International Women’s Day Strike and Rally in Geneva

Geneva, NY – In Geneva on March 8th, over two hundred women and their supporters walked out, went on strike, and rallied in front of FLX Live on Exchange Street in solidarity with women across the globe. From Madrid, to London, to Buenos Ares as well as across the United States, women took to the streets in opposition to sexual and racial violence, economic inequality, aggressive policing and endless war. This is the second year that Geneva women have joined this international demonstration.

The March 8th event continued the energy that has been building all over the US in the #Me, Too and Time’s Up movements of women against sexual harassment. The demonstration in Geneva highlighted women’s work. Women brought items or made posters representing their work and hung them on red clotheslines displayed inside FLX Live.  Tamarie Cataldo, of Geneva, brought hair-curlers, an apron, and a page cut from a 1950s women magazine from the 1950s titled, “I Hate Being Pregnant and I Hate Sex.” She explained, “I brought the magazine cut out to show how far we’ve come in sixty years but also how things have remained the same. Women still have to plan the meals and stock the cupboards. We engage in an endless stream of household chores and still can’t achieve the flawlessly decorated and spotless homes that society expects. The capitalist machine banks on women performing these invisible tasks without for free.” The women’s collective art project will be on display at the Geneva Historical Society from March 15 till April 10.

Rather than featuring well-known speakers, the Geneva event opened the mic to anyone who wanted to share why she was on strike. Maggie Maclean, who came all the way from Buffalo to attend, said, “I strike because as an autistic woman I experience discrimination every day. I strike because as an advocate for people with disabilities my work is too often unrecognized by other activists. I strike because the Trump administration is trying to roll back the Americans with Disabilities Act. I strike because health care for those with disabilities is a feminist issue.”

Melissa Rodney, of Geneva, performed her spoken-word poem celebrating radical women like Maya Angelou, Angela Davis, and Assata Shakur. The poem’s last stanza says:

Today we don’t mourn, we celebrate.

Our presence

here and now

and the anger, frustration, that lives at our core

keep it . .  .remember it . . . . USE IT

Geneva, they told me to sit down, shut up and stay still.

Look cute.

My voice is not needed here.

I said, “Our voice . . her voice .  .my voice . .

Its just the beginning, you have no idea what is to  come . . . . .

The event concluded with an announcement of a new initiative to end sexual harassment of restaurant and service sector workers in the Finger Lakes. Between seventy and ninety percent of restaurant workers have experienced sexual harassment. Over half of that harassment comes from customers. Finger Lakes Against Sexual Harassment (FLASH) is building a solidarity network of customers, community members, workers, and neighbors who can be counted on to support and defend workers who report harassment and discrimination in their workplace. For more information, go to fingerlakesagainstsexualharassment.com.





 

Workers at the Stamford Hilton Hotel walked off the job Thursday March 8

Workers at the Stamford Hilton Hotel walked off the job Thursday March 8 to show their determination to get a good contract. They crowded the main hotel entry way for nearly 2 hours chanting, “No contract, No Peace.” Prominent on the line were housekeepers who had already proclaimed their solidarity with the women expected to march in other countries around the globe on International Women’s Day. 

International Women’s Strike Connecticut joined the picket line in solidarity. The new group, inspired by The IWS US Platform, made the clear connection between the Stamford union fight and millions of women marching in the streets on International Women’s Day demanding better wages, working conditions, an end to sexual abuse, immigrant rights, an end to racism, healthcare, and jobs. 



The Feminist Horizon – An Interview with Jodi Dean about the International Women’s Strike

By Maximillian Alvarez

Reposted from The Baffler

AS THE ORGANIZERS OF THE INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S STRIKE(IWS) have declared, March 8, 2018 will be “a day of feminism for the 99 percent.” One year ago to the day, International Women’s Day, women and their allies around the globe participated in the first International Women’s Strike, which was billed as “A Day Without a Woman.” Building on the international momentum from the Women’s March earlier in 2017, strikers took to the streets and demonstrated from Tokyo to RomeIstanbul to Mexico CityManila to Los Angeles. In the United States, school districts in multiple states were shut down, demonstrators filled city centers and university grounds—even some elected officials in Washington, D.C., showed solidarity.

As any movement will, the IWS received its fair share of criticism, and the longer-term success of the 2017 strike remains up for debate. But what does “success” actually entail in this case? After “A Day Without a Woman” last March, things seemingly went back to “normal”—Trump was still president, racism and patriarchy continued to run rampant, the exploitative machinations of capital hummed along merrily, drowning out the cries of a world in pain. In the hyper-mediated swarmof our eternal political present, anything short of instant, spectacular gratification—or anything shy of immediate, tangible gains—feels like a failure. In this sense, the mere fact that IWS is back for a second year is already a significant achievement. But the women and allies driving the new feminist movement behind IWS have set the bar much higher. One could hardly look back at the dramatic and widespread efforts to dismantle patriarchal power over the past year and suggest that this movement hasn’t become a formidable force. The real question is: what next?

Like last year, the IWS on March 8 is slated to be a “political strike”; that is, a strike whose concerns are not limited to the workplace. The IWS organizers take a wider view of all the forms of women’s paid and unpaid labor within interlocking, global systems of discrimination, exploitation, and violence. In the words of Tithi Bhattacharya, one of the national organizers for the IWS in the United States, “the reason people strike is because of the poor conditions of their life. It’s not necessarily that they strike because of their job. . . . A political strike gives a wider, deeper context to the meaning of struggle and the gains to be had from struggle and solidarity.” And, indeed, it is in movements like the IWS that “the meaning of struggle” is being rewritten for a new age.

The notion of left internationalism in the twenty-first century has felt, more often than not, like an outdated fever dream. Limping toward the quarter-century mark, one would have plenty of reason to believe that ours is a leftist political scene riven with irreparable divisions, that ours is a political era where the potential for broad solidarity has splintered among conflicting camps of innumerable allegiances, concerns, and identities. It is in this sense that one cannot help but see the international feminist movement driving IWS as a kind of circling of the wagons. Reading the IWS organizers’ platform, one is struck by the breadth of the issues they are striking against: sexual violence, racism, economic insecurity, destruction of the climate, the erosion of the social safety net, mass incarceration, imperialism, police violence, and border controls, etc. But one is struck with even greater force by the way that the IWS corrals these seemingly disparate issues into a singular, infinitely demanding rejection of the systemic conditions of life itself, around the world, for the women of the 99 percent.

If not a new proletariat itself, the IWS and the movement it represents is still harnessing the forces of proletarianization in everyday life under global (racist) capitalism. In response to the many, irreducibly diverse kinds of pain and struggle this totalizing system imposes on women around the globe, women are forging expansive, flexible forms of solidarity without which a better world can’t be imagined, much less realized. On March 8, this solidarity will manifest once again in an international political strike, but it will by no means end there. I sat down with Jodi Dean, activist, author, and member of the IWS National Planning Committee, to get her perspective on the strike and what it means for feminism and the future of leftist politics.

 

So, the International Women’s Strike is back. Last year’s showing was really impressive but, clearly, it wasn’t just a flash in the pan. What does this tell us about the political movement driving IWS?

It tells us that women are fierce, mobilized, and radically unwilling to let corporate white liberal Democratic Party celebrity feminism steer the movement.

The IWS in the United States is in an interesting place. On the one hand, International Women’s Day is a big deal all over the world. There are intense preparations going on in Argentina and the UK, for example, mass assemblies and rallies to prepare for the international women’s strike. And this is part of a long tradition. Many countries observe IWD with rallies and marches and other events (some places seem to me to not get it quite right as they observe it by giving women flowers). IWD even had a role in the Russian Revolution. China Mieville brings this out beautifully in his fantastic book, October. IWD helped ignite the February Revolution. After multiple meetings and rallies, speeches and celebrations, detailing the conditions of women, criticizing the war, and emphasizing the unbearable cost of living, women poured into the streets of Petrograd. Crowding into the most radical working-class districts of the city, they shouted for men to join them. Soon 90,000 were in the streets calling for bread, an end to the war, and an end to the monarchy. Strikes, marches, and demonstrations continued over the next week and led, ultimately, to the overthrow of the tsar. Anyway, my point is that the United States has been a sad outlier from the international recognition and celebration of International Women’s Day. Considered from an international perspective, the energy in America around the women’s strike last year and this year is us playing catch up.

On the other hand, there is something specific and exciting about the way that the International Women’s Strike caught on last year and is building this year. The outpouring of opposition to Trump last year in the January 21 demonstrations and this year in the January 20 demonstrations shows women protesting at a scale that we haven’t seen in the movement in a very long time. Women are mad. Fed up. Many are inspired by the #MeToo#UsToo, and #TimesUp campaigns that have resulted, finally, in holding men at the top of the food chain accountable.

For many women, these marches are the first time they’ve participated in mass demonstrations, the first time they’ve protested. For some, this is not an easy step: they move from understanding themselves as good citizens and from understanding politics as voting to something new, to a sense of themselves as activists and to politics as requiring radical change. Their new vocabulary helps reinforce their new political identity—Per-sisters and Nasty Women, terms used to denigrate Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton that newly politically energized women have embraced. So even if the shift here is from pantsuit to pussy hat, it needs to be commended—and recognized as absolutely necessary if there is to be anything close to progressive change in the United States.

Last year’s demonstrations were primarily about outrage—anti-Trump and despair over Clinton’s loss. This year’s January 20 protests were more ambiguous. Anti-Trump was still a feature, but so was the sense of power from #MeToo as well as a new and growing emphasis on using the electoral process at multiple levels to try to change the system. We saw in the January 20 protests, then, both a great deal of effort to push women into electoral campaigns and a sense that the deep problems in the U.S.—the racism and white supremacism, the militarism and imperialism, the violence against women and sexual minorities, the hostility toward immigrants, the carceral system and aggressive policing, the refusal to deal with climate change, and, of course, the ever intensifying economic inequality—won’t be solved through elections. The work of Black Lives Matter, the Standing Rock Sioux, long-standing radical feminist organizing going on below the radar, and the efforts of many other fighters made this realization possible. In sum, because of their work we also saw in the January 20 protests large groups of organized women refusing to be sheep-dogged into electoral politics and already heading in a more radical direction.

These are the energies driving the International Women’s Strike in America. Last year, committed socialist women with years of movement experience formed a national organizing committee as a way to bring a concrete political vision to the rapidly growing struggle. Like last year, a key goal of this year’s strike is building and giving voice to a Feminism for the 99 percent. This is a feminism that refuses to let the success of one rich white woman detract us from the real conditions of most women’s lives—conditions of racial inequality, of gender violence, of economic exploitation and inequality, of workplace sexual harassment, of a police and criminal justice system designed to protect the rich and kill the poor, of inadequate health care, education, and housing. These are all women’s issues. In effect, these are all elements of a single struggle against racist capitalist patriarchy and for a society of the many.

On the crest of the #MeToo/#TimesUp moment, with the IWS, the Women’s March, etc. looming large in the landscape of political resistance over the past year, would it be wrong or naïve to say that, as far as the future of the left is concerned, women are in the driver’s seat?

It would be correct! Now here’s the tricky part: does this mean that left men are finally acknowledging the work that radical left women have been doing for years? Does this mean that women are doing the work we’ve always done? That we are taking care of everything, arranging everything, etc, just like we do in the domestic sphere and the men are coasting along and benefitting, perhaps finding ways to capitalize on our labor or getting more leisure time while we end up spending countless hours organizing? Are left men being driven around by women chauffeurs, or are they working with us as comrades in emancipatory egalitarian struggle?

Maybe another way to approach this question is to consider what’s changed. Is it the case that men are learning to listen and to follow? Have men on the left stopped trying to dominate everything—and have the last thirty-odd years in the neoliberal wilderness actually led to some concrete changes in gender relations on the left such that men have learned to make some space? Is it a generational shift such that younger men are less likely to think that theirs are the only voices in the room?

Or have men essentially been forced to acquiesce to women’s leadership and, if so, has this force come from left women or from the determinations of capitalism? A materialist analysis would draw out the concrete changes in the composition of the labor force, in college education, etc., and this would direct us to the way that larger numbers of women throughout the paid labor force (although of course not every sector is the same; some remain gendered in ways others do not) combined with the various hits men have taken have generated conditions where women’s leadership is necessary for survival. (This dynamic is already a long-standing feature of the lives of many African-Americans.) From this angle, it appears that changes in women’s educational and economic circumstances have put us in a position of more opportunity and capacity for leadership. Women are taking the lead in so many sectors of the movement. It feels to me like we are filling a vacuum.

I really like the way you flipped the question. I think doing so leads us to reframe not only what’s happening with politics from below, at the grassroots, but also what is happening at the highest echelons of power. It’s easy to despair and see the Trumpian takeover of the political scene as a world-historical repudiation of the values IWS stands for (Trump himself would probably be the first to say so).

In response to this world-historical shift, the left has been scrambling to repair and adjust, to point fingers, to locate and get rid of the supposedly poisonous parts of our politics that many argue have led to our current defeat. But as I listen to you, and look at these massive mobilizations of feminist energy, a different, more encouraging picture emerges. That also seems to be the case if we think more broadly about the kind of solidarity and action we’re seeing with teens across the country in the wake of the Parkland, Florida, shooting—to say nothing of the fact that the millennial generation has shown itself to be way more receptive to socialism than any other. These shifts make me wonder whether the Trumpian rebellion really is a sign of the world-historical rejection of the things the left fights for. Maybe it instead represents the violent thrashing of interlocking systems of patriarchal, racist, exclusionary, exploitative power that are threatened by the rumbling from below. Stripping away as much naïveté and groundless optimism as possible, never once losing sight of the dire state of things, would you say that the left currently has more potential than many, including lefties, realize?

Yes, yes, yes! We have to look at the “Trumpian rebellion” as a reaction. I want to say it indeed marks a reaction to left power, but, to be honest, that might slide too far into groundless optimism even as we must recognize that there is nonetheless a certain truth to it. The right really does react to left power. In fact, the right sees the left as more powerful than the left sees the left! The right excoriated Obama as a communist—which is awesome because it means that they think the left is so powerful that we can get a communist in the White House! (There was a stupid song and video by Victoria Jackson from SNL called, I think, “There’s a communist living in the White House” that came out soon after Obama was elected.) The NRA presents any step toward even the slightest regulation of guns as socialism—again, good for us, because it presents us a powerful force. And, you probably saw that Steve Bannon recently said that the anti-patriarchy movement is going to be bigger than the Tea Party. “Time’s up on ten thousand years of recorded history. This is coming. This is real!” Right-wing hysteria, then, provides some pretty good grounds for left optimism.

But, if we want to be a bit more measured in our analysis of the objective conditions, we can say that the “Trumpian rebellion” is a reaction to a set of different and combined developments. Yes, there are the forces of extreme inequality and the failure of the left to maintain a vigilant, widespread, and clear vision of socialism, together with a decline in white men’s sense of their life chances, that is, in the likelihood that their lives will be better than their fathers’ lives and the sense that Hollywood and Democratic elites are mocking them. We also see an allied fear of the increased economic and political presence of heretofore marginalized groups: a fear compounded when they see the power of people standing up and fighting back, like with Occupy, Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock, and the movements against aggressive policing, fossil fuels, debt, eviction, and deportation—all of which were going on under Obama.

So, yes, the left has more potential and more capacity than we realize, and we should understand “realize” here both as “recognize” and as “make real.” Our capacity has to be realized in practice, that is, through organizing, which is exactly what the IWS intends.

In Fortunes of Feminism, Nancy Fraser contributes to the deeply uncomfortable but necessary effort to confront the history of second-wave feminism’s often unconscious susceptibility to being absorbed by and serving the needs of capital “in the shift from state-organized capitalism to neoliberalism.” This is, of course, a subject you’ve addressed yourself on many occasions, and it certainly seems to be a self-conscious staple of the movement behind IWS—and not just because Fraser herself is on the National Planning Committee. What really stands out, though, is when Fraser suggests that, in the wake of neoliberalism’s structural crises—from the Great Recession to the Trumpian takeover—feminism might yet emerge as something radically reformed, in both the sense of a concrete social movement but also as  “an empty signifier of the good (akin, perhaps, to ‘democracy’), which can and will be invoked to legitimate a variety of different scenarios, not all of which promote gender justice.” Is this how we should be trying to understand what’s happening with IWS and, more broadly, with feminist politics today? What kind of shift does that require in how we think about and live feminism?

Super interesting question. My first impulse was to say that it was Clinton’s feminism that functioned as an “empty signifier of the good,” that it is the mainstream white liberal capitalist carceral feminism of “progressive neoliberalism” (Fraser’s apt term) that circulates effortlessly through popular culture as a soft marker of the woke. It functions ideologically to reinforce capitalism, to provide capitalist brutality with a woman’s face. So, we get Lena Dunham feminism, Katy Perry feminism, and the reduction of political struggle to personal self-advancement. This is what immediately came to mind with feminism as an “empty signifier of the good” invoked to legitimate a variety of different scenarios.

