NATIONAL—Today we in AF3IRM join workers worldwide in marking May Day! We take time to remember the Haymarket affair and the long struggle of labor rights and unions especially as we here in the United States recently survived the first 100 days of a troubled presidency, as the fascist-in-chief fashions this country into a corporatized state. This administration’s leaders continue to champion white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, ableism and xenophobia with their far-right and neo-fascist agenda to the detriment of women in all sectors.
This International Workers’ Day we recognize that the intersections of oppression target the most vulnerable among us as this current administration continues to strip away the rights of workers – especially those of women and immigrants. In our different locales around the United States, we face continued inequality and have witnessed the attacks on workers and women manifest in different ways (see Snapshots of Local Conditions). We are far from equitable pay, with women of color still making less than men and wage theft rampant from the home, the factory, the docks, and the fields. Poverty has a woman’s face – with Black women making 64 cents to every dollar a white man makes, Latinas 52 cents and some Pacific Islander and Southeast Asian women making as low 44 cents and 38 cents. The vast majority of low-wage workers in the service industry are women. Mothers can earn up to 14% less than other women. From the factory floor to the boardroom, women face unsafe work conditions, harassment, assault, and abuse. This administration clearly favors profit and power over people. The 2014 Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces order, which made sure that companies with federal contracts complied with certain labor and civil rights laws, including paycheck transparency and a forced arbitration clause ban for certain claims, was revoked by Trump in March. These forced arbitration clauses have silenced and punished victims of sexual harassment, assault and discrimination, while favoring perpetrators in power, often with millions in payouts even if they are terminated.
Today immigrants and communities of colors are especially under attack, with increased deportations and heightened criminalization by ICE and border patrol – all with the current administration’s support. ICE has picked up mothers, such as Teresa de Jesus Vidal Jaime, from their homes or parents on their way to dropping off their children at school as well as teens who have just turned 18. These actions and conditions have caused fear and multi-generational trauma among our communities. There are new contracts with private prison corporations, such as Geo Corp and CoreCivic, for more detention centers – even as hundreds of prisoners in places like the Northwest Detention Center hold hunger strikes against these facilities’ conditions. The three-year legal battle of Rasmea Odeh recently came to an end after her team put forth a plea bargain that would strip her of her legal status and deport her, but would mean no prison sentence beyond time served, knowing that a win would be difficult in this current climate.
Despite these challenges, if the history of labor rights and these 100 days have taught us anything, it is that we must fight back. We must continue to to fight against each deportation and against each contract with a private prison corporation, while also fighting for workplace and union rights – especially against wage theft and sexual harassment – and for the right to live and work with dignity.
As anti-imperialist, transnational feminists, we continue to rise up because we believe in a feminist future of our making. It is a commitment to fair and equitable pay and treatment of workers, regardless of status, especially women workers. It means we must remain vigilant and continue to fight – but knowing that we cannot fight the same way as before. Today’s struggles call for new ways of combating these oppressions.
At AF3IRM’s National Congress last year, we discussed the need for a heightened strategy against right-wing/neo-fascist ideologies and the importance of developing our own theories to analyze new conditions. Our chapters identified intersecting issues impacting our locales and the need to build deeper in our communities. We committed to strategizing beyond solutions that merely aim to reduce, rather than eliminate harm, in order to build a world free of violence and hate.
As we mark May Day and the completion of Trump’s 100 days, we also released our “Forward to a Feminist Future” infographic, a visual interpretation of where AF3IRM plans to take our work under this new fascist regime that aims to dismantle our existence as women of color. We know that it is the lives, experiences, and freedom dreams of women of color that will show us the way to liberation. Join as we build a new feminist future!
CHAPTER SNAPSHOTS OF LOCAL CONDITIONS
Since 2004 the gender wage gap in Maryland and Virginia has narrowed, but in DC the gap has widened. As in all other states, women in the DMV are less likely than men to enter the labor force and more likely to live in poverty. Specifically, DC women who work full-time, year-round earn 87 cents on the dollar compared with similarly employed men. DC working women who are unionized earn $48 more per week, on average, than those who are not represented by a union.
Overall, the DMV has a higher percentage of women with bachelor degrees and are more likely to acquire managerial positions. DC, for example, received an “A” grade from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research rankings for the best place for women to find employment and achieve higher earning potential. Maryland and Virginia were among 11 other states that received a “B” grading. Despite these impressive rankings, these reflect opportunities beholden only to women from affluent backgrounds. In DC, more than 42,000 family households are headed by women, with 12,721 of these households falling below the poverty level. Women of color in the District also struggle with a wider wage gap; African American women are paid 56 cents and Latinas are paid 50 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men working in the District.(Statistics Source: National Partnership for Women and Families)
In Los Angeles, the immediate fear of working and immigrant women is the fear of deportation and the separation of their families. In February–only one month after Donald Trump was sworn into office–over 100 people were picked up in ICE raids in a day. During these raids, ICE went to people’s homes and workplaces with previous removal orders and also made collateral arrests. These actions only intensified the fears that exist in our communities and added to the already heavy emotional, economical, and physical loads women carry.
