Written by Mary McCune & Denise Tugade
Simply stated, the upcoming women’s general strike misses the mark.
Earlier this week, the organizers behind last month’s historic Women’s March announced that a general strike has been planned for Wednesday, March 8, 2017 (International Women’s Day), entitled “#DayWithoutAWoman.” While the organizers of the strike have yet to announce the specific tenets upon which the strike will be based, it will likely include economic-based tactics other progressive groups have employed, including not going to work and boycotting.
First, what is a general strike? This tactic, employed by unions since at least the mid 1800’s, is a mass rally and refusal to work campaign that encourages participation of an entire community to demand changes in government policy. One of the reasons why this strategy is effective in labor movements is because strike funds are saved to supplement participants’ lost wages. Where are the GoFundMe campaigns to help cover the cost of lost wages, or worse, lost jobs, for those who refuse to work on March 8? Looking back in history, the Women’s Strike of 1970 was considered largely successful and tried to address the financial and economic barriers that would prevent women from participating. One reason for it’s high participation was that it was scheduled after 5pm to allow the majority of women workers to participate without taking a day off or forgoing an entire day’s wages.
Participation in this strike as it is currently being organized can be inaccessible to certain groups, particularly to the populations most affected by laws and policies that institutionalize racial, gender, and other inequities in the workplace. Not everyone has unionized benefits, financial security, or PTO/sick time to participate in these activities. Not all workers have understanding employers or the childcare options to break away from their typical Wednesday routine. How can we expect to come together as a community to demand change when not all voices are present?
Leaders in the women’s movement must take a step back and make sure we are moving forward together. How can we start doing that? Here are some suggestions:
- Identify who has a seat at the table and acknowledge who is missing.
Who does your group represent? Who isn’t at the table, and why? Multiple perspectives will allow for the development of inclusive programming that more people can participate in. When voices are spoken for rather than uplifted, we stand to lose not only diversity, but the chance to hear what this community needs and actually meet those needs. A diverse planning committee can help develop messaging that is culturally appropriate and relevant to the community and identify how this community wants to be supported.
- Conduct regular community outreach.
As an organizing entity, make sure you have genuine and trusting relationships with various community groups. Generating mass invitations to the community does not necessarily mean that everyone will feel welcomed. Many of the communities that are underrepresented in our movement have been historically disenfranchised and do not feel like they have a place in the movement. An easy way to start the conversation is to show up.
- Make sure everyone has a voice in the solution-making process.
Solutions aren’t created in the planning phase, they are found from within the movement. Likewise, we should not be trying to play the life-saving roles of Wonder Woman or Superman; we should be empowering ourselves and lifting each other up to be able to fight back together.
While we must unite in the face of the current administration, the injustices that have existed long before this administration, and those which will come long after, we can always do better. The Fem Dems go forward with the mantra of “Woke enough to know I'm not woke enough.” As the Women’s March movement gathers more traction to oppose the current administration and dismantle existing institutional inequities, let’s make sure everyone is included, can participate, and feels welcome. Let's examine both the structures we are fighting and the structures we are upholding. Let’s be thoughtful about our organizing efforts and be compassionate towards one another. And most importantly, let’s rise above…together.
Looking for alternative ways to get involved? Check out some of our recommendations:
Alice Paul Institute (API): Among other things, API promotes gender equality through programs for the education, development, and empowerment of young women leaders. API also houses an online project, www.equalrightsamendment.org, which tracks legislation seeking to codify the Equal Rights Amendment at the state and federal constitution levels.
National Women’s Law Center (NWLC): This organization continually is at the front of the fighting lines advocating on a plethora of issues including gender and racial inequities in the workplace. With over 80% of donations funding the organization’s programming, you can rest assured that some of the nation’s best advocates will be effectively fighting across the nation for things like equal pay laws, data collection to continue to monitor the gender pay gap, and sexual harassment in the workplace.
Women for Equality: The brainchild of Sacramento #ladyboss and author, Anita Ross, Women for Equality seeks to create a community that is ready to rally when it is time to create public pressure on issues that oppose love, equality, justice, peace, and respect for all. Check out their next general meeting on Friday, March 3 from 6:30-8pm at 9249 Folsom Blvd., Sacramento, CA 95826. Facebook event details can be found here.
Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW): Are you a union member? CLUW is the only national organization for union women, formed with the primary mission of identify common concerns and develop action programs within the union framework to effectively deal with their objectives. The California Capital Chapter in Sacramento meets on the 1st Thursday of each month from 6-8pm at SETA (925 Del Paso Blvd., Sacramento, CA).
Weekly Action Checklist: Subscribe to Jennifer Hofmann’s weekly action email list to find out new ways to #resist. Checklists are circulated via email each Sunday and are organized by policy area so you can make your voice heard on issues that matter the most to you!
Mom’s Rising: Stay up to date on issues locally and nationwide related to paid maternity leave, fair wages, health care for all, and early care/education. Local events are organized in Sacramento, so make sure to subscribe to learn when events are happening near you!