I WILL NOT defer to someone else’s definition of “strike.”
I will stand in solidary with women from more than forty countries, against misogyny and gender violence, against war, against anti-immigrant and islamophobic policies, against the casualization of labor, wage inequality, the dismantlement of the welfare state, against white supremacy, and against the destruction of our environment. We heed the call of Polish activists following upon the impressive success of their women’s strike against the abortion ban and the wave of women’s strikes and mass demonstrations in Argentina against male violence.
Our strike is different from the traditional workplace strike because it includes both women’s paid work in the formal labor market and the unpaid work of care and social reproduction that women perform every day of their lives without recognition or compensation. This work sustains life. It reproduces individual human beings and entire societies. And yet, it is the most invisible and the most devalued work. On March 8, we will strike on the workplace whenever this is possible, but we will also strike from unpaid care and reproductive labor.
In the United States there is a further reason to call for a women’s strike. U. S. labor laws are among the worst and most undemocratic among liberal democracies: political and general strikes are not allowed, most contracts entail a no-strike clause, the rate of unionization is extremely low (around 10%), and in a number of states public employees have no right to strike. The situation is even worse for women workers, as they work the most precarious and badly paid jobs. In order to correct this situation, we must create the political and social conditions to challenge existing labor laws. The women’s strike aims to empower women on their workplace, to create awareness about the rights they should have, and to convey the solidarity that all workers need. Women workers will strike as they see fit, calling sick or sending a letter to their employers to ask for a paid day off. Those who cannot strike at the workplace can signal support by wearing red, holding signs, and sending their pictures to the International Women’s Strike (firstname.lastname@example.org). They can also participate in the rallies, marches and events that will take place in around sixty cities.
March 8th is not our end-goal, but rather, the beginning. Already we have created am impressive coalition, regrouping together feminist, queer and trans organizations, labor organizations, political groups, immigrant groups, Arab American organizations, black feminist organizations, and more. Most of us had never worked together before. But in only a few weeks, we received more than a hundred collective endorsements. Planned events have multiplied beyond what we can count. All of this has taken place thanks to the volunteer, unpaid grassroots work by hundreds of activists. What we have experience in this process is our power of solidarity, our capacity to building bridges among ourselves, our ability to find common ground and common goals, while never losing sight of our diversity.
We all suffer oppression under misogyny and capitalism, but our oppression assumes different forms according to race, sexual identity, gender non-conformity, class, and ethnicity. In the last decades, various groups and movements have opposed the neoliberal, racist, and misogynist policies carried out across the country, but very often these different struggles have not managed to combine together in solidarity. This is one of the effects of the neoliberal capitalism. It divides us by exploiting and sustaining patterns of white supremacy, islamophobia, sexism, transphobia, and homophobia. But in organizing the International Women’s Strike, we have discovered that, in spite of this, it is possible to rebuild solidarity, trust, and cooperation. The condition for this, however, is that we jettison the impossible fantasy of homogeneity. Instead, we make evident the different forms of oppression to which we are subject and the different ways in which they affect us. We achieve solidarity in our diversity. For this reason, one of the main goals of the women’s strike is to make the demands, needs, desires, biographies, and struggles of the most oppressed among women – working class women, women of color, Muslim women, trans women, immigrant women – the very core and center of our action. These are the women who are the beating heart of this movement.