feminism and labor – and more

some essential reading:

National Hyatt Boycott Unites Workers, Feminists, LGBQT Activists, and More

Worker rights are a feminist issue and should be considered as such, but often they get short shrift in feminist spaces. Let’s not forget that International Women’s Day started as International Working Women’s Day, and that some of the earliest feminist agitators were fighting in the front lines of factory strikes during the Industrial Revolution. Fierce seamstresses and other workers striking for better working conditions inspired wealthier women, some of whom decided to take up their cause after being inspired by seeing them hold their ground for days and weeks, even in the face of intimidation from police as well as thugs hired to break their strikes. Women involved in the fight for suffrage also helped organise women’s unions, and played an active role in labour advocacy.

The connections between labour and feminism should be obvious; many workers are women, women are often mistreated in the workplace, and fighting for not just fair wages but fair conditions should be an obvious extension of feminist ethics. This holds especially true in the case of low-wage workers, who are particularly vulnerable to abuse. Low-wage workers in agriculture, the hospitality industry, health care, and among household staffs tend to be immigrant women, some of whom are making less than minimum wage, many of whom are afraid to report any abuses they experience in the workplace because they need to retain their jobs and are terrified of harassment or deportation.

Yet, the modern feminist movement has been falling down on the job when it comes to supporting workers; there’s a lot of discussion about how women can ‘have it all,’ which focuses on aspirational middle class ideals of success and says virtually nothing about the lives of low-income women. There’s also a lot of conversation about the wage gap, which is an undeniable problem, but it’s a problem that hits women of colour and women with disabilities particularly hard, especially at the low end of the payscale, and that’s not discussed as frequently.

There’s less discussion of the grueling working conditions for the immigrant women who make the United States tick, moving silently and invisibly through our lives. The women who get up before dawn to pick produce in the fields of the Central Valley, the women who process poultry in crowded, unhealthy conditions in the Midwest, the women who lug heavy cleaning carts down the carpeted hallways of hotels from coast to coast, cleaning room after room after room and leaving chocolates on the pillow as they go.

Union UNITE HERE aims to change that with a nationwide boycott targeting Hyatt hotels which started today. The union has been involved in anti-Hyatt actions across the United States on a primarily local and regional level, but today, it’s taking the boycott center stage and demanding that Hyatt treat its workers better. And the union is being joined in a coalition that includes major feminist and LGBQT leaders among others; this is a collective effort to fight for workers that goes beyond labour organisers, and aims to include everyone with a stake in the fight. […]

@ Tiger Beatdown

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