women’s strike in Poland that managed to stop the abortion ban and to actually give birth to a new feminist movement. Also, the success of the women’s strikes and the demonstrations seen in Argentina.

In January, when we thought of organizing the women’s strike, the international organization of the strike was already going on. We were actually late in the game. The reason we thought it was possible to organize this in the United States had to do with the success of the women’s marches in January. We saw that, given the enormous mobilization of women in January against Trump’s administration, there could be some willingness to also engage women’s strike on a more radical platform.

The strike in Poland, although it was inspired by the abortion ban, did acquire a broader agenda than that, didn’t it?

Yes. Of course the immediate goal was to stop the abortion ban, but the strike was also against gender violence more generally. Especially after the mobilizations in Argentina, the call for the international women’s strike had to do with reproductive justice but also with violence against women very broadly understood.

For example, it considered economic “slow violence” — the violence of policies that destroy welfare state, public services, and also the casualization of labor that impacts especially women. The concept was also broadened to include state violence, in terms, for example, of migration policies or wars that clearly affect women in significant ways.

The idea also was also to give the autonomy to the various feminist groups in the various countries to actually elaborate their own platform, to adjust the platform and demands according to the needs and the concrete situation in each country.

I would say in general the character of the strike was actually much broader than the usual left feminist mobilization on, for example, reproductive justice and gender violence, because it addressed issues of racism, colonial wars, and economic policies.

What was the agenda for the US women’s strike?

For the United States, we put together an expansive agenda that included demands concerning the welfare state — universal health care and public services, reproductive services — and also a minimum wage of fifteen dollars and pay equality. It is very important to combine those two things because clearly wage equality across genders can be achieved also by compressing male wages to the bottom. It’s not sufficient just to demand wage equality.

Then we had a very strong profile in terms of antiracism, opposition to white supremacy, opposition to US wars, imperialist wars, and also the opposition to Israel’s policies in Palestine. We demanded the decolonization of Palestine, which was probably one of the most controversial demands in our agenda, as we were attacked for this demand that was actually key to our platform. We also articulated demands concerning support in favor of indigenous women, especially in Standing Rock.

The idea was to have a platform that addressed the various problems that affect women in a different way according to class, gender, ethnicity, race, or ability. The idea was, in order to have a really universalistic platform, a platform that responded to the demands and needs of the larger majority of women, we needed to emphasize the demands and needs of the most oppressed women, which means immigrant women, women of color, working-class women.

Otherwise, the risk is to put forward very generic demands for women’s rights that actually don’t take into account the fundamental differences in conditions of life and social situation of the women who live in the country.

The women’s march that happened just after Trump’s inauguration was criticized for not having any demands at all. I’ve heard people criticize your women’s strike for having demands that would alienate a broad constituency. I guess women can’t do anything right. How do you respond to that critique?

First of all, it is not entirely true that the women’s march did not have demands. It is true they elaborated a platform only in a second moment, and the platform was relatively progressive, as it included demands concerning minimum wage and social provisioning.

Clearly, the mass mobilization for the women’s marches can be explained also by the fact that although the platform was there, this was not the main mobilizing factor. The main mobilizing factor was opposition to Trump, which means that the people who participated in the marches had not necessarily the same politics, or did not necessarily embrace radical left politics. Certainly, they shared in common an opposition to Trump.

Our platform was set to be more radical and also more articulated, but the reason why we chose to do this was precisely because we wanted to make an intervention in the feminist debate in the United States, and also in the process rebuild a feminist movement for the 99 percent in the United States.

What we wanted to rebuild was precisely a class and left perspective within the feminist movement. In order to do this, we needed to articulate a more complex and more radical platform that would allow us to build a bridge among social groups and women working on different issues and putting forward different struggles.

In a sense, the platform was meant to work as a catalyst, to carry on the work of the re-groupment of the various struggles that are going on in the country.

We were perfectly aware that the size of the women’s strike would not be the same as the size of the women’s marches. This was impossible because, again, the profile of the strike was much more defined and much more on the Left, but this was a precise choice because we felt that our contribution would be significant precisely in delineating a leftist current within the feminist movement.

You’ve also been criticized for using the word “strike,” since this was not rooted in traditional union activity. It was too ambitious. You were calling a strike that would not have mass participation. How do you plead on that?

The most obvious and defensive response could be that we did not invent the name of the day of action. This was again already called as a women’s strike internationally. But this would be a defensive response.

We actually have a more political response, in the sense that appropriating the term “strike” for a day of action for the feminist movement had various meanings and played various roles. First of all, we wanted to make visible the labor that women perform not only in the workplace, but also outside of the workplace, in the sphere of social reproduction.