But then of course I would not want to associate IWS with this kind of feminism! Part of the issue is the utility of a concept like “empty signifier.” I don’t think it tells us very much. In the instance of feminism, the different uses of “feminism” don’t point to the emptiness of “feminist” as a signifier. “Feminism” always signifies a politics focused on improving women’s lives. The different uses or understandings come from the real political divisions over what improvement entails. The tension or difference is around what is to be done, the diagnosis of the problem and the recommended solution. The signifier isn’t empty. Rather, the politics necessary for realizing it are contested, divergent, at odds with one other. Put in the old-school terms of 1980s women’s studies: there are different feminisms, liberal feminism, radical feminism, socialist feminism, etc. IWS’s Feminism for the 99 percent is anti-racist socialist feminism. Rather than thinking that feminism can be reduced to liberal emphases on access and opportunity, anti-racist socialist feminism seeks to overturn the structures of women’s oppression—white supremacy, capitalism, heteropatriarchy, the carceral and imperialist state. It recognizes that these are a single formation and that the politics they mobilize are different fronts of a common struggle.

My second impulse, though, went in the direction of thinking about why exactly feminism is at the vanguard of contemporary politics. The answer involves the renewed attention to feminist social reproduction theory as in the work of Silvia Federici, Mariarosa Della Costa, Selma James, Maria Mies, and others. Tithi Bhattacharya has an excellent new edited volume of work in this area, and Viewpoint magazine published an issue devoted to social reproduction a year or so ago. The UK-based activist group Plan-C has made social reproduction a focal point of their organizing. Canadian feminists have also been working in this area for a while now. Social reproduction is even becoming a force for organizers in small cities and rural communities. For example, the Geneva Women’s Assembly in Geneva, New York, (where I live) has placed social reproduction at the center of our strike organizing and political work.

Fraser herself has written a couple of excellent articles on the current crisis of social reproduction. As I see it, social reproduction is the most exciting area of theoretical and practical work for feminists and socialists alike. It names the kind of inquiry that current conditions demand: how can we go on collectively, given the dramatic increases in inequality, militarism, and incarceration, and given the decrease in life expectancy and crumbling infrastructure such that basics like drinking water, schools, bridges, and roads are contaminated and decayed? Likewise, given the collapse of families, communities, and social institutions—and given the floods, fires, hurricanes, droughts, and other signs of climate-based catastrophe—how do we conceptualize the basic goals of our social order? Social reproduction focuses on the labor through which society reproduces itself. Much of this labor is unpaid. Much of it is done by women. All of it is necessary and all of it is under threat.

Can you say a little more about how social reproduction frames what we’re seeing with the movement behind IWS?

Traditional Marxist labor politics emphasizes organizing at the site of production because that’s a place where the contradictions of capitalism are concentrated. The bosses want more work for less pay and the workers want more pay and less work.

The sphere of reproduction is also a site where capitalist contradictions appear. Consider everything that goes into the reproduction of the labor force: workers have to be born, cared for, housed, clothed, fed, educated, and transported. In contemporary capitalism, most households that include children do not also include full-time caregivers. The adult or adults in the family work full-time. Childcare is very expensive. The school-day and the work-day often don’t correspond. There is a tension here, a contradiction between the conditions of labor and the conditions that produce laborers.

We can go further and note the absence of adequate and affordable housing in urban centers. The result is that more and more people face long commutes. But the transportation infrastructure—like most public services—has been left to decay. So, commutes take longer and are less reliable, which is very hard on parents who may then have to pay overtime for their childcare providers and even risk losing their spot in daycare because they haven’t picked up their child on time. Let’s add in the problem of adequate drinking water from lead contamination that plagues the United States, the over-crowded and under-funded schools, the extreme expense of health care, and, why not, the opioid epidemic and decline in life expectancy because of the rise of diseases of despair. These problems are crises of the social, crises that impair the capacity of society to reproduce itself. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the 1 percent is a genocidal class. They want the rest of us to die. They have fought to eliminate (imprison and murder) black and brown people, and now their willingness to kill off the poor, the bottom quintile, is the thematic core of their politics. When markets determine everything, only the rich survive.

A women’s strike brings to the fore the invisible labor that has sustained the system and that is under threat. It makes us all take notice of how much work is required just to survive and how the capitalists do everything to dispossess us of everything—social lives, time with friends and family, health, leisure, a future. The IWS platform calls for full-social provisioning, which means meeting social needs and securing the means of life. This call arises out of an analysis of social reproduction.

So, it’s kind of obvious, but still important to note that the very makeup of twentieth-century popular labor movements helped to reify common notions of what did and didn’t count as work, who the workers were, and also, as a result, where worker solidarity began and ended. This is something that IWS is addressing head on. There’s a really powerful line in the IWS Platform: “As working women who hold up half the sky we refuse to be divided over the kind of labor we perform, whether skilled or unskilled, formal or informal, sex work and domestic work.” The stated refusal to be divided is kind of a double gesture, looking backward at past divisions at the same time it’s looking forward towards a horizon of solidarity. What does—or what should—solidarity really mean here? Can we still call this a kind of class solidarity or is it something else?

IWS is building class solidarity through feminism. I am reminded here of Claudia Jones’s insight into black women’s triple oppression—as black, as women, as workers. The analysis of triple oppression is what enables us to see how different workers are connected, how the capitalist system deploys racism and patriarchy to divide the working class, keep wages suppressed, supply some workers with little advantages over others that they can enjoy (the man who comes home to a wife, the white woman able to boss around the black woman cleaning her home). The little advantages are the ways the capitalist system tries to inoculate itself against a strong and united working class. Anti-racist socialist feminism organizing demonstrates that this trick is a means of oppression and exploitation, that it is no substitute for actual equality. Under capitalism, class struggle permeates every aspect of our lives. When money buys freedom, when money is necessary for the exercise of one’s liberty or rights, only the rich are free.

Women are at the forefront of the new working-class politics, the politics unfolding across the social field, from workplaces and neighborhoods to prisons and pipelines. We see it in the initiatives of hotel workers, domestic workers, restaurant workers, teachers, and nurses. We see it in the struggle against the carceral state. We see it in campaigns for environmental justice. All of these are fronts in today’s class war. The bourgeoisie, the ruling class, the 1 percent don’t have to amass in the streets. Corporations own the political system. Rich people don’t protest; they buy the politicians they need (just ask Charles Koch and Rebekah Mercer). The widespread work of radical women organizers hammers home the fact that women have always been part of the working class, whether they were working in the factories or managing consumption in the domestic sphere. Marx knew this even as some twentieth-century labor organizers forgot it. Working-class struggles always exceed union struggles—just think of tenant organizing, hunger marches, CPUSA’s anti-lynching campaigns, anti-war work, not to mention the social and community support work necessary for labor strikes to endure and succeed. Today’s crisis of social reproduction is not felt by the 1 percent, with their offshore accounts, private schools, private planes, and multiple houses. It’s felt by the proletarianized, by the people as the rest of us.

Under capitalism, solidarity isn’t automatic. It doesn’t follow spontaneously from the fact of shared conditions. It always has to be built, sustained, renewed. Strikes are of course a key training ground for solidarity—they require it and they inspire it. Workers have to stand together; they have to support each other to remain united even in the face of the real material hardship of striking.

And strikes depend on the families and communities of the workers as well—the workers need to see others seeing them as fighting the good fight. Solidarity, then, is unity in struggle—standing together and having each other’s back. It means not letting the capitalists with their ideologies of individualism and competition divide us. With respect to the broad terrain of today’s class war, solidarity demands commitment to collectivity, to collective struggle and collective solutions. People have to keep their eye on the enemy, the racist, patriarchal, capitalist system, and not let themselves get sidetracked into moralism, sectarianism, and what have you.

The IWS represents a broad, multi-tendency left politics that recognizes the multiple forms and sites of work and the interlocking nature of oppression. It aims to make women’s work visible, oppose the deep and varied forms of violence that pervade our society, and push us toward the reorganization of society such that “the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.”

Jodi Dean is an author and academic living in Geneva, New York, where she organizes with the Geneva Women’s Assembly. She joined the U.S. IWS organizing committee this year.

Solidarity with West Virginia Teachers’ Strike

International Women’s Strike USA (IWS) stands in solidarity with striking teachers in West Virginia, and looks to their struggle for inspiration.  More than 20,000 teachers launched a strike for higher wages and for fully funded health benefits, that lasted into its fifth day; teachers in the state make the fifth lowest salaries in the nation, at an average of $45, 240, behind Oklahoma where teachers were recently reduced to four day work weeks so they could supplement their pay with retail and other part- time work. Teacher solidarity successfully closed all of West Virginia’s public schools, putting power behind their demands for up to a 10% wage increase, accessible health care and an end to the attacks on public education by charter school privatization.  

The strike in West Virginia goes beyond a struggle for a living wage for teachers; teachers there see their role as educators and defenders of public education as crucial supports for students and communities in one of the USA’s poorest states. Prior to striking, teachers organized replacement lunches for a students, in a state where 25% of children live in poverty and many rely on free lunch and breakfast programs to eat regular meals. CNN reports that some lunches were even personally delivered by picketing teachers early in the morning before long days on line and at rallies in the state capitol. Cuts to education do not just impact teachers, but whole communities.  Strikers, who are mostly women, are fighting back as working teachers, but also as leaders in their communities, as breadwinners, and as educators.

This week, women in WV are also facing attacks on abortion access including a bill to ban Medicaid funding of abortions, and an amendment to make this bill constitutional. We stand with West Virginia women’s right to reproductive control of their bodies and lives and against these attacks. This demonstration of the power and importance of social reproductive labor, and of women’s leadership and broad based solidarity in the fight against inequality, austerity and rapacious rule of the elite is exemplary of International Womens’ Strike’s vision of reviving the strike. We stand with West Virginia teachers and ask our friends, comrades and allies to support them by raising awareness and funds for teachers. With support, teachers can strike to win; with the inspiration of their victory, we can spread the movement.

https://www.gofundme.com/wv-teachers-strike-fund

The Impossibility of the International Women’s Strike is Exactly Why It’s So Necessary

BY CAMILLE BARBAGALLO

The international women’s strike is impossible. Really, it is. But let’s be very clear – the impossibility of the women’s strike is precisely why it is one of the most important things that needs to be done. The impossibility of the women’s strike is not because the women’s strike is not a ‘real’ strike (you know, when blokes in unions walked out of factories); nor is it impossible because apparently it’s only for ‘privileged’ women, or because unprivileged women cannot strike. The impossibility emerges when we confront the reality of women’s work and what striking means today.

The timing of the international women’s strike to coincide with international women’s day is a powerful reminder of women’s history. Firstly, women have always worked – it is just that sometimes we don’t receive a wage for the work that we do. The history of international women’s day – beginning with a strike of women garment workers – many of them immigrants – in Manhattan in 1908 forces us to complicate the easy picture of men at work and women in the home and reminds us of the centrality of women’s waged labour to the development of capitalist production and that women have always struggled and gone on strike. Not only for better wages and conditions but also, as the thousands of striking Russian women of 1917 did, for peace, for bread and for roses.

For many years now international women’s day has been divorced from its radical history and has instead been captured by a particular brand of feminism – some call it ‘white feminism’, others corporate or neoliberal feminism. We have been told to ‘celebrate’ being a woman, to look at all those gains ‘we’ have made, like ‘girl power’ and all that leaning in to ‘get ahead’ in the workplace. Over the last few decades we might have had a rally scheduled for one weekend a year at best, and women’s equality has been reduced to a conversation about the gender pay gap and getting more women into positions of power.

But throughout these years there have also been many of us who have been critical of this brand of feminism – we have been clear that the ‘gains’ have not been distributed equally and that for feminism to be part of the solution it must be anti-racist, anti-colonial, anti-capitalist and inclusive of sex workers and trans women, and that it must bring the uneven distribution of reproductive labour and working class women’s realities to the centre of what we mean when we say women’s work.

It’s worth repeating. Women have always worked, but sometimes (even perhaps much of the time) we don’t get paid for the work we do. Like washing the dishes, having sex, reading a bedtime story to a young child or remembering your mum’s birthday and then remembering to send the card on time. What all these activities have in common is that they are work we can understand to be reproductive.

Reproductive work – which can be either waged or unwaged – is all the work we (mostly women) do that makes and remakes people on a daily basis and intergenerationally. The gendered division of labour means it is mostly women who do this work in the home and when they go out to work. And like most work that happens under capitalism it is work that involves conflict, struggle, violence, exploitation and expropriation. Under capitalism, we reproduce human beings as labour power. We reproduce people as workers. We reproduce them as class subjects who are disciplined, educated, skilled and moulded – to ‘know their place’, whether to be a manager, a mother or to work like a dog for someone else for less than the minimum wage.

But when we talk about reproduction it is crucial that we also consider the radical potential of struggling with questions of labour and life. The decisions and choices that we make in how to conceive, (un)birth, raise and educate our children, take care of our elderly, control our bodies, organise our households, families and relationships are crucial in imagining and practising new emancipatory societal models which are free from colonial and racial oppression, capitalist exploitation and patriarchal control.

When we bring this understanding of reproductive work into conversation with striking – which can be usefully understood as withdrawing one’s labour from the current capitalist conditions of production and reproduction, which is what the current call for the women’s strike is challenging us to do – the impossibility of striking becomes more visible: when it comes to a large amount of care and domestic work (both paid and unpaid), this work cannot stop. Sure, we can refuse to do the housework for a day or two, but when it comes to the care of children or the elderly, the very fact that reproductive labour is what keeps us and those we love or are paid to care for alive means that reproductive labour cannot be refused. Under the current conditions of capitalism, reproductive labour can only be redistributed either through processes of commodification or to someone else in an unwaged capacity.

In bringing together a politics that confronts women’s work in both its productive and reproductive capacity we are able to confront the impossibility of the women’s strike with something else: a demand for the reorganisation not only of production but of reproduction. Capitalism relies on and needs unpaid reproductive labour and our care work. We have to strike against the system that requires and relies on our lives being valued differently or our work not being valued at all. For this reason, the liberation we are fighting for can never be reached within capitalism. We have to collectively refuse to continue to offer our labour, our services and our care to those who seek only to maintain their power and profits. We strike to make our power visible, we strike in order to win.

Camille Barbagallo is a member of Plan C and is a feminist, mother, militant and researcher (not necessarily in that order) currently living in English countryside

This article was originally published on 6th March 2017 on Novara Media

It Is Time – #Feminism4the99

Reposted from FeministWire

By Zillah Eisenstein

On March 8th women—in our complex identities—across the globe and across the U.S. will join together to make our resistance against the exploitation of women in all its guises public, collective and visible. #MeToo and #TimesUp are two recent public displays of the outrage against sexual exploitation in its harassing and assaultive forms—from sexual intimidation to rape. This intimidation and oppression exists everywhere our labor is done—in each and every kind of work we all do.

Our moment—women of every variety and across our race and class—is filled with chaos, and exhaustion AND amazing acts of resistance. Women of color—Black, South Asian, Latinx, Indigenous, and…[on and on]—have been resisting their coercion for decades against colonialism and imperial domination. Black women fought first as enslaved laborers in chattel slavery in the U.S.—then the courts, then against police coercion, etc. Feminisms of all sorts have demanded recognition of women in the labor force, as domestics in their own homes and hired care-givers, as consumers, as service-workers, as home-aides, as…[on and on]. “We”—the big “WE” do not want to limit the breadth and scope of our labors, and our laboring.

But much of women’s labor is often not recognized and is usually made invisible to others. For much of this labor there is no wage, or an unfair one due to sexual exploitation. Few women earn at the rate of their male counterpart. (72 cents to the dollar is the usual conversion). The movement #FightFor$15 expresses the demand for a living wage—from the waitress, to the caregiver, to all workers.

If ever it made sense to work with whatever differences exist between us and stand together, this is the time. With Donald Trump continuously demeaning women—his own bragging of “grabbing pussy,” the multiple sexual harassment charges against him that he refuses to address, his continual defense of sexual predators and domestic louts in his administration, it is time to show our muscle.

Given the explicit white supremacist policies endangering immigrants, refugees, and any person of color, women of every color, especially white women, must stand in resistance openly, publicly and together in this moment.

On March 8, 2018 come together with other women—in your apartment building, at your day care drop off center, at your job, with your friends, on a march, on a demo, and take an hour to support and love each other. For incarcerated women, know that we will be carrying signs of rebellion on your behalf. For women too disabled to come together, let us find and make new venues.

Whatever any of each of you can do, let us know by sending a note of what you are doing to https://www.womenstrikeus.org.

Let us end the double day of labor.

Let us end the triple day of labor.

Let us end sexual exploitation.

Let us end sexual harassment of every sort—from the workplace to policing and prisons.

Let us end sexual violence in every form.

Let us end rape.

Let us find our strength in numbers.

Let us find our strength in our mutual support of each other.

Let us use our strength in building bridges and learning from each other and caring for each other as we would care for ourselves.

If you want to make a public stand against the terror of misogyny and its capitalist exploitation of women, especially women of color, transgender women, women who are disabled, women who are incarcerated, homeless women, women of the working and middle class, women in our troops, take time on March 8 to come together.

Women—99 percent of us—are the workers of the world. We—every kind of us—hold up more than half the sky!!!!

Our statement for 2018, begins:

On 8 March, we will go on strike against gender violence – against the men who commit violence and against the system that protects them.

Last year on 8 March we, women of every kind, marched, stopped work and took over the streets in fifty countries across the world. In the United States we rallied, marched, left the dishes to the men, in all the major cities of this country and countless smaller ones. We shut down three school districts to prove to the world, once again, that while we sustain society we also have the power to shut it down.

