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!

 

IWS NYC May Day Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:

Sarah Leonard, srl2126@gmail.com,

Sonni Farrow sonnifarrow@gmail.com

or 347-819-3511

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zillah Eisenstein “Thinking Out Loud for Organizing”

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

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

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

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

Joint Statement for May Day

No Ban. No Wall.  No ICE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solidarity is our weapon!

Signatory Organizations:

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

International Women’s Strike LA, March 8 2017

Click here for PDF version with photos.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Media at the event included:

Covered also on radio:

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

Call to Action

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

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

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

• Finance Department, Andrew Cherullo, Finance Director, 253.591.5800

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

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

Hunger Striker’s Demands

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

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

Call for an Academic Moratorium on May 1

(Sign the petition here!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In solidarity,

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

The First Strike – an interview in Jacobin

by Cinzia Arruzza & Doug Henwood

 

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

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

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

Below, a lightly edited transcript of their conversation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Note: originally published in Jacobinmag.com

An Open Letter to Katha Pollitt

by Zillah Eisenstein

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Note: originally published in viewpointmag.com