This work isn’t paid in most cases, but it is nonetheless work, and should be recognized as such. This is why the women’s strike was very different as a concept from a general strike because it was a strike not only from work in the workplace, but also from unpaid work outside of the workplace.

Secondly, I think the meaningfulness of using the term “strike” had also to do with emphasizing the fact that women are also workers, and allowing women to identify themselves not only as women but also as workers.

Thirdly, I think that it is very important to relegitimize the term “strike” in United States. This is not a very popular notion, politically speaking. As a matter of fact, the women’s march had quite an amount of pushback from their constituency that was challenging the notion of a strike. But not from, say, the perspective of labor organizers being worried that we are misusing the term “strike.” Criticism came from people who do not have any sympathy for strike as a form of struggle. From this viewpoint, I think it was very important to reintroduce the notion of striking within the political language in the United States and to relegitimize it.

Finally, we were also hoping to have some strikes in workplaces. We were particularly aware that given the labor laws in the United States, these strikes would not be formal strikes because labor laws prevent workers from organizing political strikes.

From this viewpoint, the day of action was very successful because three entire school districts closed on March 8. For example, in Prince George County School District, apparently 1,700 teachers asked for a day off, and 30 percent of the transportation staff. These are big numbers.

The next step would then be to understand who organized this. I am skeptical that 1,700 teachers decided to take a day off without having any kind of even informal network, but I think the fact that three districts shut down showed that there is willingness and readiness to take some more radical actions in the workplace. This is a very important signal for working on organizing in the workplace.

I’m sorry to keep reciting criticisms of your action, but another one is that you had no sympathy for women who are tenuously employed. It would be too risky for them to strike. How could they have the nerve, to let’s say, walk out, when they could lose their jobs as a result?

First of all, we didn’t ask women to walk out and lose their job. We asked women to organize a strike in the workplace, where they thought the conditions were in place to do so.

The idea that you shouldn’t call for a women’s strike because this would be an action for privileged women because only privileged women can strike is offensive to working-class and migrant women and women of color. It’s extremely patronizing. It is also antihistorical. First of all, precisely the most vulnerable women in terms of social status, race, or citizenship status are the ones who have played a crucial role in all the mobilizations of recent years.

In doing so, they clearly have faced a number of risks. The idea that we should have some form of patronizing attitude toward them, telling them what they can or they cannot do, is extremely offensive. It doesn’t really take into account the agency of these women, who can decide for themselves the risk they can take or they cannot take.

In addition to this, these kinds of criticism came from feminists who have supported Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and who tended then to suggest that a more effective form of protest would be to call Democratic representatives. I think the real political intention behind these kinds of accusations was to downplay a potentially radical actiontaken by women, an attempt to identify in the Democratic Party the political force that will solve our problems.

Clearly, our day of action was precisely to state the opposite. We cannot expect to be saved from Trump by the Democratic Party. We need to take action ourselves, and by the way, we need to take action not only against Trump, but in general against neoliberal and racist policies, even when they are carried out by the Democratic Party.

You used a phrase a little while ago: the “political strike.” People are more familiar with economic strikes. What is a political strike exactly, and what are the relations between it and an economic strike?

This is a concept that is not familiar in the United States precisely because there are no or very few political strikes, and they are not formal political strikes. In a number of countries, political strikes are allowed, and they are strikes that do not have at their core specific economic demands related to the renewal of a contract or a negotiation on the workplace.

It can be strikes, for example, against general policies carried out by a government. For example, one of the biggest general strikes in Italy was the 1994 strike against Berlusconi’s reform of the pension system with the participation of millions of workers. This was decisive in the fall of the first Berlusconi government.

Usually, political strikes take on the government, rather than an individual employer or an economic measure within a specific workplace or firm. In this sense, clearly the women’s strike was a political strike. It was not an economic strike because it was a strike based on a political platform and clearly addressed against a government.

It seems that reactionary governments — you mentioned Poland, and it has one of those, and the Trump administration — seem to have a special place in their heart for misogyny. Is that a correct perception?

Yeah, of course. In recent years we have seen — and this is also why it is so important to rearticulate a clearly left feminism, not only in the United States but worldwide — the co-optation of elements of the feminist discourse by conservative and reactionary racist governments.

For example, Islamophobic policies are very often justified on the basis of pseudo-feminist discourses. The use of this pseudo-feminist discourse also hides the fact that the concrete policies carried out by conservative governments usually target women:, for example, policies centered around reproductive rights and reproductive justice — particularly abortion — but also targeting women on a socioeconomic level by destroying the welfare state or public services.

Certainly misogyny, both implicit in the policies carried down and explicit in the statements of political figures such as Trump or Berlusconi, is part of conservative politics.

There was a critique that there was something wrong with singling out women, having this be a women’s strike, and not something that included men. How do you react to that?