8 March is coming again and things have gotten worse for us as women in this country.

And for the full statement: https://www.womenstrikeus.org/2018/02/02/we-need-a-feminism-for-the-99-thats-why-women-will-strike-this-year/

No action is too small and no imagined act of resistance too big. Let us see each other and give each other support on March 8. Then “we”—the 99 percent—will take this forward for rebellion in 2018.

Women Across the Globe Are Planning to Strike on March 8. Here’s Why.

Reposted from In These Times

Welcome to Interviews for Resistance. We’re now into the second year of the Trump administration, and the last year has been filled with ups and downs, important victories, successful holding campaigns, and painful defeats. We’ve learned a lot, but there is always more to learn, more to be done. In this now-weekly series, we talk with organizers, agitators, and educators, not only about how to resist, but how to build a better world.

Cinzia Arruzza: I am Cinzia Arruzza. I am one of the national organizers of the International Women’s Strike.

Tithi Bhattacharya: This is Tithi Bhattacharya. I teach at Purdue University. I was one of the national organizers for the International Women’s Strike last year and I am doing the same this year.

Sarah Jaffe: Let’s start off talking a little bit about this year’s strike. What is being planned and why did you decide to do it again this year?

TB: I think everybody knows the context of last year’s strike, which started with an extraordinary level of international coordination between feminists globally. This year, those contexts remain and, in the case of the United States, have been enhanced in a way with Trump’s election. It was a natural conclusion that it would be repeated this year both internationally, as well as in the United States.

CA: On November 25th, there was also an international day against gender violence. Not in the United States, unfortunately, but around the world we had some very massive demonstrations. The success of this day of mobilization also gave the impulse to think that it was possible to organize another strike this year.

SJ: Let’s talk about the history of women’s strikes, because this is something that has been around for several decades in the women’s movement, but is coming back right now

CA: Women’s strikes are not entirely a novelty. The precedent of the women’s strike was in the 1970s, the Women’s Strike in Iceland for equal wages. Two years ago, the Polish feminist movement decided to retrieve this form of struggle and to organize a women’s strike in Poland against the country’s abortion ban. The same happened in 2016 in Argentina with waves of the women’s strikes and mobilizations against gender violence.

Starting from there, and especially given the enormous success of these mobilizations and strikes in Argentina and Poland, there was the idea of trying to organize an International Women’s Strike on March 8th. Women’s strikes are a very powerful way of mobilizing for the feminist movement because they make apparent not just the victimization of women, but also the power that women have in so far as they are workers who work both in the formal labor market, but also in the social reproductive sphere, at home, and so on. This labor is very often not recognized or valued as it should be.

TB: Even last year when this was declared, there was some pushback over the word “strike” because the understanding of the word “strike” as it has come to be accepted is work stoppage at the point of production. That is a very important and powerful definition of “strike.” However, the word “strike” has several other historical applications, some of which Cinzia just went through.

I think one of the things that we found it very easy to talk about in the context of last year, as well as this year, is the difference between a workplace strike and a political strike. I think the Women’s Strike was a very important contribution to the legacy of a political strike because in the context of the neoliberal decline of union density globally, because of the active attack on unions since the 1970s by the global ruling elite, I think working-class people have significantly lost the most powerful weapon to strike within the workplace, which is unions.

I think, in that context, a political strike is very important because what happened on March 8th last year, just in the United States, was called a strike. We were very dedicated to maintaining that identification of that word, but what happened as a result was that there was intense political discussion about the relationship between workplace and non-workplace kinds of mobilization.

We strongly believe that in a period where there is a loss of power to take action in the workplace, the political strike is a useful way to restart that conversation and perhaps flow back that power into workplace mobilization.

SJ: We have seen the revival of interest in the idea of the political strike, especially in the United States since Trump was elected. It is interesting in this moment that we are seeing a revival of the idea of the political strike even as unions, particularly in this country, but globally, as well, are struggling.

CA: In a sense, this marks the fact that workers are deprived of one of the most crucial means of struggle and protest that is usually recognized in other liberal democracies. I am not even speaking about insurrectionary forms or struggle. Political strikes do take place in a number of countries. They are legal, they are recognized, and they are a very powerful tool whenever the government seems to be impossible to challenge or to influence in another way.

I do hope that the appeal political strikes are having in this moment can actually re-open political conversation and a political campaign to reform labor laws and to really rethink in a very deep way what labor rights should look like in the United States. Because the United States has the most anti-democratic labor laws among liberal democracies. It is really a very exceptional situation.

TB: In terms of the political strike there are two things that are really important. One of the important things to remember, when questions of women’s labor is paramount, is the reason people strike is because of the poor conditions of their life. It’s not necessarily that they strike because of their job. It is because their job is a means to live their life and when conditions of life are deteriorating, that is when people consider doing something about it in their workplace.

This relationship between life and work is often forgotten by union bureaucracies. Union bureaucracies like to treat the union as another kind of a salaried little space where job struggles are negotiated as simply contract negotiations. But, for working class people, it is not about the contract negotiation—it is about their lives and lived conditions.

A political strike gives a wider, deeper context to the meaning of struggle and the gains to be had from struggle and solidarity. I think, particularly in this context, political strikes play that vital role of reminding people between lived conditions of workers and work conditions and how they are both connected and actually necessary to be connected.

SJ: This strike is coming in the midst of the #MeToo movement. Talk about this context where there is this renewed conversation about sexual harassment and sexual violence and how that is playing into this year’s strike and organizing.

CA: I think that we should also see a connection between the wave of feminist mobilizations around the world in the past year and a half and then the explosion of the #MeToo campaign.

The #MeToo moment has been a very important moment in the United States and also internationally because it has made apparent what a lot of women already knew, which is that sexual harassment and violence are part of the everyday life of the majority of women, either in the workplace or at home or in the streets. Clearly, gender violence does require a collective response. So, from this viewpoint, the Women’s Strike is not so much an alternative to #MeToo. It is rather one contribution or one attempt to try to give a collective response to the isolation that victimization produces.

The idea is that the step forward after #MeToo, after denouncing individually all the harassment and violence that we have suffered throughout our life, there must be, also, the moment of collective organizing and collective response. Otherwise, the structural conditions that enable this gender violence to continue are not challenged. One of the risks of the current attention on the issues of gender violence is that we will get rid of a few obnoxious harassers, some famous and some less famous, and this is all good, of course. I welcome this moment of catharsis, in a sense. But this is not going to solve any problem.

The real problem is not individual nasty men. The real problems are the structural conditions that create the conditions and the impunity for gender violence and sexual violence. We have learned in the past months to what extent women are harassed and abused as women in the workplace, but this clearly has to do with the hierarchical nature of labor relations within the workplace, with the lack of power that the workers have.

Also, from this viewpoint, the lack of unionization, the lack of labor rights in the United States clearly create further conditions for gender violence because women are going to be constantly afraid to speak up against their views of a colleague or of an employer, precisely because they don’t feel they have any kind of protection. They don’t feel that they have any kind of organizing, collective infrastructure that can actually protect their interests.

TB: I am just going to add actually three very specific things to the #MeToo moment that I think March 8th is concerned with. This is the beginning of why we addressed #MeToo in our organizing. The first is: When last do you remember seeing discussions of work conditions in The New York Times repeatedly? That is what #MeToo has done. We have never seen so many articles in major media outlets about working conditions of women. Yes, it has been mostly about sexual violence, but it has actually exposed how dictatorial and brutal the workplace is for most women, but also for most people. This is a tremendous discussion. I have not seen discussions of working conditions to this extent. This is a very welcome development that for the first time in many years we are seeing questions being raised about what it means to be a worker in this country.

The second is a realization that was limited first to socialists and radicals in this country, but has now begun to become common sense. That is that we all know that since the early part of the 20th century, there has been an undoubtedly marked increase in women’s rights and women’s participation in the public sphere and the sphere of work. We have, in a way, through struggles, improved our lives as women.

But, on a parallel track, I think what has happened is the rights of workers have declined precipitously, particularly since the 1970s and 1980s with the rise of neoliberalism. Now we have a contradictory situation where our rights as women have improved over the years, in a certain sense, but the rights of workers as a whole have declined. Which means, that in workplace situations women, particularly, are vulnerable.

The solution that capitalism has offered us is “Because you can improve as a woman, then it is every woman for herself.” The solution offered to bad conditions of life and work for women has been, of course, Lean In. That you can improve and you can become a CEO. That is the second kind of development.

The third, which I think is very significant for our purposes, is the fact: How do we then fight back? We all know domestic violence exists to a horrific extent both in the United States and globally, but the advantage of a workplace discussion in this situation is that there are witnesses and there are people who have experienced the same thing because they are your co-workers under the same disgusting rapist boss. There is a collective confidence because you have been through this collective experience and this is why, I think, the voice of the #MeToo campaign is amplified because it comes from a collective place of resistance.

SJ: Tell us about the organizing for this year’s strike. What is planned where so far and about the international solidarity work going on, as well?

TB: Internationally, I have been on a few phone calls with the international organizing and it is actually going really well in various parts of the world, notably Italy, Spain, Poland, Argentina, and various other places in Latin America. In the UK, where I was last month, the core organizing center is called The Women’s Strike Assembly and they are doing fabulous work in linking up March 8th with the ongoing discussions and organizing for university-wide strike of faculty that is coming up. They are making contacts with faculty members across the UK to coordinate strike action and the organizers in the UK are tireless in going to various strike meetings, etc.

In the United States the plan is that across the country, on March 8th we will stop work for one hour as women in order to show the bosses and their backers in the White House that because we produce the wealth in society, we can also stop producing that wealth and stop society from running. It is a symbolic reminder of our power as women and workers. We are working with various unions to make that happen.

CA: We have reactivated a form of national planning committee that is basically a network of various activists across the country who are volunteering their time and their work for this strike. We had, in New York, a public launch of the Women’s Strike with a wonderful panel that was featuring some really incredible speakers.

In this sense, this event, for example, gave a sense of the kind of energy, but also the kind of women that the women’s strike is trying to organize, especially working-class women, minority women who are not just participating in the strike, but also waging a lot of struggles and fights in the workplace, against ICE, and so on and sometimes actually winning something and showing in this way that collective action actually does get the goods sometimes.

We think we will have demonstrations and marches and walkouts in most of the biggest cities in the States. Organizers are already working on the strike in LA, in the Bay Area, in Portland, in Philly. We are also receiving a lot of contacts, emails, messages from people who are interested, who read, for example, the article we published in The Guardian calling for a strike in the United States this year and who are interested in getting on board.

This is an entirely voluntary effort that is really based on grassroots organizations. It is self-funded. People are volunteering their time and their work, but in a sense, this is also the beauty of it, in the sense that around the organization of the strike, we are somehow consolidating an area of anticapitalist feminism that is offering an alternative to the kind of corporate and Lean In feminism that has been dominating in past years. I think there is the political space and desire for this, at least judging from the response that a lot of feminist activists around the country are giving to the idea of organizing on the strike and the enthusiasm that they are putting into this project.

Of course, those who want to get on board can contact us through the website or the Facebook page and organize a strike in their city.

Interviews for Resistance is a project of Sarah Jaffe, with assistance from Laura Feuillebois and support from the Nation Institute. It is also available as a podcast on iTunes. Not to be reprinted without permission. 

We need a feminism for the 99%. That’s why women will strike this year

The Guardian, 27 Jan 2018

On 8 March, we will go on strike against gender violence – against the men who commit violence and against the system that protects them.

Last year on 8 March we, women of every kind, marched, stopped work and took over the streets in fifty countries across the world. In the United States we rallied, marched, left the dishes to the men, in all the major cities of this country and countless smaller ones. We shut down three school districts to prove to the world, once again, that while we sustain society we also have the power to shut it down.

8 March is coming again and things have gotten worse for us as women in this country.

In the one year of the Trump administration we have not only been pelted with verbal abuse and misogynistic threats in the guise of official statements, the Trump regime has put in place policies that will continue such attacks on us in deeply institutional ways.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act guts exemptions that benefit low-wage workers, the vast majority of whom are women. It has plans to savage Medicaid and Medicare, the only two programs left in this cruel neoliberal landscape that support the elderly and the poor, the sick and the disabled, family planning and children – and hence women, who do most of the care work. And while the act denies health care to immigrant children, it introduces college savings for “unborn children”, a chilling way to establish by legal fiat the “rights” of the “unborn child” thereby assaulting our fundamental right to make decisions about our own bodies.

But that is not the whole story.

With these multiple warfronts opened against us, we have not cowered. We too have fought back.

When last fall women with public visibility and access to international media decided to break the silence about harassment and sexual violence, the floodgates were finally opened and a stream of public denunciations inundated the web. The #Metoo, #UsToo and #TimesUp campaigns made visible what most women already knew: whether in the workplace or at home, in the streets or in the fields, in prisons or in Ice detention centers, gender violence with its differential racist impact haunts women’s everyday life.

What has also become clear is that public silence about something we have always known, endured and fought back against, does not exist simply because we are afraid or ashamed to speak up: the silence is enforced. It is imposed by Congressional laws that make women go through nearly a year of mandatory counseling and mediation, if they dare to make an official complaint. It is affected by the criminal justice system that routinely dismisses women’s reports using additional layers of intimidation and violence. On university campuses, willing administrators find clever “legal” means to protect the institution and the perpetrator while throwing women to the wolves. The racist foundations of these legal procedures demand further resolve.

#Metoo, #UsToo and #TimesUp have not just exposed individual rapists and misogynists, they have ripped apart the veil that hides the institutions and structures that enable them.

Racialized gender violence is international as must be the campaign against it. US imperialism, militarism and settler colonialism foster misogyny throughout the world. It is no coincidence that Harvey Weinstein, in his long years of trying to silence and terrorize women, used the security firm, Black Cube, which is made up of former agents of Mossad and other Israeli intelligence agencies. We know that the same state that sends money to Israel to brutalize the Palestinian Ahed Tamimi and her family also funds the jails in which African American women like Sandra Bland and others have died.

So, on 8 March we will go on strike against gender violence – against the men who commit violence and against the system that protects them.

We believe that it was no accident that it was our sisters with social standing that first made visible what we all knew. Their ability to do so was stronger than our low wage sister, so often of color, who cleans rooms in that fancy Chicago hotel or the sister who picks fruits in the Californian fields

The vast majority of us do not speak out because we lack collective power in our workplace, and are denied social supports such as free health care, outside of it. The job, with its low wage, with its bullying manager and abusive boss, with its long hours, becomes the one thing we fear losing, for it is the only means for providing food for our families and providing care for our sick and infirm.

We do not keep our mouths shut. We are forced to keep our mouths shut by capitalism.

So, on 8 March we will speak out, personally, against the individual abusers who tried to ruin our lives, and we will speak out, collectively, against the economic insecurity that prevents us from speaking out.

We will strike because we want to expose our personal abusers. And we will strike because we need social welfare provisions and living wage jobs to feed our families as well as the right to unionize, should we be fired for standing up against their abuse.

So, on 8 March we will strike against mass incarceration, police violence and border controls, against white supremacy and the beating drums of US imperialist wars, against poverty and the hidden structural violence that closes our schools and our hospitals, poisons our water and food and denies us reproductive justice.

And we will strike for labor rights, equal rights for all immigrants, equal pay and a living wage, because sexual violence in the workplace is allowed to fester when we lack these means of collective defence.

8 March 2018 will be a day of feminism for the 99%: a day of mobilization of black and brown women, cis and bi, lesbian and trans women workers, of the poor and the low waged, of unpaid caregivers, of sex workers and migrants.

On 8 March #WeStrike.

Linda Alcoff, Cinzia Arruzza, Tithi Bhattacharya, Rosa Clemente, Angela Davis, Zillah Eisenstein, Liza Featherstone, Nancy Fraser, Barbara Smith, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

Support Maru Mora Villalpando against ICE!

Maru Mora Villalpando is a member of the National Coordinating Committee of IWS and an immigrant activist and organizer in the Puget Sound region of Washington State. She has lived in the United States for more than 25 years and in 2014 she came out as undocumented. She now leads NWDC Resistance/Resistencia al NWDC, an organization that strives to abolish immigration detention and deportation, and that organizes around the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, WA.

In an act of retaliation, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has chosen to target Maru directly, for no reason other than her activism and organizing against the immigration agency. She recently received a Notice to Appear letter, signifying the beginning of a deportation process against her. She is still waiting for her court date and could be detained at any time. You can read media accounts here and here.

The International Women’s Strike – US strongly opposes ICE’s persecution of Maru and all other undocumented immigrants who are now facing the risk of deportation. Please, help us resist ICE’s retaliation against our sister Maru.

Here is the support that Maru has asked for. Follow these links:

1) Donate to Maru’s deportation defense fund. Donations will be used to support Maru in her fight against ICE, including organizing costs, legal costs, and emergency costs in case of Maru’s detention.
https://www.youcaring.com/marumoravillalpando-1071888

2) Sign this petition and share it:
https://action.mijente.net/…/ice-serves-deportation-notice-…

3) Donate to NWDC Resistance. We are not backing down in our fight against detention and deportation.
www.nwdcresistance.org/donate

4) Now more than ever, be present in NWDC Resistance’s actions. The next one coming up is our 3rd Annual People’s Tribunal on February 4th at noon at the Northwest Detention Center.
https://www.facebook.com/events/2006428029682183/

#MaruVersusICE #ICEfreeWA #ICEfreeUSA

Immigrant Women Workers Testimony Project Launches

IMMIGRANT WOMEN WORKERS TESTIMONY PROJECT

This project consists on collecting a series of testimonies from women workers from the immigrant organizations, worker centers and cooperatives we have been working with at IWS-NYC. In them, we ask them to talk about their personal stories; the work they do, the importance they attribute to it and the conditions under which they do it; the way in which they organize to defend their labor rights and improving their working conditions; and the reasons why they are going to strike on May 1st. The intention is to build a collective profile of immigrant women’s labor in nyc; contribute to the visibility campaign of the strike called by immigrant-based organizations and movements for May Dayand engage with the women from the groups we have been working with, in both a personal and political level. 

