Global women’s strike 2000
Global Women’s Strike 2000
On March 8, 2000, International Women’s Day, hundreds of thousands of women from over 200 organizations in 30 countries are taking part in a Global Women’s Strike to begin the new millennium demanding that all governments include unwaged work in their economies. This Global Women’s Strike was called for by the National Women’s Council of Ireland and made global by International Wages for Housework.
Women’s unwaged work: motherwork, care of elderly and disabled, housework, farming, fire-wood-gathering, work in churches and schools, community organization, art work, human rights work, etc., contributes at least $11 trillion to the world’s economy. Society would not survive without it, yet it is unpaid and unappreciated. Women doing paid work earn only 50-70% of what men earn. Women do 2/3 of all the world’s work for only 5% of the world’s income, leaving most women overworked and poor.
Unwaged workers want their work counted and paid. Most unpaid workers are women. Women across the globe want: wages for caring work, pay equity for all, paid maternity leave, breast-feeding breaks, affordable and accessible housing and transportation, protection against male violence, accessible clean drinking water, and the abolition of “Third World debt.”
A recent national study showed that women caring for ill or disabled family members in the USA contribute over $200 billion a year in unwaged work. This is the first study of its kind. Using data from five national databanks, researchers Arno, Memmott, and Levine calculated that 25.8 million Americans spend an average of 18 hours a week caring for ailing relatives. If that care was paid for, it would increase health care costs nationwide by $196 billion a year. The $200 billion contributed by unwaged workers is much greater than the entire home health care industry ($32 billion) and the nursing home industry ($83 billion).
Strike Actions Around the Globe
In Ireland, Women in Media of Galway, with the National Women’s Council of Ireland, are organizing a petition drive for a national, paid, public holiday every year on February 1, St. Bridget’s Day, to honor unwaged workers. The petition states: “This holiday would be an official recognition by government of the enormous contribution women have made to the wealth and health of the nation with all the unwaged work that they have done in the home, on the land, in business, in the arts, in the voluntary/community sector, and for civil liberties and human rights — together with their caring work in general — and all the low waged work they have done in the past and are still doing.” Senator David Norris has agreed to sponsor the bill. Singers, writers and Miss Ireland support the bill. All Irish women are urged to stop work on March 8, not just wages workers.
International Wages for Housework in Philadelphia is launching a Pay Equity Petition Campaign on March 8. The Petition demands that the USA stop objecting to pay equity for women — equal pay for work of equal value — in national policy and in international agreements [Beijing Platform for Action, CEDA W (Convention to End Discrimination Against Women), and ILO Equal Remuneration Convention]. They want the US to ratify and implement provisions in international conventions entitling women to pay and benefits they have earned. The US is the only wealthy country where women get no paid maternity benefits or leave. The US even opposes international agreements calling for paid breastfeeding breaks for workers. The Petition points out the “underpaying women is a massive subsidy to employers that is both sexist and racist. By opposing pay equity in international forums, the US government encourages multinational corporations to underpay women everywhere in the global economy.” Wages for women in the US have dropped from 76% of white men’s earnings to 73% for white women, 62% for black women and 53% for Latina women.
Global Jingles and Songs
In Barcelona, Spain, women on the European and Latin American Network of Pirate Radios (Women Creating Communication Spaces) are circulating a Spanish tape. The tape has a 2-minute jingle and a radio program of interviews of people saying why they support the strike. Trade unions will have a 1-hour stop. Women are coordinating weekly meetings working with church groups, immigrants, lesbians, students, childcare workers, social workers, and university staff. Men are offering donations and asking for information on how to support the strike.
In the Philippines, organizers are publicizing the strike and its objectives on radio, TV, print and the internet, and organizing a speakers’ bureau. They’re lobbying for a Presidential proclamation making March 8, International Women’s Day, a paid holiday. They’re making March 8 “No Housework Day” and organizing women’s parties and picnics so women enjoy themselves and send the message that they had enough of overwork and need time for themselves. They also named March 8 a “No Shopping Day” to protest the way the consumer and health industries have made profits and taken over the lives of women.
Women are promoting the strike in Albania and in Kosovo. They translated the radio jingle into Albanian, Macedonian, Serbo-Croatian, and Serbian.
In Kingston, Ontario Raging Grannies will be striking and marching to the tune of Put Your Arms Around me, Honey, Hold Me Tight:
Women of the world
Let us throw off our chains
let us have a taste of economic gains
March 8 we will strike
With all women we’ll unite
We want women’s work made a priority
International Women’s Day a holiday
Housework done for pay
Third World debt canceled today
Celebrate the women who are in your
Mother, sister, granny, auntie, daughter,
I always knew what a woman could do.
In Ecuador, The National Council of Women is holding conferences to discuss waged and unwaged domestic work. They want to connect this work to Social Security (welfare and pensions). Ecuador’s Constitution recognizes unwaged housework as productive.