Honestly, in the organization of the women’s strike, we had the help and support of a lot of men. I’m not sure how strong this position is. It is very vocal on social media. I’m not sure how much it really represents a widespread feeling or an opposition among men on the Left. I would be more optimistic.

That said, I think the accusation is absurd in the sense that there is the tendency to think that by emphasizing struggles on issues that are key for specific sectors of the working class, for example, race, one then gives up about universalistic political projects. I would say it is the other way around.

Of course, there is a risk of falling into a kind of identity politics that makes solidarity and universalistic politics impossible. We have seen this in the last two decades. However, I don’t think the correct political response to this is to then suggest that we should make abstraction from differences and hierarchies that are in any case produced by capitalism and divide the working class.

On the contrary, I think the only way to achieve truly universalistic political projects of transformation of social relations is by identifying these hierarchies and these differences, and by articulating demands and critiques that are specific to these different conditions.

From this viewpoint, I would suggest that we’ll achieve true universalistic politics when we will manage to combine together all the various demands and perspectives and critiques that relate to these various positions within the social structure. This is what we tried to do with the women’s strike.

The women’s strike was not based on a strong notion of identity, but rather pointed to the necessity of building a bridge among various women — for example, Muslim women, black women, immigrant women from South America or Central America, working-class women, and so on. The way to do this was not by hiding the differences, but by combining together the various demands in a single platform.

I think the underlying message is, “Shut up. Your time will come.”

I think this is a social media phenomenon, because in actual organizing, we had a lot of solidarity from men on the Left. At the same time, I must say that if March 8 had been an international day of action and mobilization not on a feminist platform, it would have been welcomed with more widespread enthusiasm.

The fact that it was a feminist international mobilization explains a large part of the critiques we’ve received. This is very unfortunate. At the same time, once again, I do think that this is a minority of internet leftists. We can also ignore this phenomenon.

I hope you’re right on that one. Finally, you didn’t conceive this as a one-off thing. You’re still continuing. There will be more events, more organizing in the future, correct?

Yes, we have just decided that we want to continue working together on a national level because this experience was absolutely positive from all viewpoints, also from the viewpoint of the capacity of working together and building solidarity and trust and cooperation among the organizers, who had never worked together previously.

We have identified May Day as the next big national mobilization that we want to contribute to build. The idea is to try to build a very strong left feminist participation in the May Day mobilizations.

You have a little bit more time to organize for May Day than you did for this one. So how can people who want to get involved sign up?

They can write to us. We have a website, and they can email us. We are also creating our database of local contacts and hopefully we will be able to provide a network of activists on a national level, who can then be reference points for those who want to get involved and get organized and participate.

 

Note: originally published in Jacobinmag.com

An Open Letter to Katha Pollitt

by Zillah Eisenstein

 

You wrote many of us on the organizing committee of the International Women’s Strike and asked us why Palestine should be a feminist issue. We all wrote back and you obviously did not like what we wrote. You mention none of our responses to your queries in your recent piece, “Actually, Not Everything is a Feminist Issue”, and instead you just repeat your questions.

Your queries reflect the stance of a white imperial feminist, from a privileged site that does not need to demand full inclusion.

 

  1. Can feminism be too inclusive? My answer, no. Our feminism of the 99 percent cannot be too inclusive, too democratic, or too big.

 

  1. Once you widen the lens of feminism how do you know where to stop? My answer: “we” do not want to stop. For the past ½ century anti-imperial feminists in the heart of empire have been learning how to deepen, what you call widen, our gaze to see more and know more. “We” are hopefully catching up to our sisters of color across the globe.

 

  1. Must women save the whole world? I wonder which women you mean. But “we”–#femnists4the99, are not saving the world, “we” are saving ourselves and with us, the world. Yes, “we” must save our communities, our families, our planet, and thus ourselves from a rapacious, militarized, corporate power structure. Palestine is one critical, but not singular piece of this. As long as Palestine is colonized by Israel and the support of the U.S. there can be no world peace. The apartheid conditions in Palestine have become the challenge of this century as South African apartheid once was. But I already said this to you in our correspondence.

 

  1. What about other countries like Syria? or Iraq? or? Why does the International Women’s Strike (IWS) not name them? Because the question of Palestine lays embedded in these other sites and some of us do name these other conflicts. Each one of us may not be able to be present for each and every action. But “we” can support and sustain each other across differing commitments. The fact that there is so much to be done is not reason to recoil from it.

 

  1. Is feminism at risk of diffusing itself within the left? No. Feminism is multiple at its root/route. Women—trans and gay and cis—are leading Black Lives Matter and they are anti-racist feminists. Women of all colors are leaders of the $15 movement; Native women lead the Standing Rock and DAPL resistance. You see dispersion where I see complex and overlapping coalition building. Feminists connect differing movements and different movements exist within a #feminism4the99.