 


 

Testimonio – “Ana*”, Palante Green Cleaning

*Los nombres han sido cambiados

“En mi país, Argentina, uno escucha de las cooperativas, pero en fábricas recuperadas, como en la película La Toma! Si nosotros hacemos la mano de obra, también podemos manejarnos solos”.

            Yo nací en Mendoza, Argentina. Bueno, mi papá es boliviano y mi mamá es argentina, pero yo crecí en Argentina. Más que todo me fui de mi país porque quería salir a conocer algo nuevo. Vine con ganas de estudiar,pero se me hizo medio difícil. Me dí cuenta que la situación es difícil para la gente que no tiene papeles y quiere estudiar. Quería ser programadora de computación. Había hecho unos cursos en Argentina. Pero por el idioma, por no tener papeles, y por estar sola (fui la primera de mi familia en venirse) tuve que decidir si iba a trabajar o estudiar y pues tuve que trabajar. No tuve de otra. Es difícil. Uno no piensa en eso, pero en mi país sabía que contaba con mi mamá y mi papá, pero acá es todo distinto.

Ya estaba por regresarme. Perdí dos boletos de avión de regreso a mi país. La segunda vez fue en el 2013 porque me salió esto de las cooperativas. En el 2013 había pasado lo del huracán Sandy y tuve la oportunidad de trabajar para restaurar después del desastre. Me dejaron trabajar pero me pedían que tuviera la tarjeta de OSHA. Así es como conocí a Make the Road,  la organización no-lucrativa que incubó a la cooperativa. En Make the Road me contaron que iban a formar una cooperativa de limpieza. Me preguntaron que si quería venir a participar en la charla donde nos iban a contar cómo iba a ser lo de la cooperativa. Nos hicieron una entrevista. Después me llamaron para decirme que si podía seguir con las entrevistas y los talleres porque había salido apta. Ellos buscaban a personas con experiencia y como yo tenía experiencia con lo de Sandy, creo que por eso me quisieron. Aunque tenía mi boleto para regresarme, no soy de las personas que me gusta irse sin probar primero. Después de un año de entrenamiento, decidí quedarme y perder mi boleto.

En los talleres, nos enseñaron de qué se trataban las cooperativas—estudiamos el manual de socio y discutimos qué producto íbamos a proveer. Tomó un año de entrenamiento e  inauguramos. Así salió “Pa’lante Green Cleaning”. Ha cambiado mucho porque el octubre pasado sacamos a las cooperativas de la organización Make the Road. Ellos están haciendo cambios y cerraron el programa de fuerza laboral donde estaban incubando a las cooperativas.

Yo fui unas de las primeras que recibió un trabajo. Primero fue Claudia con una oficina y la siguiente fui yo.  Estamos haciendo el trabajo de limpieza, pero nos estamos enfocando también en buscar más lugares que nos contraten. Estamos empezando a sacar adelante nuestro negocio, pero es difícil porque estamos compitiendo en un mercado capitalista. Así son las demás compañías que existen.  Estamos empezando a concientizar a nuestros clientes y educar a la la gente sobre de qué se tratan las cooperativas y cómo somos diferentes a las demás compañías. Tenemos flyers que usamos para promoción,  donde explicamos cuál es la diferencia entre una compañía y una coop: que somos dueños y trabajadores a la vez.

No tengo familia aquí. Mis compañeros de la cooperativa son como mis familiares. Ya te acostumbras a verlos en las reuniones. A veces tenemos conflictos como una familia. Es duro porque todos somos mentes distintas, culturas distintas. Existen los conflictos a veces. Somos la mayoría mujeres latinas—y un hombre. Somos de diferentes países. Somos diez personas que formamos parte de la cooperativa.

Yo quise intentar esto de las cooperativas porque se me hizo interesante. En mi país, Argentina, uno escucha de las cooperativas, pero en “fábricas recuperadas,” como en la película “La Toma!” Yo en Argentina trabajaba en una fábrica, así que cuando empecé a aprender más sobre aquello, se me hizo interesante. Ver esto te produce un sentimiento de que sí se puede. Si nosotros hacemos la mano de obra, también podemos manejarnos solos. Se trata de intentar manejarnos solos y si podemos sacarnos adelante nosotros mismos. Se trata de unirnos—a los que saben, pero al mismo tiempo capacitando a otras personas que tal vez no sepan.

Yo me vine en el año 2000 antes de que pasara todo eso de las fábricas recuperadas. Lo que pasó es que la economía se cayó en Argentina. Habían personas que venían del extranjero a poner fábricas en mi país, pero ellos se llevaban las ganancias de regreso con ellos a donde estaban. Entonces al entrar Argentina en crisis dejaron muchos las fabrica y la maquinaria y es cuando los trabajadores empezaron a ver que ellos podían hacer un cambio a la economía ellos mismos. Vieron que podían porque eran la mayoría. Yo creo que las personas quieren trabajar. Aún más cuando es tu negocio. Le echas ganas porque sabes que es tu fuente de negocio y de vida. Yo creo que los americanos se están dando cuenta de lo que pueden ser las cooperativas. Los estamos educando. Decimos, ¿sabes que sos dueña y vas a tratar de hacer el trabajo lo mejor posible para que los clientes salgan satisfechos?

Creo que del grupo he aprendido mucho. Antes no sabía que significaba ser líder. Claro, tenía la experiencia trabajando con un equipo durante el huracán Sandy cuando trabajábamos en equipo porque todas las casas se inundaron. Y también ayudé cuando pasó lo de las torres gemelas. Cuando yo llegue a la cooperativa, ya sabía mucho de trabajar en grupo. Me gusta trabajar en grupo y traigo esas experiencias al equipo. Ahora me encargo de un grupo de gente en Bellevue. A veces es mucha responsabilidad y tengo que aprender a delegar el trabajo. A veces hay que dejar que la demás gente se involucre porque la coop no es solo mía, sino de ellos también. Todos tenemos que dar un granito de arena. Yo si no sé cómo hacer algo, voy a tratar de aprender,  porque así soy. Siempre quiero ver en qué puedo colaborar, en qué puedo ayudar.

Les recomendaría a otras personas unirse a la causa porque así es como puedes garantizar que te están pagando lo justo. No mucho, pero lo que es. No estás trabajando para una compañía y trabajando por una miseria porque los patrones se van con el dinero. Eso es lo que tiene de bueno trabajar aquí. No te están explotando trabajando. Eso es la meta de las coop, yo creo—que no exista la explotación laboral!

Se que lo puedo hacer y lo voy a hacer, pero en verdad quiero aprender más el idioma [inglés]. A veces no me da tiempo. Hace dos semanas empecé un trabajo de noche y estoy durmiendo 3 horas. Tengo que tomarlo con más calma y tratar de enfocarme a llegar a mi meta que es aprender el idioma. Llevo muchos años acá, pero me he enfocado en trabajar y lo que es el idioma lo he dejado al lado. Al fin del día he hecho cosas aquí que no creo que hubiera hecho en mi país—como tener mi casa, mi negocio.

No voy a…. Me gustaría ir al primero de mayo. Trabajo de noche y en el día tengo que descansar. Me gusta apoyar, pero hoy en día como está la situación me da un poco de miedo. Si yo tuviera mis papeles bien, sería diferente. Tiene que tener uno cuidado para que no te lleven detenida. Puede haber consecuencias. Más yo que no tengo familia y dependo de mí misma. Pero creo que si voy a ir si van a ir las compañeras del liderazgo. ¡No voy a dormir!

 

Testimony – Ana*

Pa’lante Green Cleaning Co-Op

*Names have been changed .

“In my country, Argentina, you hear about cooperatives but they’re in recovered factories, like in the film The Take! If we do the manual labor, we can also manage ourselves.”

I was born in Mendoza, Argentina. Well, my father is Bolivian and my mother is Argentine but I grew up in Argentina. More than anything I left my country because I wanted to get out to learn something new. I came with the desire to study but it became a bit difficult. I came to realize that the situation is difficult for people who don’t have paper who want to study. I wanted to be a computer programmer. I had taken some courses in that in Argentina. But because of the language barrier, because I didn’t have papers, and because I’m all alone here (I was the first in my family to come) I had to decide if I was going to work or study and, well, I had to work. I didn’t have a choice.

It’s difficult. You don’t think about those things but in my country I knew I could count on my mom and dad but everything is different here.

I was about to go back. I’ve lost two return tickets back to my country. The second time was in 2013 because of this opportunity with the cooperatives. In 2013, Hurricane Sandy happened and I had the opportunity to work restoring things after the disaster. They let me work but they asked me if I had an OSHA card. That’s how I came to learn about the nonprofit organization that was incubating the coops, Make the Road. At Make the Road, they told me about how they were going to form a cleaning coop. They asked me if I wanted to come participate in a talk where they were going to tell us how the cooperative was going to be. They had an interview with us. Then they called me to tell me that I would be able to continue with the interviews and workshops because they had determined I was apt. They were looking for people that had experience and since I had had the experience with Sandy, I think that’s why they wanted me to join. Even though I had my ticket to go back, I’m not the kind of person that likes to leave without first trying something. After a year of trainings I decided to stay and lose my ticket home.

In the workshops, they taught us how the cooperatives worked–we studied the associate manuals and we discussed what kind of product we were going to provide. It took a year of trainings and then we inaugurated. That’s how “Pa’lante Green Cleaning” was born. A lot has changed because last October we took the coops out of the organization, Make the Road. They are making changes in their organization and had to close their labor force program where they were incubating the coops.

I was one of the first to get a job. The first one was Claudia with an office and the next one was me. We are cleaners and housekeepers but we’re also focusing on looking for more places where we can get a contract. We’re starting to promote our business but it’s difficult because we’re having to compete in a capitalist market. The rest of the companies that do the kind of work that we do are all like that. So we’re starting to raise consciousness with our clients and to educate the general public about what cooperatives are and how they differ from other companies. We have flyers that we use to promote where we describe the difference between a company and a coop: we are owners and workers at the same time.

I wanted to try out this thing about the cooperatives because I thought it was interesting. In my country, Argentina, you hear about coops but they’re in “recovered factories,” like in the film The Take! When I lived in Argentina as a youth, I worked in a factory so when I started to learn more about that it was interesting to me. Seeing that produces a certain feeling in you, that it can be done. If we the workers do the manual labor, we can also manage ourselves. It’s about trying to manage ourselves and if we can, we can lift each other up ourselves. We have to unite–the ones who know things, yes, but at the same time building the capacity of other people that maybe don’t know as much.

I came here in the year 2000 before all that stuff happened with the recovered factories. What happened is that the economy of Argentina collapsed. There were people that would come from abroad to build factories in my country but then they would take their earnings with them to where they were. So when Argentina went into crisis, they abandoned many of the factories and the machinery which is when the workers started to see that they could make a change in the economy themselves. They saw that they could do it because they were in the majority. I believe that people want to work. Even moreso when it’s their own business. You try your best because you know that it’s your source of money and your livelihood. I think Americans are starting to realize the potential of coops. We’re educating them. We say, in the coop you know you’re the owner and that because of that you’re going to try to do the best job possible so that the clients are satisfied.

I think that I’ve learned a lot from being a part of this group. Before, I had no idea what being a leader meant. Of course I had had the experience working as part of a group during Hurricane Sandy where we were working as part of a team because all the houses were flooded. I also helped out in the aftermath of the Twin Towers. When I came to the coop I already knew a lot about working in a group. I like working as part of a group and that’s what I bring to our team. Now I’m in charge of the group of people in Bellevue. Sometimes it’s a lot of responsibility and I need to learn to delegate some of the work. Sometimes we have to let other people get involved because the coop isn’t just mine or any one individuals’ but it belongs to all of us. We all have to contribute our own little grain of sand. For my part I if I don’t know how to do something, I try to learn more about it because that’s how I am. I always want to see how I can collaborate, how I can help.

I would encourage other people to join the cause because that’s how you can guarantee that you’re being paid justly. Not a lot of money, but what it is. You’re not working for a company and working for miserable wages because your boss leaves with the money. That’s what’s good about working here. They’re not exploiting your work. That’s the ultimate goal of the coops, I think–to end the exploitation of work.

I know I can do it and I will do it, but in reality I would want to learn English. Sometimes I don’t have the time. Two weeks ago I started a night job and I’m only sleeping 3 hours a night. I have to take it easy and try to focus on reaching my goal of learning to speak the language. I’ve been here for many years but I’ve been focusing on working and I’ve let the language stuff fall by the wayside. At the end of the day I’ve done things here that I don’t think I would have done back in my country–I have my house, my business.

I will not… I would like to go on May 1st. I work at night and I have to rest during the day. I like to support but these days with the way things are I’m a little scared. If I had all my documents in order it would be a different story. You have to take precautions so they won’t detain you. There could be consequences. Especially for someone like me who doesn’t have family here. I have only myself to depend on. But, actually, I think I will go if the leadership board is going. I will not sleep!

*This interview was done in collaboration with Public Seminar and the International Women’s Strike NYC.

 


 

Testimonio – “Patricia*”, Brightly Cleaning Cooperative

*Los nombres han sido cambiados 

“Quiero hacer que las mujeres abran los ojos y pierdan el miedo”.

Muchas mujeres creen que no trabajan. Creen que su labor—ya sea lavar ropa ajena o vender productos—no es trabajo. No nos damos cuenta de que sí lo es porque es un rol que hacemos del cual ni nos damos cuenta. Decimos que nos está manteniendo nuestro marido o nuestra pareja, sin darnos cuenta que nosotras nos estamos manteniendo, estamos sobreviviendo.

            A mí me hizo entender esto un hombre [el doctor que trataba a mi hija por el asma]. En ese tiempo yo llevaba a mi hija al doctor por su asma. Yo me culpaba mucho porque a mi hija se le había desarrollado la enfermedad. Mi marido me hacía sentir que era mi culpa. Mi autoestima estaba muy baja. Cuando llegaba al doctor con mi hija, el doctor me decía, “usted llora por dentro. Sus ojos siempre están cristalinos”. Yo en verdad quería que alguien me escuchara, pero no le podía decir a nadie lo que sufría por dentro. Yo le decía, “no trabajo. Mi marido me mantiene”,  a lo que él me respondía, “¿pero cómo que te mantiene?”

El doctor me explicó, “ustedes las mujeres tienen muchísimos trabajos: son doctoras, financieras, son contadoras, y mucho más”. Y es cierto. Nosotras las mujeres somos abogadas, peleando por nuestros niños; somos administradoras, manteniendo un hogar; somos enfermeras, lo estamos cuidando al marido y los hijos por la noche. Y también me dijo, “son nuestras chachas porque nos dan de comer, son nuestras psicólogas y ¿a ustedes quien las escucha? Son nuestras masajistas. Son muchas cosas que ustedes no se dan cuenta”. No te auto-valoras. En ese tiempo me puse a escuchar a los psicólogos.

Embarazada y con un bebé en brazos, siempre estaba trabajando con mi marido. Teníamos un negocio de frutas y verduras en la Ciudad de México. El trabajo era muy esclavizado—me levantaba a las tres de la mañana para dejar mi casa limpia como pensaba que debía ser una mujer y también tenía que aguantar a mi marido que se emborrachaba. Me subestimaba. Hay unos hombres que te tiran y te bailan ahí. Uno se llena de miedo, que ya no te vaya a mantener, mientras ellos no comparten ni un pedacito del cuidado del hogar o de los hijos. No saben qué tipo de persona es su hijo, o de que cariño necesita porque nunca están ahí. Será por los amigos, por el trabajo, por las fiestas o lo que sea. Si, algunos son proveedores, pero otros ni son bueno para eso.

No nos damos cuenta las mujeres. ¡Despierten, mujeres!

En las reuniones siempre veo a mujeres que vienen tan cansadas. Pero no es el cansancio del trabajo, sino que es emocional. Se ven que traen tanto en sus hombros, los problemas de los hijos, las parejas.

Sé que hay hombres que sí cuidan de sus parejas. Hay mujeres que parecen que tienen un matrimonio que otros envidiarían. Para muchas es una jaula de oro. Mi hogar antes de dejar a mi marido era una jaula de oro. Nos engañamos nosotras las mujeres, nos frustramos. Nos quedamos en situaciones así por lo que dirán los demás. Algunas se sienten privilegiadas porque piensan, “a mí me traen vestida o me sacan a comer el sábado”. Desafortunadamente, a veces las mujeres también podemos ser muy crueles entre nosotras. La verdad algunas nos quedamos en matrimonios así por los hijos, pero no les estamos haciendo bien. Por ejemplo, mi hijo a veces me dice, “mami, no entiendo como por veinte años de tu vida lo aguantaste [a mi papá]”. Pero así se va dando uno cuenta que les estamos dando un ejemplo a seguir a nuestro hijos. Yo no quiero que mis hijos sean como su papá. A veces sin saber, les estamos dando el patrón—que así deben ser las mujeres y así los hombres.