In particular, the working and immigrant women of Los Angeles are affected by poverty and a high cost of living. According to the Status of Women Report 2016, twenty-six percent of Black and Latina women and girls in LA county live in poverty. Twenty-four percent of LA County households are headed by single women and two-thirds of single-mother families live in rentals. Also more than half of all of the rental households in LA county pay 35% or more of their household income towards rent (Status of Women).
On top of high costs of living immigrant workers also face wage theft and are seriously underpaid in the service and manufacturing industries (Friedman 2016). These women struggle to support their families and access child care. For garment women workers who work 10 to 12 hour shifts, 6 days a week they are away from their families, their children. This is just another form of family separation (Friedman 2016). The working and immigrant women of Los Angeles deserve better than this.
(Statistics Sources: Status of Women Report; “The Problem With ‘Made In The U.S.A.’ You Don’t Know About”)
SAN FRANCISCO/BAY AREA
The alt-right has been intensifying their efforts to target the UC Berkeley campus and surrounding community as a battleground and stage for their neo-nazi, xenophobic platform, as the university was the epicenter for free speech for the Left in the 60s and 70s. Earlier in April, white nationalist and former Marine corporal, Nathan Damigo, punched a woman protester, while Milo Yiannopoulos, former senior editor for Breitbart News, and Ann Coulter, conservative commentator, were scheduled to speak at the campus until their appearances were cancelled due to student protests. Despite this, anti-fascist community and student groups have ramped up their resistance in protecting the student body and community members, particularly im/migrants and refugees.
In March, the AF3IRM SF Bay Area chapter mobilized a noise demonstration outside of the Bay Area’s largest ICE detention center, the Contra Costa West County Detention Facility in Richmond, CA. The chapter affirmed support for all immigrants and denounced the targeting of migrant women including, Guadalupe Garcia De Rayos, Jeanette Vizguerra, Valeria de la Luz, Ms. Gonzalez, Sara Beltran-Hernandez, & Daniela Vargas. The rally aimed to honor the ongoing resistance of women on the front lines, leading the fight against Trump’s racist (anti-indigenous, anti-black, anti-arab, anti-asian), xenophobic, and islamophobic executive orders & defying ICE arrests, raids, detention, and deportation.
In San Diego, there have been abuses of power to perpetuate violence against women, as revealed in accusations against Mickey Kasparian of UFCW Local 135 and other bosses. AF3IRM San Diego supports We Stand with Sandy, Isabel and Anabel campaign, and with women workers who experienced sexual abuse and unwanted demands for sex and oral sex at their jobs.
With San Diego’s close proximity to the border, ICE and border patrol are a constant threat. The immigrant community has continually come under attack with San Diego as a hub – as some are picked up and detained in other Southern California and then transferred to facilities in San Diego to undergo processing for deportation. This could be seen in the case of Teresa de Jesus Vidal Jaime, who was taken into custody in Los Angeles’s Boyle Heights and brought to San Diego. This is a clear example of family separation and unjust prosecution. We in AF3IRM are especially troubled by the detention of im/migrants in San Diego knowing the history and conditions of private prison corporations such as Corrections Corporation of America, now CoreCivic, which has three facilities in the area and was the target of a rolling protest last year by local organizations, including AF3IRM San Diego. Those fighting for im/migrants rights in San Diego also remain ever vigilant especially as US Customs and Border Protection come under higher scrutiny with recent reports coming to light of agents perpetrating abductions, rape and molestations, colluding with drug-traffickers, as well as denying medical care to migrants among other egregious practices.
The O.C. is known for its’ conservative stronghold and underlying white supremacy in California, but the county itself has been experiencing a growing shift in demographics, especially from refugee and immigrant communities. Communities of color have always been at the forefront of liberation movements and the same can be said that is happening in the OC. For example in Santa Ana, immigrant communities have mobilized against ICE collaboration with local police force by pressuring Santa Ana City Council to not renew any future contracts and successfully won. At the same time, we are seeing growing community opposition in Orange County to public and private incarceration construction and the urgent ask to see genuine investment in youth of color because the city of Santa Ana is spending over $19.5 million dollars this year to arrest and incarcerate youth, according to a new report from Resilience OC. Education. Just this past February, we also saw an off-duty LAPD officer get in a physical altercation with middle schoolers in Anaheim and he discharged his firearm at them. Disinvestment, criminalization, and police brutality are some of the realities that youth of color in the OC experience on the daily.