In Pakistan about 1000 women and girls of the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan are demonstrating in Islamabad on International Human Rights Day.
In Peru, Indigenous women and domestic workers are using their radio program “Soncco Warmi” (“heart of woman” in Quechua) Monday to Friday to educate and lobby for recognition of their work. They state: “Women of the Andes contribute more than 50% of the family income through agriculture — women sow, weed, harvest, take care of the animals — but the state doesn’t take into account that we grow and prepare the food. Our work is not included in the national budget. Women also take care of the children and do the housework, but this is not valued. We are the main producers and keepers of life and culture in the rural areas, and our economic and social contribution is ignored.” In addition to their radio program, the Center for the Empowerment of Workers in the Home runs a job agency, a meal program for children of domestic workers, and a legal advice clinic. They can be reached at Apartado Postal 4389, Lima 100, Peru. Phone/fax: 424-7407.
Mothers from Ghana and Keyna, now living in England, are striking. In their native countries, men treat them like slaves. In Europe, they are experiencing racism in employment, housing, education, welfare, and childcare. They’re striking to stop both male supremacy and racism.
Actions are also taking place in Australia, Burkina Faso, England Cameroon, all around Canada and the US, Chile, Kurdistan, Mexico, Netherlands, Puerto Rico, Rwanda, Senegal, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, and Wales.
Bill Billy for Unwaged Work In
In the US, the Welfare Warrior, Warriors have joined this Global Women’s Strike and are committed to making the new millennium the Mothers’ Millennium. Since Clinton signed the welfare deform bill into law in August 1996, all states have been requiring that single mothers abandon post-secondary education, leave infants with strangers, and take any and every part-time, temporary, and low-paid job within 20 miles of their homes. This war on the poor is destroying poor families, endangering poor children, and exhausting single motherworkers. It ignores the value and necessity of the unwaged labor performed by single mothers.
Welfare Warriors have created two “Bills for Billy” for unwaged workers to complete to calculate how much money the government owes them for their unpaid labor. Write and ask for either unpaid labor. Write and ask for either the long or short form — or both. On March 8, they will officially announce this campaign with a press conference. Then on April 15, 2000, they will submit the forms to Bill Clinton to demand that his administration recognize and value unwaged workers, including unwaged work in the budget.
Soho on Strike
The International Wages Due Lesbians is helping to coordinate the Global Women’s Strike. This is multiracial grassroots network based in London, Barcelona, Philadelphia, San Frnacisco Francisco, Los Angeles, and Manchester, England. They are demanding recognition and compensation for unwaged and low-waged work. Lesbians contribute to the economy of countries and fight against all forms of homophobia. They’re also striking for the right to adopt and raise children and against government attacks on single mothers.
The International Prostitutes Collective is joining the global strike to demand money for the first job they do — house to refuse exploitative working conditions and get out of prostitution if they want to. They also want sex work acknowledged as an economic contribution to society. It has been essential to the survival of entire communities and even countries. Prostitutes in Soho, London, are stopping work on March 8 hanging a banner outside their working flats saying “Soho on Strike!”
Students are joining the Women’s Strike because they are forced to work to pay tuition while attending school. Student mothers are especially over-worked because in addition to school-work they must do the unwaged work of mother everywhere. Students feel that their education will benefit the industry and economy of the state, so the least the state can do is support them.
Call the Brothers to Support the Strike
Men are also supporting the strike. They are noticing the hard work their mothers, wives, sisters, and girlfriends are doing for low wages and no wages. An Italian immigrant living in England is helping by translating strike material into Italian. A computer trainer in England was told when he asked for a raise that a woman would be ready to do his job for 65% less. This man is taking off work on March 8 and baby-sitting his friend’s children. Men are urged to send money to support the strike and to give rides to women to get to the strike activities and to do more housework, child care, and cooking.
As long as women work too much for too little, our pay and conditions are the standard for all workers. Most of the unwaged labor worldwide is performed by motherworkers who not only care for the children, but also care of the sick, disabled, injured, dying, and the neighborhoods, schools, churches , and the Earth. Doing most of this work for no wages, leaves most mothers over-worked, exhausted, and economically poor. And despite performing an overload of the Earth’s most important work, motherworkers are disrespected and sometimes even despised as in the case of US moms on welfare.
As long as the largest industry in every country is unwaged work, the majority of workers will remain poor unless one is young enough, healthy enough, and unencumbered enough to work at least two jobs. Mothers are overworked and need a reduction in workload: less work, more time, and fair wages. Join the Global Women’s Strike in whatever way you can.
Strike leaflets available in Basque, French, Punjabi, Spanish, Arabic, Bengali, Catalan, Chinese, Finnish, Gaelic, German, Gujerati, Swedish Urdu, Tigynya Italian, Persian, and Portuguese.
Copyright Off Our Backs, Inc. Mar 2000
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