A mi esposo yo lo dejé. Tomé la decisión de dejarlo allá y me vine con mis hijos. Cuando llegué, llegué a Staten Island. Yo dejé a mi marido por la violencia doméstica. Él me marginaba y me subestimó demasiado.

Yo tenía muchas expectativas para mi vida. Me hubiese gustado ser doctora, enfermera, o hasta recepcionista porque a veces las recepcionistas son como terapeutas. Me hubiese gustado estudiar algo. Si Dios quiere, me gustaría ser asistente de enfermera. Me llama mucho la atención eso de ayudar a las demás personas. Pero mi relación con mi marido no me lo permitió. A veces te lo crees que tú tienes la culpa y que te mereces ser maltratada—empiezas culpándote a tí misma y tienes una justificación de  porque te mereces el maltrato. Hasta que abres los ojos.

Desafortunadamente con la presidencia de Donald Trump a muchas mujeres les da miedo. Dicen, “si voy y lo denuncio tengo que dar mi nombre”. En México tenemos un dicho, “salgo de Guatemala para entrar a Guatepeor.”

Vivir en este país no es fácil. Y a veces el dinero lo engaña a uno. Si no vienes con los pies bien puestos sobre la tierra, te  puedes quedar en la misma situación aquí que allá. Tienes que saber hacia dónde vas y de dónde vienes, sino vuelves a lo mismo. Mis dos embarazos fueron de alto riesgo y tanto que he peleado por mis hijos que abandonarlos estaría mal.

Ahora mi hija es madre soltera. Le ayuda [con las finanzas] el papá de su hija. Mi hija parece que quería seguir el mismo patrón que su mamá. El novio la chantajeaba, le decía “salte de trabajar y yo te mantengo”. Yo le puse un alto porque todo el tiempo se la pasan peleando. Mi hija está buscando trabajo ahora que terminó su GED. No pudo terminar la high school por lo de su embarazo. Ella también es una de las miembras de la cooperativa. Mi hijo estudia y trabaja. Tiene un medio tiempo y me ayuda con lo de la renta. El más grande ya se fue para la Carolina del Norte. Tomó unas decisiones que yo no estaba de acuerdo. Entre los tres salimos a flote. Digo que salimos a flote, no digo que estamos saliendo adelante, pero estamos a flote.

Yo limpio una oficina todos los sábados y dos casas cada mes. También vendo Mary Kay, aparte de limpiar las casas. Me doy mi tiempo con mis clientes. Me encanta ayudar a la gente. Me encanta cambiarles sus caritas. Fue importante para mí cuando  aprendí a maquillarme. A mí me ha caído la depresión—por mi situación o por los gastos o por otra cosa. Cuando eso pasa, me paro en frente del espejo y me limpio la cara y ya que estoy maquillada, me siento transformada. Tal vez no te sientas tan bien, pero sientes que te ves bien. A veces conozco a mujeres que han tenido malas experiencias con el maquillaje equivocado y luego dicen, “el maquillaje no me gusta”. Me gusta tomarme mi tiempo con esas mujeres. Digo, si voy a hacer algo, lo voy a hacer bien porque ellas se merecen eso y más. He aprendido sobre los tipos de piel, los colores, los tonos. Trato de hacer a mis clientes sentir bien para que se sientan más seguras de sí mismas. De vez en cuando también platico con ellas, me dan la oportunidad de darles consejos y opiniones. Si puedo ayudarles con alguna opinión, yo trato de hacerlo. O les cuento mi historia. Les digo, “no se las cuento porque quiero que me tengan lástima, ni para que se rían  de mí, ni para que vayan a hablar de mí. Pero si mi historia les puede ayudar, se las pongo de ejemplo”.

Estoy sin familia aquí. Llegue sin familia, sin dinero, y sin conocidos hace nueve años, pero me he dado a conocer. Al principio estaba aquí mi hermana, pero ella se fue. No hablábamos mucho cuando estaba aquí porque su marido y yo no nos llevábamos bien. El era machista, hasta peor que mi marido. Ya lo dejo, gracias a Dios.

Mi pareja ahora es el que me invitó a la cooperativa. El pertenece a la cooperativa de los handymen. El me dijo que se iba a  abrir una coop en Staten Island. En ese tiempo yo estaba trabajando en un dry cleaner. Era mucho el abuso—el patrón quería que hiciéramos de todo y quería que estuviéramos agradecidos por horas extras. Nos tenía a todos trabajando part time. Porque yo sabía de todo, me ponían a lavar, a planchar, a traducir, a estar al pendiente y estaba yo como loquita. Además algunos de mis compañeros no me querían porque a ellos no les daban las dos horas más, pero a mí sí. Me traía el patrón siempre apurándome. Por mas que le decía  que no estaba cómoda, a él no le importaba.

Estoy trabajando en la cooperativa desde  noviembre pasado. Estaba buscando un trabajo justo, un trabajo equitativo. Pero a la vez estaba buscando levantar mi voz. Quiero que no nos marginen y que no seamos señalados por ser migrantes o indocumentados. Quiero que todas compartamos la perspectivas de qué es salir adelante y apoyarnos las unas a las otras. Me gusto la idea de eso. Compartimos la misma idea, aunque cada una de nosotras somos independientes y tenemos opiniones, al final del día llegamos a la misma conclusión y estamos en el mismo camino. Me gustaría que esto abriera caminos para otras mujeres que por la necesidad de la renta, o por mandar dinero a México, no se valoran a sí mismas, ni a sus propios cuerpos. Cuando estaba trabajando en el dry cleaner, estaba bien mal. Parecía que tenía una joroba. Fui a que me sobaran y no se me quitaba. Las articulaciones me dolían por estar haciendo la misma acción repetitiva. No se valora ese trabajo. Por $50 dejas una casa reluciente. A veces ni te pagan porque eres ilegal o porque no hablas el idioma. Me gustaría que nos respetaran y nos valoraran. No venimos a robar, venimos a trabajar.

Les quiero decir a las mujeres que aprendan a quererse a sí mismas. A veces no creemos que lo merecemos porque nos llenamos de negatividad. “Que no merezco respeto porque deje a mis hijos allá, porque fui mala madre o mala hija”. No importa lo que haya pasado, una tiene que respetarse a sí misma para poder poner un alto. Cada mujer es diosa. Yo misma me sorprendo, cuando maquillo a una mujer digo, “¡wow!, ¿yo hice eso?” Me decía el doctor, no te quedes con la duda, con el “si yo hubiera hecho”. El hubiera no existe. Se puede.

Ahora soy abuela. No vivo con lujos. Empecé con un cuarto pequeño, luego más grande, y ahora por lo menos tengo un apartamento con mis hijos y mi nieta. No es fácil cargar con la responsabilidad de la casa—ser madre y padre aunque una nunca puede ser padre en realidad.

Si dios quisiera que yo estuviera legalmente aquí… Me gustaría estudiar para enfermera para poder ayudar a la gente. Quiero darle el ejemplo a mis hijos, más que nada a mi hija para que no tenga miedo. Ella teme que la separen de su hija. A pesar de que es de carácter fuerte, ella tiene un miedo legítimo. Quiero que sepa que el ser humano es grandioso. Yo no quiero estar dependiente de un hombre. Quiero trabajar y ahorrar y quiero algún día terminar mi casa en México.

Bueno, yo no puedo ir a las marchas porque estoy tratando de tramitar mis papeles y tengo miedo de lo que me pueda pasar. De todos modos, creo que todos tenemos que hacer el esfuerzo diario. Mejorándonos nosotros mismos como individuos, más las mujeres. Trato de diario decirle a una mujer que es bonita. Darle los buenos días y una bendición.

*Esta entrevista es parte de un iniciativa conjunta entre Public Seminar y el Paro Internacional de Mujeres NYC.

 

Testimony – “Patricia,”*

Brightly Co-Op

*Names have been changed.

“I want to make women open their eyes and lose their fear.”

Many women believe that they don’t work. They believe that their labor–be it washing other people’s clothing or selling products–isn’t real work. We don’t notice that it is because it’s a role that we don’t even think about. We say that our husband or partner is taking care of us, without realizing that we are taking care of ourselves, we’re surviving.

The person that made me realize this was actually a man [the doctor who was treating my daughter for asthma]. In those days I was taking my daughter to see the doctor for her asthma. I would blame myself because my daughter had developed the illness. My husband would make me feel like it was my fault. My self-esteem was very low. When I would get to the doctor with my daughter, he would tell me “you are crying on the inside. Your eyes are always crystalline.” In reality, I wanted someone to listen to me, but I couldn’t tell anyone what I was suffering on the inside. I would tell him, “I don’t work. My husband takes care of me,” to which he responded, “what do you mean he takes care of you?”

The doctor explained, “You women have a lot of jobs: You’re doctors, financiers, accountants and many more things.” And it’s true. We women are lawyers fighting for our kids; we’re administrators managing our homes; we’re nurses who care for our husband and kids late into the night. The doctor also told me “you’re our chachas (maids) when you feed us, our psychologists, too, but who listens to you? You’re our masseuses.” You are a lot of things and you don’t even notice it.” You don’t value yourself… At that time I was listening to a lot of psychologists.

I was pregnant with a baby in my arms, always helping my husband at our family business. We had a fruit and vegetable stand in Mexico City. The work was truly slave-like–I would wake up at 3am to leave my house spotless like I thought a woman should and then I would have to put up with my husband who was a drunk. He would belittle me. There are some men who will dance on you when you’re down. It makes a person get filled with fear, that he won’t take care of me anymore, while they don’t share even a bit of the housework or childcare. They don’t know what their own child’s personality is like or what time of care they need because they’re never there. It may be because of friends, because of work, or because of parties or whatever. Sure, some of them are providers, but others aren’t even good for that.

We women don’t even notice. Wake up, women!

In our meetings I always see women who look so tired. It’s not just tiredness from the doldrums of work, but emotional tiredness. You can tell they’re carrying so much on their shoulders, their kids’ problems, the problems of their spouse.

I know there are some men who do take care of their partners. There are women who appear to have a marriage worthy of envy. For many, it’s a golden cage. My house before I left my husband was a golden cage. We lie to ourselves, we get frustrated. We stay in situations like that because of what others might say. Some feel privileged because they think, “my husband has me well-dressed or he takes me out to eat on Saturdays.” Unfortunately, sometimes we women can also be very cruel with one another. The truth is some of us stay in situations like that for the sake of our kids, but we’re not doing them any favors. For example, my son sometimes will tell me, “mom, I don’t understand how you put up with my dad for 20 years.” That’s when you realize that you’re giving your kids a bad example to follow. I don’t want my kids to be like their father. Sometimes without knowing it, we are giving them a pattern–this is how women should be and this is how men should be.

I left my husband. I made the decision to leave him there and I came here with my kids. When I got here, I arrived in Staten Island. I left my husband because of domestic violence. He would marginalize me and belittle me frequently.

I had high expectations for my life. I would have loved to be a doctor, a nurse or even a receptionist because sometimes they are like therapists. I would have liked to study something. God willing, I would like to become a nursing assistant. I’m really attracted to helping others. But my relationship with my husband didn’t permit it. Sometiemes you believe that you are to blame and that you deserve to be mistreated–you start to blame yourself and you have a justification on hand about why you deserve mistreatment. Until you open your eyes.

Unfortunately with the Donald Trump presidency a lot of women are afraid. They say, “if I want to file a complaint about my husband I have to give the state my name.” In Mexico we have a saying, “I leave a bad situation to go into a worse one.”

Living in this country isn’t easy. Sometimes you are deceived by the money. If you come here without your feet planted on solid ground, you can end up in the same situation that you left behind. You have to know where you’re going and where you come from or you’ll end up in the same situation. Both of my pregnancies were high risk and I’ve fought so much for my kids that I would never imagine abandoning them.

Now my daughter is a single mother. Her daughter’s father helps her out financially. My daughter, it looks like, wanted to follow the same pattern as her mom. Her boyfriend would blackmail her, he would tell her “quit your job and I’ll support you.” I had to put a stop to it because they would fight all the time. My daughter is looking for work now that she finished her GED. She wasn’t able to finish high school because of her pregnancy. She’s also a member of the co-op. My son works and goes to school. He has a part time and helps me with rent. My oldest son moved to North Carolina. He’s made some life decisions I’m not happy with. Between the three of us, we stay afloat. I say that we stay afloat and not that we’re thriving but we stay afloat.

I have an office that I clean every Saturday and two houses I clean each month. I also sell Mary Kay products in addition to my cleaning job. I take my time with my clients. I love helping people. I love changing their little faces. It was an important feat for me when I learned to make myself up. I’ve struggled with depression–because of my situation, because of financial issues and other reasons. Whenever that happens, I make an effort to put myself in front of the mirror and I wash my face and once I’m made up, I feel transformed. I may not feel great, but I look it. Sometimes I meet women who’ve had bad experiences wearing the wrong makeup and they tell me “I don’t like makeup.” I like taking my time with those women. I say, if I’m gonna do something I want to do it right because they deserve that and more. I’ve learned about skin types, colors, tones. I try to make my clients feel good about themselves so they can have confidence. I also talk to them often, they give me the opportunity to give them advice and opinions. If I can help them with an opinion, I try to do it. Or I’ll tell them my story. I’ll tell them “I’m not telling you this so you can feel sorry for me, or so you will laugh at me, nor do I tell you so you can talk about me.” But if my story can help them in some way, I hope it serve as an example.

I’m here without any family. I came here without family, without money and without acquaintances nine years ago, but I’ve made myself known. At first my sister lived here, but she left. We didn’t talk much when she was here because her husband and I didn’t get along. He was a male chauvinist, even worse than my husband. She’s left him, thank God.

My partner now is the one who invited me to join the co-op. He belongs to the handymen co-op. He told me they were starting a co-op in Staten Island. At that time I was working at a dry cleaner. There was a lot of abuse–the boss wanted us to do everything and to be grateful for two extra hours. He had us all working part time. Because I knew how to do a little of everything, he would have me wash, iron, translate and manage the place to the point where he drove me almost crazy. Additionally, some of my coworkers began to dislike me because they were upset I got two extra hours and not them. The boss had me rushing all the time. He didn’t care that I constantly told him I was uncomfortable.

I’ve been working at the cooperative since last November. I was looking for a fair job, an equitable job. I was also looking to raise my voice. I want for us not to be marginalized and for to be targeted for being immigrants or undocumented. I want all of us to share the perspective that we need to support each other to thrive. I like that idea a lot. We share the same idea, even if each one of us has independent thoughts. At the end of the day we all arrive at the same conclusions and are on the same path. I would like for this path to be open to more women who don’t value themselves or their bodies because they either have a need to pay the rent or send money back home. When I was working at the dry cleaner, I was very unwell. I looked like I had a hunchback. I went to get a massage but it wouldn’t go away. My joints hurt from doing the same repetitive motions. That labor isn’t valued. You get $50 to leave a house spotless. Sometimes they don’t even pay you because you’re “illegal” or don’t speak the language. I would like for us to be respected and valued. We don’t come to steal, we come to work.

I want to tell women that they should love themselves. Sometimes we don’t believe we deserve better because we’re full of negativity. “I don’t deserve respect because I left my kids back there, because I was a bad mother or daughter.” It doesn’t matter what happened. You have to respect yourself to be able to say stop. Every woman is powerful. Sometimes I amaze myself when I make someone up and I say, “Wow! I did that?” The doctor used to tell me, don’t ask ‘what if’. You can do it.

Now I’m a grandmother. I don’t live in the lap of luxury. I started off in a tiny bedroom, then a bigger one and now I have an apartment with my kids and granddaughter. It’s not easy to carry the responsibility of the house–to be mother and father at once even though in reality I’ll never be able to be a father.

God willing, I would like to be here legally. I would love to study to be a nurse so I could help people. I want to set an example for my kids, more than anything for my daughter so she can live without fear. She fears being separated from her daughter. Even though she has a strong character, she has a legitimate fear. I want her to know that the human spirit is powerful. I don’t want to depend on any man. I want to work and save up and I want to someday finish my house in Mexico.

Well, I can’t attend the marches on May first because I’m trying to process my citizenship and I’m afraid of what might happen. In any case, I think we all have to make an effort daily. We have to better ourselves as individuals, especially women. I try everyday to tell a woman she’s beautiful. Tell her to have a good day and give her blessings.

*This interview was done in collaboration with Public Seminar and the International Women’s Strike NYC.

 


 

Testimonio – “Miriam*”, Cooperativa Sí Se Puede

*Los nombres han sido cambiados

“He aprendido varias cosas de la cooperativa: que tenemos que estar unidas, tenemos que tomar decisiones, y tomar en cuenta diferentes puntos de vista.”

Soy de México. Me vine con mi mamá y mis cuatro hermanos menores por problemas económicos hace veinte años. Somos originarios del estado de Puebla. Era muy joven cuando nos venimos. Todavía estaba estudiando en México y sé que ya no podíamos estudiar yo y mi hermano. Yo estaba terminando la secundaria y mi hermano empezando la secundaria cuando mi mamá decidió que nos vendríamos. No teníamos para sobrevivir, no teníamos para el colegio, ni para la comida. Nuestra escuela quedaba a una hora y media caminando porque no teníamos para el pasaje del camión. La única salida que mi mamá vio era vender un terreno que tenía y con ese dinero nos venimos. Mi mamá en ese tiempo tenía hermanas viviendo aquí y por eso llegamos  a Nueva York. Nos dijeron que había trabajo y que iban a poder ir a la escuela mi hermanos. Aquí sí íbamos a poder sobrevivir.