 

  1. Are feminists becoming “perfect ideologues” and looking for purity? No, #feminists4the99 are looking for solidarity, not unity; complexity, not purity. Differences are necessary and embraced. They enrich and extend us.

 

  1. How do you make a mass feminist movement? By reaching deep and wide. By naming the specific struggles that must be addressed and by doing so actually destroying boundaries and borders that require wars. And, this mass movement may and can become revolutionary if it is opened widely enough.

 

Katha you are holding feminism back, by keeping it defined by liberal and neo-liberal agendas. In the last decades I hope I have grown in my understanding of the complexity of white supremacist capitalist hetero-patriarchy. This has meant a constant engagement with women of color across the globe, most especially my Black feminist sisters here at home. My/our commitments to liberation must remain expansive and creative. Closure is not a goal here.

I have always treasured your defense of women’s right to abortion. But it is time for you to recognize that this singular focus should be used to broaden and deepen feminism, so that our multiple identities are always at the heart of everything. Your fabulous devotion to women’s rights to their bodies—their right to abortion, always—needs to grow and make sure that the color, race, nation, sexual preference of these bodies build the coalitions that are needed for the liberation of all women, and thereby, all of humanity. “We” women must control our bodies, but our bodies are multiple, complex and radically plural across this globe. Drop your imperial gaze and you will see more.

“We” live in impossible times. Economic inequality is at obscene and unconscionable levels; white supremacy continues to be murderous to people of color, especially Blacks; Islamophobia and anti-immigrant policies create impossible conditions. A #feminism4the99 has no choice but to embed itself in these crosshairs.

You get it wrong. When anti-imperial, anti-racist feminists specify Palestine, or world hunger, we do not divide, but rather open the gates to an inclusive humanity. How can you ever be too inclusive? That is like saying, as neo-liberals do, that you are too equal, or too free, or too democratic, or too feminist.

You have clarified the difference between white imperial neo-liberal feminism and the #feminism4the99. I hope you can see the difference/s. If you can, join us.

Solidarity and Continued Struggle: International Women’s Strike on May Day

May Day 2017 will be a day of struggle against the Trump administration. A day in which workers, waged and unwaged, across the country will strike, march, rally, boycott, and make our voices heard against the sexism, racism, xenophobia and homophobia of this administration.

Trump has declared an open war on immigrants, from building a wall between the US and Mexico to bans on Muslims. We stand for dismantling all borders and all walls. This is why the International Women’s Strike will strike with all those organizing for May Day.

As antiracist feminists of the 99%, many of whom are ourselves immigrants, we stand against the vicious ICE raids that have in recent times tried to terrorize our communities and split up families. As cis and trans women we have been in the forefront of organizing against such raids, of defending our families. We are threatened by the loss of our children, not only by ICE but by the barbaric new rules that propose to take our children from us and separate our families at the border. We also face the sexist and racist child welfare system that profits from stealing our children from us and putting them in care or up for adoption with wealthier strangers, where they all too often face abuse and trauma.

The violence of ICE against immigrants is part of the systemic police violence against Black people, Latinx and Native Americans, and the mass incarceration of people of color. This violence and systemic sexism and racism oppresses and humiliates women of color, including Native women and immigrant women, every day of our lives. To those who want to narrow down feminism, we say feminism cannot be narrowed down only to demands over reproductive rights and formal gender equality. Feminism is a struggle against poverty, racism and immigration raids. The women who are part of or aspire to be the 1%, rely on the rest of us, especially immigrant women and women of color, to do the caregiving and service work for low pay or no pay. This is why we will strike on May Day.

To those who dismiss the work that women and non-binary people do in the formal and informal economy, starting with mothers, we say that feeding, clothing, housing, and educating whole communities, providing more unwaged health care than all health care institutions combined, cleaning and maintaining everyone’s homes, is real work and fundamental to sustaining society despite being unrecognized and invisible. Also hidden and disrespected is the work of immigrants, especially women. This is why we will be striking on May Day.

To those who say immigrants have no right to be here, we say that we have fled countries that were bombed, occupied and impoverished by the US military industrial complex and the brutal governments they imposed or supported. U. S. wars are stealing land and resources, exploiting, raping, imprisoning, and torturing people – from Afghanistan and Iraq to Egypt and Syria, from Palestine and South Sudan to Haiti and Honduras. On May Day we strike to reclaim the wealth we immigrants helped produce and to establish our right to be here.

March 8th taught us the power of unified action. We marched, struck work, boycotted and rallied. We will do the same on May Day.

We will do so because an injury to one is an injury to all.

We will do so because as on March 8th, and so on May Day, solidarity is our weapon.

 

Note: originally published in viewpointmag.com