The city is also considering a contract with Vanir Construction Management, Inc., to conduct a “jail reuse study” of the Santa Ana City Jail. Vanir has a track record of turning “jail reuse” possibilities into self-serving jail construction opportunities. In San Diego County, Vanir was the construction management company responsible for building the Women’s Detention Facility in Santee, which is nearly triple the size of the old facility.
The criminalization of our youth, of immigrants, of workers in Orange County all impact transnational women of color since we occupy and intersect within all of these categories. On this May Day, we will continue to fight the exploitation and devaluation of our communities for genuine freedom.
[ Source: “Santa Ana’s motto: Jails not schools”]
Women of color and girls in the South Bay LA area are constantly being targeted and negatively impacted in their schools and communities. The exotification of girls at school has transferred to social media with street harassment starting younger and younger. Even middle school girls are being stalked and harassed while walking home from school.
The Tesoro refinery, already one of the top five largest refineries in the world, is set to become the largest refinery on the West Coast. Eco-feminists of color and environmental justice activists know that this is environmental racism and are calling for a stop to this expansion of the Tesoro refinery. AQMD is not doing their job, shame! Tesoro constantly pollutes the air, and destroys and poisons the soil of neighboring cities, affecting Long Beach, Wilmington and Carson.
Lastly, another issue in the South Bay is the perversion of power by an elected official. Attempted rape and sexual assault has been committed by the mayor of Carson. However, because the victim is low-income she cannot fight this man though the courts. We condemn the mayor of Carson and all folks who commit sexual violence against women. This mayor must step down! All women deserve justice.
New York’s immigrant population is the lifeblood of the city, to say the least. As with any other big metropolis, childcare and elderly care in NY are shouldered by its immigrant population, making it easier for its white-collar workers to sustain their time-demanding, stressful jobs. Even before Trump’s crackdown on immigrants unraveled, the rising cost of living, astronomical prices of rentals, real estate, never before seen even in immigrant hubs like Queens, have already been among the serious challenges faced by immigrant mothers who choose to raise children in NYC. Shelter, food, education- all these cause considerable stress in immigrant mothers. Though known for its diversity, NYC can be paralyzingly segregated, particularly in boroughs like Manhattan and Brooklyn. This type of segregation, a consequence of unreasonable real estate demands, make budgeting for public schools unfairly distributed, leaving low-income neighborhoods with inferior infrastructure and programs. Immigrant children from low-income backgrounds are disproportionately neglected, and this issue burdens immigrant working parents who try to stay afloat in the Big Apple.
Hawai’i is a battleground for indigenous, immigrant, and women’s self-determination. As an independent nation-state before U.S. control, the Hawaiian indigenous movement has fought against the encroachment of settlers on their land as well as the effects of American military exercises and weapons testing in Hawai’i and other places in the Pacific. These effects are long-lasting – as seen in the Marshall Islands where the testing of nuclear weapons left a legacy of jellyfish babies and birth defects.
In these times of heightened xenophobia, despite the estimated 21,000 undocumented immigrants living there and its dependency on immigrant and migrant labor, Hawaii has stopped short of becoming a sanctuary state. There is some progress – as seen in the recently passed state house legislation that instructs local law enforcement not to aid federal agents unless there is a warrant, but the resistance to change is not surprising as it is 1 of 7 states who have dubious recognition of having a perfect compliance record with ICE agents.
Women here face some troubling realities: 19.8% of women in Hawai’i are Native Hawaiian but Native Hawaiians account for 44% of women incarcerated in Hawai’i. Filipinos comprise 15% of the Hawaiian population but Filipinas killed in domestic violence-related murder in Hawai’i was double that at 30%. Sex trafficking and brothels are commonplace, with over 150 brothels in Oahu alone (Popescu). Despite the fact that Hawaii is a known hub for trafficking, it is currently the only state without a comprehensive anti-sex trafficking law, leaving many women victims subject to criminalization alongside the pimps and traffickers. These days the targeting of impoverished women extends to the internet – with Craigslist ads by offering women free housing, coverage of their rent, or extra income after the women send in a picture and often in exchange for “companionship” or other coded terms for ”sex work.”
This is why AF3IRM Hawai’i focuses on fighting for improvements to women’s daily lives on all fronts – including the legislature, the city council, the courtroom, the boardroom, and the classroom. For International Women’s Day, the chapter even hosted a haunting installation at the state capitol with dresses that honored the invisible stories of women – especially missing women and the women who are missing out on economic security, paid labor, and the refuge of a home.
[Sources: “Paradise lost: Sex trafficking in Hawai’i”; State lawmakers passed a resolution to help protect immigrants in Hawaii; “Should Hawaii become a sanctuary state?”]