            Eventualmente mi mamá se regreso para México con mis hermanos menores. Pero yo me quedé, siendo la mayor. Yo tengo dos hijos ahora. Ellos ya están en la universidad los dos. Yo apoyo a mi mamá económicamente. Mis hijos han tenido una mejor vida aquí porque pueden estudiar. Si yo viviera en México no podría con todo, igual que mi mamá. Soy madre soltera. Aunque ahora tengo un compañero de vida, siento que mis hijos no son su responsabilidad, son responsabilidad mía.

Es un poco difícil para mí decir si me valoran mis familiares porque no los veo,  pero creo que mi mamá sí sabe mi esfuerzo porque ella vivió aquí. Aquí siempre está uno corriendo, trabajando, cuidando de los hijos, haciendo las cosas de la casa y otras cosas. Aquí podemos hacer eso, pero en aquél tiempo, [en la generación de mi mama] no era normal que una mujer estuviera fuera de la casa.  Siempre estoy en contacto con mi mamá por teléfono, aunque ella está en la Ciudad de México.

Actualmente tengo como ocho o nueve años trabajando para la cooperativa “Sí Se Puede/We Can Do It”. Este trabajo me ha dado la oportunidad de poder manejar mi tiempo  y estar al pendiente de mis hijos. Hay trabajos que te dan una regla como que uno debe cumplir ocho horas. La cooperativa me ha permitido trabajar en mi propio espacio, tener un salario digno y ser parte de un negocio. Nuestra cooperativa es de limpieza de casas y vamos a todos lados—a Manhattan, el Bronx, Staten Island, los cinco boroughs. Trabajamos por un contrato y nos pagan directamente. Ponemos nuestros precios. No se si diría que el salario está bien, pero por lo menos diría que es lo justo. Me gusta el trabajo, pero estoy un poco cansada. Lo que sí es que al fin del día estoy segura, tranquila y nadie me presiona. Es el mejor trabajo que he podido encontrar. Antes trabajaba en una fábrica de ropa como costurera. Sólo trabajaba cuando mis hijos estaban en la escuela—ganaba menos, tan poco que tenía que compartir un departamento.

Yo empecé a venir porque siempre he estado muy activa en las cosas que vayan a mejorar a mi familia. Yo pertenecía a Family of Services, [ organización que incubó a la cooperativa], cuando me dieron un panfleto. Era una invitación. Nos empezaron a dar información de qué era una cooperativa. Siempre me he involucrado en talleres y cosas que me acercan más a mis hijos. como el grupo de padres en la escuela. No entendía que era una cooperativa, pero nos dijeron que las mujeres iban a empezar una y así me animé.

No teníamos clientes entonces. Estaba una trabajadora social que empezó el grupo y me empezó a gustar porque en el grupo había muchas ideas diferentes y sentía que podíamos hacer algo unidas. Podía cambiar el trabajo y podíamos seguir adelante. A veces siento que estoy muy metida en la cooperativa. Antes tenía más tiempo para estar al pendiente de mis hijos. Pero he aprendido varias cosas de la cooperativa: que tenemos que estar unidas, tomar decisiones, y tomar en cuenta diferentes puntos de vista.

Yo sí les recomendaría a otras mujeres que se unieran a un grupo o cooperativa si están buscando trabajo, pues estamos encontrando una manera de trabajar, de protegernos y ayudarnos las unas a las otras.

Me gustaría algún día tener una casa. También quiero que haya una reforma migratoria porque a veces es la traba que tenemos—muchos de nosotros los migrantes estamos trabajando, pagando impuestos, y haciendo todo bien y necesitamos que nos den ese chance.

El primero de mayo yo me uniré a la marcha: no voy a trabajar. Y no sólo el primero de mayo ,sino que voy a apoyar a mi comunidad todos los demás días. No voy a contribuir a abusar de las personas y simplemente seguiré compartiendo cualquier información que pueda ayudar a otros.

*Esta entrevista es parte de un iniciativa conjunta entre Public Seminar y el Paro Internacional de Mujeres NYC.

 

Testimony – Miriam*

Si Se Puede/We Can Do It Co-Op

*Names have been changed.

“I’ve learned a lot of new things through the co-op: that we have to be united, that we have to take collective decisions, and that we have to take into consideration different points of view.”

I’m from Mexico. I came here 20 years ago with my mom and my four younger siblings because of economic problems. We’re originally from the state of Puebla. I was very young when we came. I was still in grade school in Mexico and I just know that me and my brother couldn’t continue our studies. I was finishing up middle school and my brother was starting middle school. My mom decided we should come over. We didn’t have enough to survive. We didn’t have enough for our schooling or for food. Our school was an hour and a half away walking distance. We had to walk because we didn’t have enough for the passage for the bus. The only exit my mother saw was to sell a piece of land that she had and use that money to bring us. My mother at that time had sisters who lived here and that’s why we came to New York. They told us there was work here and that my siblings would be able to attend school. We would be able to survive here.

Eventually, my mother returned to Mexico with my youngest siblings. I stayed behind, since I was the oldest. I have two kids of my own now. They’re both at the university now. I also support my mother economically. My two kids have had a better life here because they’ve been able to study. If I still lived in Mexico I would have followed the footsteps of my mother who didn’t have the means to take care of us.

I’m a single mother. Even though I have a life partner, I feel that my kids aren’t his responsibility, they’re my responsibility.

It’s difficult for me to say whether my family members value what I do because I hardly see them but I think my mother does because she knows the effort it takes to live here since she’s done it. Here, you’re always rushing somewhere, working, taking care of the kids, doing housework and other things. Here, you can do that but in my mom’s day, it wasn’t normal for women to be outside of the house. I stay in touch with my mother regularly by phone even if she is in Mexico City.

I’ve been working at my current job in the Si Se Puede/We Can Do It cooperative for approximately 8 or 9 years. This job has given me the opportunity to manage my time so that I can work and still be on top of my kids’ lives. If I had any other job, I’d have to follow a lot of rules like working 8 hours. The coop has let me have the flexibility of working in my own space, for a dignified salary and to be a co-owner of the business. Our co-op provides a cleaning service for homes in many places throughout the city–Manhattan, the Bronx, Staten Island and all 5 boroughs. We work on a contractual basis and we are paid directly. We set our own prices. I don’t know if I would say we make good money but I would say that it’s just. I like my work even if sometimes I’m a little tired. But at the end of the day I feel secure, calm and like I’m not being pressured by anyone. It’s the best possible job I could have found. Before this, I was working at a clothing factory as a seamstress. I only worked when my kids were at school–I earned less, so little that I had to share an apartment.

I started to come because I had always been very active in things that I thought would be for the betterment of my family. I belonged to Family Life when they gave me an informational pamphlet. It was an invitation. They started to give us more information about what a cooperative was. I had always been drawn to workshops and things like that that would bring me closer to my kids like the Parent associations at my kids’ school. I didn’t understand what exactly a cooperative was but they told us that some women were starting one so that’s how I got behind the idea.

We didn’t have a lot of clients when we first started. There was a social worker who started the group and I started to like it because there were different idea and I felt like we could do a lot if we united. We could change our work and we could move ahead. Sometimes I feel like I’m too involved in the co-op. Before, I had time to be on top of my kids. But I’ve learned a lot of new things through the co-op: that we have to be united, that we have to take collective decisions, and that we have to take into consideration different points of view.

I would encourage other women to join a group or a collective if they’re looking for work because we’re trying to find a way of working and protections and supporting one another.

I would like to have my own house someday. I would also want there to be immigration reform because sometimes that’s the thing that holds us back; many of us immigrants are working, paying taxes, and doing everything right and we just need to be given that chance.

On May First, I will join the march. I will not be going to work and not just on May Day but every day I will continue to support my community. I will not participate in the abuse of others and I will simply try to always share helpful information with those that might need it.

*This interview was done in collaboration with Public Seminar and the International Women’s Strike NYC.

 


 

Testimonio—“Natalia”

Laundry Workers Center

“El primero de mayo, no voy a asistir al trabajo para demostrarles que, sin nosotros, los hispanos,  en este país no son nada ”.

Mi nombre es “Natalia”. Nací en Querétaro y  ahora vivo en Nueva York. Me mudé a los Estados Unidos en el 2007. Mi pareja con quien tengo dos hijos había llegado a este país siete años antes. Poco a poco después de que él se vino, me empecé a dar cuenta que  se estaba desentendiendo de nuestros hijos—como que se olvidó que tenía una familia y dos hijos. Entonces hubo una separación.

            Yo empecé a trabajar mucho—cuidando de mis hijos, además de que lavaba y planchaba ropa ajena. Dejaba a mis hijos en la escuela a la una de la tarde y entraba a trabajar en una papelería a las dos; cuando salía a las 6, los tenía que recoger. Trabajaba mucho para poder  absorber los gastos—la línea de teléfono, la luz y demás gastos. Yo era el único apoyo. Mis hijos y yo vivíamos en una casa que estaba a nombre de mi pareja en la Ciudad de México. Su hermano le exigió que le mandara los derechos de la casa y él se los cedió.

Tuvimos muchos problemas la familia de mi pareja y yo. Su hermano me echó muchas cosas en la cara que no me parecieron hasta quedé en el hospital con una embolia del coraje que me hizo pasar. Le dije a mi pareja—que vivía en Nueva York—que fuera honesto conmigo sobre sus sentimientos para yo poder evitarme mas problemas con su familia. Su familia me echó de la casa. Lo material no me importaba. Con mi propio trabajo, yo dije, voy a salir adelante con mis hijos y me fui.

Busque dónde quedarme y pude rentar una casa con mis ahorros. Era demasiado peso—pagar renta, colegiaturas.

Callé lo que me estaba pasando frente a mis padres porque no quería ver sus reacción. Un día hablé con mi hermano y le conté todo lo que había pasado, a lo que él me respondió que me regresara a la casa de mis papás en Queretaro. Me preguntó, “¿qué  haces ahí? Pero yo no tenía ni para el pasaje. Mi hermano me consiguió donde quedarme en casa de una señora y me ayudó con el dinero para comprar boletos para regresarme con mis niños donde mi familia me estaba esperando.

Mi mamá me pidió una explicación. Le pedí que no me preguntara nada—lo que pasó, pasó. Sí le pedí que se hiciera cargo de mis hijos mientras yo trabajaba a una hora de la casa de Lunes a Sábado. Trabajaba dando masajes en un hospital. Mis patrones eran una pareja de doctores que eran los dueños del hospital. Ellos se portaban muy bien conmigo. Me ofrecieron que me quedara en su casa entre semana para poder ahorrar mas de lo que ganaba para los estudios de mis hijos y la comida para mi mamá. Me dijeron que hasta me dejaban ir temprano el sábado y llegar tarde el lunes. La doctora se  compadecía de mí, me dijo, porque ella entendía lo difícil que es ser madre y estar sola. Me trataron muy bien durante ese año que viví con ellos—lo que compraran de comer, lo comíamos todos y no me dejaban poner gasto hacia la comida.

Cuando mi hija tenía 13 años, mi hermana que vivía en Chicago me preguntó que si quería venirme con ella. Me dijo, “no tienes que gastar dinero porque yo te pagaría lo del coyote”. Lo pensé, pero le dije a mi hermana, “te voy a ser muy sincera, el día que yo me vaya va a ser de mi propio esfuerzo y cuando yo lo decida”. Pero al año, me decidí y le dije a mi mamá, “me voy a ir para los Estados Unidos”. Ella me contestó que estaba loca. Pero estaría mas loca si me quedara  allá con los gastos de mis hijos que estaban aumentando cada día más. También le quería demostrar a mi ex-pareja que yo iba salir adelante aunque él me había dado la espalda cuando mas lo necesitaba. Se iba a arrepentir su familia que tanto hablaron de mí. Mi mamá no me creía y me dijo, “mañana me dices otra vez”.

Seguí trabajando, pero un día en Febrero les dije a los doctores, mis patrones, “trabajo hasta cierto día”. Renuncié aunque me ofrecieron un aumento al doble porque era su mejor empleada y aunque sabía que tendría que dejar a su niño, Christian. Me había encariñado tanto con aquel niño que no hablaba y no veía. A ese niño todavía lo quiero mucho. Siempre van a estar en mi corazón. Les dije, “no porque me vaya lo voy a dejar de querer. Pero supe que me tenía que ir”.

Antes de irme, me comprometí a hacer una penitencia, una tradición vieja de donde soy. Dije, “yo quiero ir a la caminata, la peregrinación, a la Basílica de la Virgen de Guadalupe”. No era fácil—para llegar se tenía que atravesar montes. Me preguntaban mis familiares, “¿estás segura que vas a aguantar ir caminando?” Quería llegar con la Virgen de Guadalupe. Salimos a las 2am un día y no llegamos hasta la próxima tarde a las 8pm. Teníamos que subir muchos escalones. Una parte hasta la caminé de rodillas. Cuando yo llegue a la cima, hablé con la virgen y le conté que me dolía mucho dejar a mis hijos. Le pedí que me abriera el camino.

También quise ir a la iglesia para que el padre me diera la bendición. Me confesé y le dije al padre que iba ir a Chicago. Dijo, “Dios te va a cuidar”.

Mi mamá, que ya había hecho ese viaje, me advirtió, “en el camino pasan muchas cosas y no te quiero espantar”. Tenía un solo pendiente entonces. Le pedí a mi mamá que se hiciera cargo de mis hijos. Le pedí que me firmara una carta poder y que no dejara ni al mismo padre ver a mis hijos. Sentía que esos derechos los había perdido. Le expliqué a mis hijos que me iba a ir porque quería que ellos pudieran tener los estudios que yo no tuve. Si me tienen rencor, quiero que piensen que hice lo que hice por hacer un sacrificio para ellos.

Llegué aquí en el 2007. Yo tenía un trabajo en la mañana en un hotel y en la tarde en un restaurante. Trabajaba demasiado y un día me contaron mis hermanas que habían recibido una llamada. Era Salvador, mi ex-pareja, que estaba en México y quería ver a los niños. Mis familiares me pidieron que lo dejara verlos, pues los niños no tienen la culpa. Pero estaba determinada a que no los viera porque yo los estaba apoyando a salir adelante sola. Si yo los mantengo sola, él no tiene ningún derecho a verlos. Me decían mis familiares que no fuera rencorosa y orgullosa. Yo no era así, pero  me hicieron. A mí me han costado mis hijos. Finalmente dejé que mi cuñada pudiera verlos supervisados, pero sólo una hora. Mi marido me pidió perdón y  le dije “cuando ellos mas te necesitaban, tú no estuviste. No te preocupes que de hambre no nos vamos a morir. Tus hijos te van a odiar porque en esta vida todo se paga.” Entonces es cuando le puse la condición que si él quería estar en su vida, les tenía que a hablar por lo menos una vez al mes o definitivamente no hablarles. Al cabo su número de teléfono siempre ha sido el mismo. Mientras, yo iba continuar  trabajando para mandarle dinero a mis hijos—lavando, planchando y vendiendo cosméticos.

En el 2009, regresé con mi marido y de Chicago me moví para Nueva York. Regresé con Salvador, pero ya habían cambiado las cosas. Puse condiciones como que él iba a pagar los gastos de la casa. Le dije, “ya no me preguntes en qué gasto mi dinero, ni me pidas cuentas. Mi dinero es mi dinero y que no te importe si me lo gasto en un día. Podemos dormir en la misma casa, pero no habrá intimidad. Voy a dejar que les hables por teléfono a mis hijos porque creo que les ayudaría a subir las calificaciones.”

Tengo diez años de no ver a mis hijos y  mi hija ya se recibe de su carrera de mercadotecnia el 25 de mayo. Ella tiene 23 años. Ya está ejerciendo su trabajo y vive independientemente. Creo que mi sacrificio no ha sido en vano. No me arrepiento. El sacrificio—de dejar a mis hijos—ha valido la pena. Mi mamá está orgullosa  porque para ella es como su hija, no su nieta. El otro día me llamó para contarme que hasta le van a dar carro por parte de su compañía.

Mi mamá me dice, “te perdiste la niñez de tu niña porque ya es señorita.” Entonces le contesto, “mamá, ¿tu crees que si me hubiera quedado en aquel trabajo, que mi hija seria profesional? En un país con pocos recursos, ¿qué le pudiera ofrecer uno a sus hijos?”

Cuando recién me mude a Nueva York, trabajé en un restaurante Mexicano, pero sólo dure tres meses porque el dueño me acosaba. Yo sólo hacía mi trabajo como todas las demás empleadas. Cuando me dijo que le ayudara a elegir las carnes, él empezó a “hablarme bonito.” Le dije, “usted es un señor mucho mayor que yo, pero eso no le da el derecho a aprovecharse de sus empleadas”. Cuando vió que me daban ganas de renunciar, me dijo, “no dejes el trabajo, te puedo dar algo extra”. Para íi no se trataba del dinero, sino de que él cambiara su actitud. Si a mí me acosaba que llevaba poco tiempo, me imagino que también estaba acosando a las demás empleadas. Hable con la señora [le esposa del dueño que también era dueña del restaurante] y le dije que tenía que renunciar porque estaba a gusto, pero el trabajo me quedaba muy lejos. También le dije a mi esposo que no quiera trabajar ahí, pero no le dije la razón.

