NATIONAL—Today we the women of AF3IRM join all those around the world marking International Workers Day! We celebrate the militant, revolutionary history and spirit of May Day and continue to fight in solidarity with workers in the United States and worldwide. In various cities, including Los Angeles, Long Beach, and New York, we took to the streets in support of workers’ rights and im/migrant justice.
In the last few years, especially under this current administration, the right-wing, neo-fascist corporatists continually attack the labor movement and working families to maintain the class system. Corporate billionaires, such as those behind the National Right To Work Foundation and the lawsuits in the Janus vs AFSCME case, have chipped away at our right to negotiate livable wages, needed benefits, and safe working conditions by eliminating fair share fees that support our power to do so. The newest appointees to the National Labor Relations Board, which helps arbitrate labor disputes and enforce labor laws, have created a Republican, anti-union majority and reversed several key decisions around workers rights and collective bargaining.
Im/migrant populations and communities of color are also being targeted, whether through detention and incarceration, deportation, the building of a border wall, increased policing, or attempts to eliminate DACA, etc. Just yesterday, a caravan of mainly Central American migrants reached the US-Mexico border seeking asylum and this administration has tried to turn them away and demonize them. Recently, it was revealed that U.S. Health & Human Services lost track of migrant children that they had placed with sponsors — almost 1,500 children lost to the U.S.’s broken systems around immigration. The government and corporations continue to uphold costly bail industries and exploit the labor of those incarcerated–the majority of which are people of color and where women are the fastest rising population–to turn a quick profit and take advantage of low wages.
Yet we have witnessed workers, im/migrants, and communities of color rise up and fight for dignity – from the teachers’ strikes in Arizona, now in its fourth day; and the Fight for $15 campaign by low-wage workers; to Puerto Ricans resisting neoliberal policies imposed on their island by disaster capitalism; and graduate student workers pushing for unionization in spaces of higher education like Columbia University. Strikes and actions have emerged in different sectors in multiple countries by the likes of university service workers, garment workers, nurses, librarians, bus drivers, hotel staff, autoworkers, even those incarcerated, and more. We have already seen victories with women leading the street vendors campaign in Los Angeles and we know there will continue to be more even under this administration.
These fights are especially important to us as anti-imperialist, transnational feminists. Many of the movements for workers’ rights, particularly those for teachers, garment workers, nurses, and low-wage workers, have women at the heart. As women, especially as women of color, we know that capitalism’s idea of work demeans and exploits us while our lives and bodies are continually devalued within this system. When we take the short and the long views, we find that women are continually at risk, economically, financially, physically, and mentally. In a nation where one in eight–over 40 million people–live in poverty, we make up the majority of low-wage workers and women of color continue to make less than white men. For every dollar paid to a white man, Black women are paid 63 cents, Native women 57 cents, and Latinas 54 cents. Even later in life, women comprise two-thirds of the elderly poor and older women of color (age 65 and over) are at the greatest risk of living in poverty. More than one-third of those living in deep poverty are single mothers and their children. Furthermore, women are more likely to bear the burdens of child care as well as family caregiving throughout all life stages, leading to an overall wealth gap over their lifetime. We take special care to remember im/migrant women on May Day – we know that through re-feudalization and capitalism, they are the ones who care for multiple families, often working two, three shifts, as domestic workers or caregivers, while trying to support their own children, siblings, parents, etc.
Women face unsafe conditions in all places of work and are at risk of violence even in their homes, schools, and on the streets due to capitalist patriarchy. There are the Jane Does, undocumented minors denied critical abortion care from the Office of Refugee Resettlement; the sexual assault that occurs within the detention centers and in prisons; Native women rung through the sexual abuse-to prison-to prostitution pipeline who are trafficked in oil fields of North Dakota; Black trans girls who run away for varying reasons, are preyed upon, and then prostituted by their boyfriends on the streets of NY; East Asian women trafficked in massage parlors in LA; undocumented Latina women lured by summer job posters and trafficked in border towns, and so on. The promise of work or the threat of termination, as well as the use of physical and psychological violence, has continually been used against women of color and our youth to exploit. But there has been some progress – the #MeToo movement brought women’s stories of sexual harassment and assault into the light, with justice being served as a result of brave survivors. This is a reminder that the collective power of women that can and has led to concrete change.
We in AF3IRM cannot stress enough the need to build a more inclusive, intersectional and revolutionary movement of workers that organizes beyond existing systems of governance and capital for genuine liberation of all people. In our feminist future, there would be paid family leave, a universal base income, affordable child care and housing. We would not be strapped with student/loan debt and high interest rates or pushed out of homes and businesses through the high cost of living, gentrification and development. Our families would no longer have to leave our homelands and our communities to work multiple jobs just to make ends meet, rather we would live mentally and physically healthier, balanced lives. There would be no need to mark Equal Pay Day as we would have achieved just compensation not only within the binary of men and women, but for all genders.
More access and economic opportunities will be available for all even those not included or welcomed in the formal economy such as undocumented women, formerly incarcerated women, or transwomen. Indeed, as we make strides that move us beyond merely surviving the day-to-day, our ultimate goal will be to thrive freely by eliminating class designations of working poor, middle class, upper class and redistributing the wealth by tearing down multinational corporations that only care about profit over people and the environment. Eventually we will dismantle capitalist and imperialist patriarchy so that women will no longer be exploited as workers or as commodities bought and sold to uphold the power structures of society.
We must challenge current ideas of work and rethink what women’s liberation means in terms of our labor, not just in theory and but also in the day-to-day. We must ask each other the hard questions — what does it mean for women to truly thrive? Whose work, labor, livelihood are we sacrificing for our own comforts? We can and we must build support across sectors for women workers and defend against the exploitation of our labor and our bodies. We must create new, alternative structures to the ones that exist now. Our feminist future depends on fighting back not just against capitalism and large multinational corporations and this fascist government, but against the patriarchy that tries to subsume women’s lives even within worker movements.
As anti-imperialist, transnational feminists, we believe in a feminist future of our making and we will continue to rise up. Today, we women of color raise our voices in support of workers worldwide and are here to send a loud and clear message to the bosses, to the capitalists, to Trump and his fascist regime and to those who seek to exploit our labor and our bodies–
WE FEMINISTS ARE UNAFRAID, WE ARE ORGANIZED, AND WE WILL FIGHT UNTIL GENUINE LIBERATION IS OURS!