Busqué y no encontraba trabajo. Busqué cualquier tipo de trabajo, pero los únicos trabajos disponibles eran por la noche y no quería trabajar de noche. Mi marido me consiguió trabajo en el mismo restaurante, pero en otro local. Le pedí a la señora que nos rentaba un cuarto, Paola, que me recomendara en donde trabajaba, un restaurante dominicano. Tenía una compañera que se iba a ir de vacaciones por veinte días y me dijo que me alistara con unos pantalones negros y una camisa blanca porque salíamos a las site de la mañana. Porque no tenía camisas blancas, me regaló dos camisas blancas. Cuando regresó la muchacha a quien cubría, dijo la manager que no me iba a dejar ir y así pasé cinco, casi seis, años ahí.

Tenía cinco  años trabajando cuando me fije que algo no estaba bien. Trabajábamos nueva horas diarias de las 7am-4pm. Los cocineros trabajaban de las 6am-4pm, 10 horas. Un compañero de trabajo, Oscar, tenía que fregar los trastes y todavía cocinar todo el arroz. No descansábamos. No había de otra.

Había otro muchacho que ya se regresó a México. El empezó a hacer sus cálculos y decidió que no era un salario justo. Empezó a hablar de un aumento. Los encargados le dijeron, “de eso no se habla aquí”. El les respondió,” ¿entonces en dónde se habla de eso?”.

Yo también hice mis cálculos. En 54 horas a la semana yo recibía $240 (si trabajaba los siete días). Eran $40 dólares al día  en el 2014. En una hora,  de las 11 a las 12, comíamos las 10 personas y sin derecho a un break. Si nos quedábamos sin comer durante la hora, nos teníamos que esperar hasta después de salir a las 4 de la tarde.

Oscar empezó a ver que el trabajo que él hacía era de dos personas y pidió un aumento. Y preguntaba que en qué momento se podía hablar de este asunto. Le hicieron malas caras. Un día llegó el dueño y vio que habían muchos trastes sin lavar, pero Oscar estaba ocupado haciendo el arroz. Cuando el dueño le llamó la atención de los trastes, le respondió que si quería ayudar. El jefe no se daba a respetar. Lo despidieron. Le dieron un sobre con $60.

Como el vivía en la casa con mi pareja y yo, le dije, “no te preocupes por la renta que yo la voy a pagar”, pues no encontraba trabajo. Le dije, “tomate unas vacaciones por los años que trabajaste sin descanso”. Fue entonces que él conoció a la organización ( Laundry Workers Center). Conoció a un compañero, Nazario, que nos invitó a la organización. Yo misma estaba entre que si me unía o no me unía. Cada día mi trabajo era más pesado. Además de trabajar por tan poco dinero, cuando teníamos propinas nos la teníamos que dividir entre 10 personas. No veías el sol porque entrabas tan temprano y salías tan tarde. Y no había la opción de encontrar un medio tiempo porque salía tan cansada después del trabajo. Pensé para mí misma, “aquí no es vida”.

Así es como me uní a la organización. Me pregunté, ¿en qué mundo vivimos? ¿Por qué dejamos que el empleador nos haga y nos desaga como le da la gana? ¿Por qué todo el mundo se queda tan tranquilo? ¿Cómo es que el dueño anda en un carro lujoso y con una mujer diferente cada semana por el sudor de nosotras/os? Me dije, “¿ lo hago o no lo hago?¿ Vamos a hacerlo?”

Me animé porque despidieron a este muchacho, Oscar, que tanto trabajaba y al próxima día el dueño trajo a su suplente como si nada. Después de tanto tiempo trabajando ahí y nada mas le dieron $60. Yo sentí muy feo por él. Sentía como que este muchacho era el hijo que no tengo aquí. Él les puso una demanda. Yo dije, “lo voy a apoyar aunque tenga que ser a escondidas y aunque me divorcie de mi marido (quien era muy amigo del dueño)”. Yo traje mis cuentas. Así se fueron reuniendo más compañeros; primero solo éramos cuatro. Llegamos a veintidós. Nos contra-demandaron y contra-demandaron a Mahoma [uno de los organizadores del LWC]. Después de eso, los encargados y algunos de mis compañeros me hicieron la vida imposible. Hasta algunas de mis propias compañeras del trabajo empezaron a hablar de mí. Me mantuve muy firme. Quisieron los dueños que firmara mi renuncia, pero no firmé por mi voluntad.

Me despidieron y sólo recibí un sobre que ni abrí. Al próximo día fui al departamento laboral y puse mi queja. Les dí el sobre todavía sellado y les dije mis quejas: de mesera sólo dure un año, pero yo trabajaba en el counter. A veces me pasaban órdenes para hacer, pero le dije que no eran mías y que yo tenía mi propio trabajo que me mantenía ocupada. Una de las meseras era familiar de los dueños y nos decían que no necesitaba ayuda de nadie, pero trabajaba muy despacio. Un día el jefe me dijo una mala palabra hasta que un cliente le dijo que era mala educación. Creo que el dueño quería que yo estallara. Pero yo estaba comprometida a no reaccionar—podré estar muriendo de coraje pero no voy a ser igual que él.

Hice muchos enemigos, pero no hice nada mal. Tenía miedo de que me echaran a la cárcel, pero dije “ yo voy a luchar porque no tengo de qué avergonzarme. Para mí no es un juego”. Mi mamá tenía mucho miedo. Me preguntaba, “¿y si te mandan de regreso para acá?”. Le aseguré, “mami, yo no he matado a nadie. Solamente me estoy defendiendo y sé mis derechos”. Mis ex-compañeras me decían, “tú vas a estar fichada” y les dije, “ ¿por qué, si yo no he cometido ningún delito? Mi delito fue cruzar la frontera y no he hecho nada de lo que estar avergonzada” .

Yo les quiero decir a las demás mujeres en mi situación que no se dejen. No porque seamos mujeres hay que dejarnos ser humilladas. No porque seamos mujeres hay que dejar que nos pisoteen.Ahora estoy en la mesa directiva de Laundry Workers Center.

El primero de mayo, no voy a asistir al trabajo para demostrarles que, sin nosotros, los hispanos,  en este país no son nada. No voy a trabajar como mesera. Eso también lo hice en el día sin inmigrantes. Me tocaba trabajar, pero no trabaje. Dije, “aunque me regresen para mi casa el día siguiente no voy a asistir al trabajo”. Al final no me despidieron.


Testimony – Natalia*

Laundry Workers Center

*Names have been changed.

“On May 1st, I will not go to work to show that this country would be nothing without us Hispanics/Latinos.”

My name is Natalia. I was born in Queretaro but now I live in New York. I moved to the US in 2007. My partner who I have two children with had already moved here seven years earlier. After he came to the US, I started to notice little by little that he was distancing himself from his kids–like he had forgotten that he had a family and two kids. That’s when we separated.

I started to work a lot–taking care of my kids, as well as washing and ironing other people’s clothes for pay. I would drop off my kids at school at one o’ clock and go into work at a stationary store at two; when I got off of work at 6, I had to pick them up. I worked a lot to try to pay my bills–my phone bill, the light bill and other expenses. The only person I could depend on was myself. My kids and I lived in a house that my partner owned in Mexico City. His brother demanded that he send him the rights to the house and he did.

We had a lot of problems with my partner’s family. His brother would throw things in my face that I did not like until one day I ended up in the hospital with an embolia from how angry he made me. I told my partner–who was living in New York at the time–to be honest with me about his feelings so I could avoid being hurt further by his family. His family kicked me out of the house. I didn’t care about material possessions. With my own labor, I told myself, I would have to survive with my kids and so I left.

I looked for a place to stay and I was able to rent a house with my savings. It was heavy–paying rent and my kids’ schooling.

I hid what was happening from my parents because I was worried about what their reaction would be. One day I spoke with my brother and told him everything that had happened, to which he responded that I should come back to my parents’ home in Queretaro. He asked me, what are you doing there? But I didn’t even have enough money for the ride back home. My brother got me a place to stay at the house of an elderly woman and gave me money to buy my return tickets with my kids back home where my family was waiting for me.

My mother asked for an explanation. I asked her not to ask me anything–what happened, happened. I asked her to take care of my kids while I worked an hour away from home from Monday through Saturday. I worked as a masseuse at a hospital. My bosses were a couple of doctors who owned the hospital. They were very good to me. They offered to let me live in their home during the week so as to save more of my earnings for my kids’ education and food for my mom. They told me that they would even let me leave early on Saturdays and arrive late on Mondays. The woman doctor took empathized with me, she said, because she understood how difficult it was to be a mother and be alone. They treated me really well during that year I lived with them–whatever they ate I ate too and they wouldn’t let me put in any of my own money towards food.

When my daughter was 13 years old, my sister who was living in Chicago asked me if I wanted to come with her. She told me, you wouldn’t have to spend any of your own money because I would pay for your passage. I thought about it but I told my sister, I’m going to be honest with you. The day I choose to go I want it to be from my own effort and when I decide the time is right. But within a year, I had decided and I told my mother, I’m going to the US. She answered me that I was crazy. I would have been crazy if I stayed there with all of my kids’ expenses that were growing each day. I also wanted to show my ex-partner that I was going to get ahead even if he had turned his back when I most needed him. His family was going to be sorry that they had talked so much about me. My mother didn’t believe me and she simply told me, sleep on it and tell me again tomorrow.

I continued working. But one day in February I told the doctors of my intention to leave. I quit even though they offered me a raise to double what I was making because I was their best employee and even though I would have to leave the little boy, Christian. I had come to love that little boy so much. He could not speak or hear. To this day I have a lot of love for that little boy. He will always be in my heart. I told them, just because I’m leaving doesn’t mean I will stop loving him. But I knew I had to go.

Before I left, I would do a penance, a traditional ritual where I’m from. I said, I want to do this walk, this pilgrimage, to the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe. It wasn’t easy–to get there you have to cross mountains. My family members asked me, are you sure you will be able to finish the walk? I wanted to go to the Virgin of Guadalupe.

We left at 2am one day and we wouldn’t get there until 8pm the following day. You had to walk up a lot of steps. I even did a part of it on my knees. When I got to the top, I spoke with the virgin and I told her that it pained my very much to leave my kids. I asked her to open up my path.

I also wanted to go to church to get the father’s blessing. I confessed and told the father that I was leaving for Chicago. He told me, God will take care of you.

My mother, who had already taken the journey, warned me, there are a lot of things that happen along the way and I don’t want to scare you. I still had one worry. I asked my mother to take care of my kids. I asked her to sign a power of attorney letter and not to let my children’s father see my kids. I felt that he had lost his rights to see them. I explained to my kids that I was leaving because i wanted them to have the education I never had. If they would resent me, I wanted them to know I did what I did as a sacrifice for them.

I arrived here in 2007. I worked at hotel in the morning and another at a restaurant at night. I worked a lot and one day my sisters told me I had received a call. It was Salvador, my ex-partner, who was in Mexico and wanted to see the kids. My family members begged me to let him see them, telling me it wasn’t the kids’ fault. But I was determined that he shouldn’t see them because I was the only one supporting them. If I was solely responsible for supporting them, he had no right to see them. My family members said I was holding a grudge and that I was being proud. And I was but they had made me that way. My kids cost me. I finally agreed to let my sister-in-law see them but they had to be supervised and only for one hour. My husband asked me to forgive him but I told him “when they most needed you you weren’t there. Don’t worry because we won’t die of hunger. Your kids will hate you because what goes around comes around.” That’s when I gave him an ultimatum–if he wanted to be in their life, he had to call them at least once a month or definitely stop communicating with them. After all, their number had always been the same. Meanwhile, I would continue working to send money to my kids–whether washing and ironing other people’s clothes or selling cosmetics.

In 2009, I got back with my husband and we moved from Chicago to New York. I got back with Salvador but things weren’t the same anymore. I gave my conditions like that he was to pay the expenses on the house. I told him, “you have no right to ask me where I spend my money or to ask for receipts of my expenses. My money is my money and it’s none of your business if I decide to spend it all in one day. We can sleep together but there won’t be intimacy. I will let you talk to our kids by phone because I think it will help them with their problems in school.”

It’s been 10 years since I saw my kids, but my daughter is graduating with her career on May 25th. She is 23 years old. She’s already working in her field and she lives independently. I think that my sacrifices have not been in vain. I don’t have any regrets. My sacrifice–of leaving my kids–has been worth it. My mother is proud of her because it’s as if she were her daughter, not her granddaughter. The other day she called me to tell me that they were even giving her a company car.

My mom tells me, “you missed out on your daughter’s childhood because she is a young woman now.” I respond, “mom, do you think that if I had stayed in that job, my daughter would be a professional? It’s a country with little resources. What can a person offer their kids?”

When I first moved to New York, I worked in a Mexican restaurant for only 3 months because the owner sexually harassed me. I was just doing my job like all the other employees. When he told me to help him pick out the meats, he would start to “talk nice to me”. I told him, you may be a much older man but that doesn’t give you the right to take advantage of your employees. When he saw that I might quit, he told me, don’t quit, I can give you a little extra something. It wasn’t about the money for me but about seeing a change in his attitude. If he was taking advantage of me, the new girl, I could only imagine that he had been sexually harassing the other women employees. I spoke to his wife, who was also co-owner of the restaurant and told her that I needed to quit because even though I was happy the job was too far for me. I also told my husband that I didn’t want to work there anymore but I didn’t tell him why.

I looked but I couldn’t find work. I looked everywhere for any kind of job but all I found were jobs in the night shift which I didn’t want to work. My husband found me work at the same restaurant chain but another location. I asked Paola, the woman who we rented our room from, to put in a good word for me at her workplace, a Dominican restaurant. She had a coworker who was going on vacation for 20 days and told me to get ready with their uniform (black trousers and a white shirt) and be ready to go at 7am. She gave me two white shirts because I didn’t have any. When the girl I was subbing for came back, the manager said she wasn’t going to let me go and that’s how I spend 5 (almost 6) years there.

I had been working there for 5 years when I noticed that something wasn’t right. We would work 9 hour shifts from 7am to 4pm. The cooks worked from 6am to 4pm, 10 hours. One of my coworkers, Oscar, had to wash dishes and still cook all of the rice. We didn’t rest. We didn’t have another choice.

There was another guy who went back to Mexico now. He started doing the math and he decided that something wasn’t adding up. He started to talk about a pay raise. The managers told him, we don’t talk about that kind of thing here. He responded, well where does that get talked about then?

I also did my calculations. In 54 hours a week, I was paid $240 (if I worked all 7 days). That was $40 a day in 2014. We had one hour, from 11am to 12am, for 10 people to eat and had no right to a rest break. If you happened to miss your meal during the designated lunch period, you had to wait until after closing time at 4pm to eat.

Oscar started to see that the work he was doing was really a two-person job and he asked for a raise. He asked when would be a good time to bring up the subject. They didn’t like that. One day the boss came and saw that there was a pile of dirty dishes in the sink, but Oscar was busy cooking rice. When the boss called his attention to the dishes, Oscar responded by asking if he wanted to help. The boss was not a respectable guy. Oscar got fired. They gave him an envelope containing $60.

Since he lived with me and my partner, I told him, “don’t worry about the rent because I’ll pay it” since he couldn’t find another job. I told him, “consider this the vacation you never got after all those years of working without a break.” That’s when he was introduced to the organization (Laundry Workers Center). He met a compañero named Nazario who invited us to the organization. I felt caught in between joining or not joining. Each day my job got heavier and heavier. In addition to working for such little pay, when we had any tips we had to divide them between 10 people. You never saw the sun because you went in so early and got out so late. Finding another part time job was out of the question because you left the job so tired. I thought to myself, “this isn’t a life.

That’s how I joined the organization. I asked myself, what world do we live in? Why do we let our employer control what we do and just let him do as he wishes with us? Why does everyone stay quiet about it? Why does this the boss get to ride around in a luxurious car and be with a different woman every week off of our sweat? I asked myself, should I do it or not? Are we gonna do it?

I was moved to action when they fired this young man, Oscar, who worked so much. The boss had his replacement there the next day like if nothing had happened. After so many years working there all they gave him was $60. I felt very bad for him. I felt as if this boy could have been my son, the son I didn’t have here with me. He decided to sue them. I told him, “I will support you even if I have to do it secretly and even if it consts me my marriage (my husband was good friends with the owner).” I brought my pay stubs. That’s how we started to get more of our coworkers to join up; at first it was only four of us. We got to twenty-two. They counter-sued us and they counter-sued Mahoma [one of the organizers of the LWC]. After that, the managers and even some of my coworkers started to talk about me. I stood my ground. The owners wanted me to sign my resignation, but I wouldn’t sign it of my own accord.

They fired me and I only received an envelope that I never opened. The next day I  went to the Labor Relations board and made a complaint. I gave them the envelope still sealed and told them my complaints: I was only a waitress for a year, but normally I worked behind the counter. Sometimes they would pass me orders to take care of but I would tell them that those weren’t mine and I had my own work to do that kept me busy. One of the waitresses was a family friend of the owners and she would say she didn’t need anyone’s help but she worked very slowly. One day the boss yelled at her and said a bad word to her so that a client even told her it was very rude. I think the owner wanted to get a reaction out of me to make me explode. But I was determined not to react–I could have been dying of rage on the inside but I told myself I was not going to be like him.

I made a lot of enemies but I didn’t do anything wrong. I was scared that they’d throw me in jail, but I told myself, “I’m going to fight this because I don’t have anything to be ashamed of. This isn’t a game to me.” My mother was very scared. She asked me, “what if they deport you back here?” I assured her, “mami, I haven’t killed anyone. I’m just defending myself and asserting my rights.” My coworkers, especially the women, at the time would tell me, you’re going to be tagged” to which I responed “why, if I haven’t committed any crimes? Mi only crime was crossing the border and I haven’t done anything that I should be ashamed of.”

I want to tell other women that are in that situation that they shouldn’t le themselves be taken advantage of. Just because we’re women doesn’t give anyone the right to humiliate us. Just because we’re women doesn’t mean we should let people step all over us.

Now I’m on the leadership board of the Laundry Workers Center.

On May 1st, I will not be going to work to show that without us, Hispanics/Latinos, this country would be nothing. I’m not going to work at my waitress job. I also did that on the Day Without an Immigrant. I had to go to work, but I didn’t go in. I said, “even if they send me back home the next say I won’t go to work.” I wasn’t fired.

*This interview was done in collaboration with Public Seminar and the International Women’s Strike NYC.

 


 

Testimonio—Marta Martinez

Golden Steps Cooperative

Mi nombre es Marta Martínez, soy salvadoreña y llevo veintiocho años viviendo en Estados Unidos.

            Pertenezco a la cooperativa Golden Steps para el cuidado de ancianos, desde la cuál decimos “presente” al paro internacional de mujeres.

Trabajo con una señora de seteinta y tres años, la cuál es diabética, usa un marca pasos y pierde el balance para caminar. Pensé que iba a estar poco tiempo con ella, pero ya tengo año y medio. Hace tiempo le dejaron de dar terapias en casa, pero yo he seguido ayudándola con ejercicios de movimiento. Aunque su recuperación es lenta, creo que le he ayudado mucho. Depende mucho de mí, sin mí se siente muy débil, muy nerviosa. Le gusta que esté presente cuando la va a visitar alguna enfermera o médico. Se siente fuerte si estoy a su lado.

Soy madre de dos niña pequeñas .siete y cuatro años . quienes demandan mucha atención. Mi esposo me ayuda, pero la mamá es la mamá, así que tengo que pasar tiempo con ellas. No tengo suficiente tiempo para todo lo que tengo que hacer.

En mi trabajo muchas veces me quedo horas extra sin que me paguen porque siento que no puedo dejar abandonada a la señora. Soy apasionada de este trabajo. Antes me dedicaba a limpiar casas. Sin embargo, cuando me embaracé a los cuarenta y dos años de la más pequeña de mis niñas, decidí que tenía que buscar un trabajo que requirirera menos fuerza física y que me gustara. Me gusta estar con personas mayores, escuchar sus historias y aprender de su experiencia. En fin, conocer cómo es el proceso de la vida, que es una de las cosas que aprendemos en la cooperativa. Tenemos entrenamientos de todo tipo, por ejemplo en Alzeheimer, desnutricion y CPR. Yo tengo la necesidad de estar en cada entrenamiento pues siento que hay algo nuevo que aprender cada vez. Recientemente tuvimos un open house. Vamos a tener gente nueva. Yo exijo mucho, que la que va a trabajar en esto tenga la pasión, que junte la mente con el corazón. A veces siento que soy exagerada, que me gana el sentimiento. Doy más de lo que debería de dar y expongo mucho más de lo que debo exponer.

Es muy difícil tener que poner primero el trabajo que la casa. Por ejemplo, el día de la operación de mi clienta, teníamos que estar en la clínica a las siete de la mañana y la transportacion llegóa las seis. Ese día mi hija tenía escuela. Mi esposo trabaja en la noche y llega en la madrugada. Le rogue que se levantara temprano y me fuera a dejar a la niña a la escuela, pero es muy difícil. Usted sabe: esposo, padre, hombre. Yo soy mujer, mi clienta es mujer, y trato de entender muchas cosas de ella. Mujer con mujer se identifican, se entienden, se conocen. Yo tenía una necesidad fuerte de acompañar a la señora porque no tiene familia. Hay ocasiones en que el sentimiento me gana.Su hijo varón, que es el que debería estar a su lado, está, pero no está. Escucha jeringa y se asusta, dice que no puede. Ella lo que hace es ocultar su situacion de salud enfrente del hijo. Conmigo a su lado ya no son sólo sus dos ojos, sino dos ojos más, dos oídos más, y una lengua más, ¡aunque la suya sola ya es terrible!

El cuidado de ancianos es algo que lo toca a una, por muy fuerte que la persona sea. Cuando se es madre, hermana, hija, es inevitable tener este sentimiento. A veces no es tan abierto, tan expuesto, pero sale con el tiempo. Se comparten risas.Usted se encariña con la persona que limpia su casa, se va a formando un hilo de sentimiento. Hay cosas de ella que sus hijas no saben. En esas conversaciones usted va descubriendo cosas que la atan a esa persona. La señora con la que trabajao habla español. Yo creo que las personas que hablamos español tenemos otra venita que nos une. Tuve otra paciente con Alzeheimer, ella era americana y la atendí con medicaid. Hicimos click desde que nos vimos. Eramos como seis personas las que la veíamos. Gracias al entrenamiento que he recibido,yo iba notando que ya no sabia quién era quién. Me comentaba ella de unas compañeras de agencia que llegaban a trabajar para ella y que se ponía a hacer ejercicios.Estaba sentada queriendo ir al baño y la de la agencia haciendo ejercicios. En este trabajo una se enfrenta a cosas así que duelen.La señora tenía una jorobita y la cabeza se le caía en el pecho. Cuando dejé de trabajar con ella, de algún modo consiguió mi teléfono y me llamó. “¿Cómo lo consiguió?”, le pregunté. Ella se rio y me dijo, “ven a verme, te voy a esperar sentada en la puerta”. A veces iba sólo a verla, aunque no pudiera ir a trabajar. Le dió un infarto. No sé si fue descuido, fue en la madrugada. Tenía noventa y siete años y hasta el día de hoy la recuerdo. Me afecto mucho. Lo he ido digiriendo poco a poco, como un amorcito que vivía en mi. Todavia tengo mucho cariño por su memoria.

Otra señora con la que trabajaba se me murió a mí. A mí, a mí. Su esposo falleció y no tenía hijos. Tenía un sobrino muy bueno que le hacía su comida. El sobrino me decía que tenía negocios en upstate y que no podía ir por estar pendiente de ella. Por mis hijas no puedo extender mi horario de trabajo, pero el me rogó que trabajara con ella. Habían intentado con varias peronas, pero ella era muy difícil. Conmigo era otra persona, hasta se dejaba bañar. Llegué un día viernes, la bañé y le dí de comer. Estuvimos platicando. Ella tenía una sillita que era su lugar favorito. Después de que la bañaba, la sentaba en esa silla. Ese día le dije: ya me voy, ahí le queda la comida en la refri.

La encontré muerta en el mismo lugar que la había dejado. La camaba estaba intacta. Todo estaba como lo había dejado. Pensamos con la policía que ella murió ese mismo viernes. Yo creo que fue segundos depues de que me fui. Cuando yo llegué y abrí esa puerta…

La cooperativa se fundó en el 2011 y yo comencé a trabajar con ellas en el 2015. Cuando se fundó había muchas ganas de levantarse como cooperativa, pero al mismo tiempo no encontraban el camino. Trabajar en grupo no es fácil porque cada quien tiene diferentes opiniones, así que eran muy pocas al principio. Ahora somos catorce, la mayoría de las integrantes tiene trabajo, está activa y aprendiendo.

Hay una diferencia entre trabajar sola, trabajar con una agencia y trabajar con una cooperativa. Cuando trabajo yo sola, soy mi propio jefe, yo me mando, pero también sólo logro alcanzar lo que mi persona permite. No puedo llegar lejos por mi cuenta porque no estoy educada. La cooperativa me ha dado educación y he aprendido a trabajar en grupo. Todas somos dueñas, pero también tenemos una mesa de liderazgo que nos supervisa. Tenemos un estatuto, reglas, línea a seguir. Actualmente me desempeño como presidenta de la mesa de liderazgo, que es un comité donde se toman las decisiones.

Cuando algo no se puede arreglar ahí, la discusión se lleva a membresía. En la cooperativa tenemos un contrato con el cliente. Si estoy por mi cuenta, me botan cuando quieran y se acabo. Con la cooperativa tengo un respaldo, cuento con un seguro y con asesoramiento legal. En la cooperativa, el pago que recibo por mi trabajo es mío. En la agencia, ellos cobran un sueldo por mí y me pagan lo que ellos quieran. La agencia no me educa y, cuando me mandan con un cliente, no sé si el cliente tiene alzeheimer o con qué situación me voy a encontrar. Con la cooperativa, sí sé. La persona que toma la llamada averigua en qué condición está el cliente y cuál es la situación familiar para que la trabajadora vaya preparada lo mejor posible y sea orientada por otras compañeras, si así lo necesita.

La agencia está mal para el cliente y está mal para el empleado. El cliente no sabe si la persona que le van a mandar sabe leer y escribir, no tiene ni idea. En la cooperativa somos varias trabajadoras y si hay un cliente con necesidades específicas, se le canaliza a quien este más capacitada. En la cooperativa estamos entrenadas. Por ejemplo, sabemos realizar un CPR, mientras que cuando una trabaja con agencia, no sólo no nos enseñan cómo hacerlo, sino que nos prohíben usarlo si surge una emergencia.

Cuando la señora falleció, llame al 911. Me decían: ¡hazle CPR! Yo les decía: ¡no, está muerta, está muerta! No entendían que estaba muerta o quizás me lo decían por mantenerme alerta. En la agencia me dijeron, “si hubiera estado viva, igual no hubieras podido hacerle CRP. Cuando estás trabajando para nosotros, está prohibido”.

En Golden Steps somos mas fuertes como cooperativa que solas o como empleadas de una agencia. Este ocho de marzo me hubiera encantado asistir a a la marcha, pero no tengo con quién dejar a mis hijas. Sin embargo, voy a sumarme al paro. Mañana mi clienta estará sin mí. No voy a cocinar para ella, no le haré mandados, no lavaré su ropa, no compraré sus groceries. No le tomaré la presión, no la acompañaré al medico, no le recordaré que tienen que inyectarse la insulina, no monitorearé sumarcapasos. No le daré masajes para la circulación y no haremos ejercicios de movimiento para que los pies no se le pongan rígidos. ¡Ojalá se tome sus medicinas!

 

Testimony—Marta Martinez

Golden Steps Cooperative

My name is Marta Martinez, I am from El Salvador and I have been living in the United States for twenty-eight years. I am a member of the Golden Steps cooperative for elder care and we say “present” to the International Women´s Strike.

I work with a seventy three years old lady who is diabetic, has a pacemaker, and has difficulties walking. I thought I was going to spend little time with her, but it has already been one year and a half. Some time ago she stopped receiving therapies at home, but I have continued helping her with physical exercises. Even if her recovery is slow, I think I have helped her a lot. She depends on me greatly, without me she feels very weak, very nervous. She likes me to be present when a nurse or doctor visits her. She feels stronger if I’m by her side.

I am the mother of two little girls .seven and four years old . which demand a lot of my attention. My husband helps me, but Mom is Mom, so I have to spend time with them. I do not have enough time for everything I have to do. At work, I often do overtime without payment because I feel that I cannot leave her abandoned by herself.

I am passionate about this job. Before I was cleaning houses. However, when I got pregnant from my youngest girl at forty two, I decided that I had to find a job that required less physical strength and that I liked. I like to be with older people, listen to their stories and learn from their experiences. In short, to understand the progression of a lifetime, which is one of the issues we learn at the cooperative. We have trainings of all kinds, for example on Alzeheimer, malnutrition and CPR. I have the need to be in every single training session because I feel there is something new to learn every time. We recently had an open house. We are going to get new people. I am very demanding; I want them to have to have passion about this job, bringing together mind and heart. Sometimes I feel that I am exaggerating, that I become too passionate. I give more than I should give, and I expose myself much more than I should.

It is very difficult to put work first and home second. For example, on the day of my client’s surgery, we had to be in the clinic at 7:00 am and transportation arrived at 6:00. That day my daughter had school. My husband works at night and arrives at dawn. I begged him to get up early and take the girl to school, but it is very difficult. You know: husband, father, man. I am a woman, my client is a woman and I try to understand many things about being women. A woman identifies with a woman, we understand and know each other. I had a strong need to accompany the lady because she has no family.

There are times when emotions win over me. Her son, a young male, who is the one who should be by her side, is present, but he is also not. He listens to the word “needle” and gets scared, says he cannot withstand it. She is hiding her health condition in front of her son. With me at her side, it is no longer just her two eyes, but two more eyes, two more ears, and one more tongue, even though hers is already quite something!

Elder care is something that touches one, no matter how strong the person may be. When you are a mother, a sister, a daughter, it is inevitable to feel that way. Sometimes it is not quite in the open, it is not exposed, but it comes out with time. Laughter is shared. You are fond of the person who cleans your house; a thread of feeling starts to appear. There are things about her that her daughters do not even know. Through these conversations you discover things that bind you to that person. The lady work with speaks Spanish. I believe that people who speak Spanish have another vein that binds us.

I had another patient with Alzeheimer, she was American and I attended her with Medicaid. We clicked since we saw each other. Around six people were taking care of her. Thanks to the training I received, I noticed that she no longer knew who was who. She told me about some of the women who came from agencies, who would arrive and start doing gym exercises. She was sitting wanting to go to the bathroom and the agency people doing exercises. In this work one faces things like that that hurt. The lady had a hump and her head would almost hit the chest. When I stopped working for her, somehow she got my phone number and called me. “How did you get it?” I asked her. She laughed and said, “come to see me, I’ll wait for you sitting at the door”. Sometimes I would go just to see her, even though I could not go work for her. She had a heart attack. I do not know if it was due to carelessness, it was at dawn. She was ninenty seven years old and to this day I remember her. It got me hard. I’ve been digesting it little by little, like a little love that lived in me. I still have a lot of love for her memory.

Another lady I worked for died under my care. Yes, with me. Her husband had died and she had no children. She had a very good nephew, who cooked food for her. The nephew told me that he had businesses upstate and that he could not take care of them because he needed to be with her. Because of my daughters I cannot extend my work schedule, but he begged me to work for his aunt. They had tried several people, but she was very difficult to handle. With me, she was another person, she even let herself be bathed. I arrived on a Friday, bathed her, and fed her. We chatted. She had a little chair that was her favorite spot. After the bath, I would sit her on that chair. That day I said: I will leave now, there are leftovers in the refrigerator. I found her dead in the same spot that I had left her. The bed was intact. Everything was as I had left it. We thought with the police that she died that same Friday. I think it was seconds after I left. When I arrived and I opened that door…

The cooperative was founded in 2011 and I started working with them in 2015. When it was founded, there was a huge desire to set it up as a cooperative, but at the same time they could not find a way.

They were very few at first since working in groups is not easy because everyone has different opinions. However, now we are fourteen, most of the members have jobs, are active and are learning.

There is a difference between working alone, working with an agency, and working with a cooperative. When I work alone, I am my own boss, I boss myself around, but also I only manage to achieve what my personhood allows me to. I cannot get very far on my own because I’m not educated. The cooperative has given me education and I have learned to work in a group. We are all the owners, but we also have a leadership table that supervises us. We have a statute, rules, guidelines to follow. I am currently chair of the leadership table, which is a committee where decisions are made. When something cannot be fixed there, the discussion is brought to the entire membership. In the cooperative we have a contract with the client. If I’m on my own, they’ll throw me out whenever they want and it’s over. With the cooperative I have a contract, I have insurance and legal advice.

In the cooperative, the payment I receive for my work is mine. In the agency, they charge the client and give me whatever they want. The agency does not educate me and, when they send me with a client, I do not know if the client has Alzeheimer or what situation I’m going to find. With the cooperative, I do know. The person who takes the call finds out in what condition the client is and what is the family situation, so that the worker is prepared as best as possible and is guided by other colleagues, if necessary.

The agency is bad for the client and bad for the employee. The client does not know if the person that they are going to send knows how to read and write, they have no idea. In the cooperative, we are several workers and if there are clients with specific needs, they are channeled to those who are more qualified. In the cooperative we are trained. For example, we know how to perform CPR, while when working with an agency, they not only do not teach us how to do it, but we are prohibited from using it if an emergency arises. When the lady I worked with passed away, I called 911. They told me: Perform CPR! I told them: no, she’s dead, she’s dead! They did not understand that she was dead or maybe they were saying that to keep me alert. In the agency they told me, “If she had been alive, you still could not have done CRP. When you are working for us, it is prohibited”. At Golden Steps, we are stronger as a cooperative than alone or as an agency employee.

This March 8 I would have loved to attend the march, but I have no one to leave my daughters with. However, I will join the strike. Tomorrow my client will be without me. I will not cook for her, I will not do errands for her, I will not wash her clothes, I will not buy her groceries. I will not take her pressure, I will not accompany her to the doctor, I will not remind her that she has to inject herself with insulin, nor monitor her pacemaker. I will not massage her for her circulation and we will not do movement exercises so that her feet do not get rigid. I hope she takes her own medicines!