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(en) WORKERS' INITIATIVE Social feminism, not liberal! About why we get involved in the women's movement [machine translation]
Mon, 5 Mar 2018 10:05:54 +0200
March 8 - Women's Day - in its early days it commemorated the demonstrations of American
workers who in 1908 demanded workers' rights and voting rights, appearing under the slogan
of "bread and roses". We want to continue this tradition. ---- Social Congress of Women
---- On the occasion of Women's Day in different cities in Poland, Manify will take place.
As an accompanying event, the Workers' Initiative in Poznan organizes the "Social Congress
of Women" (March 3). This will be the first event of this type, whose aim is to gather
women and girls who are fighting mainly on two fields: in the field of work and in the
field of tenants. We have long understood that staffing and tenancy problems - that is,
the issue of earnings and rent - are related to each other. And for women who are less
well-treated on the labor market and at the same time for which greater responsibility for
care and home work is shed, it is particularly important to organize in these two areas.
This is happening - for several years it has been seen that condominium movements and
trade union committees associated under the IP are becoming more and more feminized. Women
work actively on the first line:
What do we want?
We called our social congress with the subtitle "For high wages and low rents" - in
opposition to the "Congress of Women", which often includes politicians or representatives
of employers' organizations. They do not represent us, they do not speak on our behalf. We
want to talk about common experiences and needs: about how to defend ourselves against a
job that changes our lives into a nightmare; before the price, which forces us to work
even harder; against politicians and bosses who ignore our needs. We demand wage increases
and stable employment, regardless of whether we work in a factory, cultural institution,
crèche or in a supermarket. We demand that we pay for work, which we must do for free in
our own households. We demand a shorter working day, which means more free time for us and
our relatives. The end of eviction and universal access to housing, in which we will not
freeze in the winter. Development of public care institutions for children and the
elderly. Free public transport and unlimited access to medical care.
The first part of the meeting will be an open discussion about the problems we face in our
work places and places of residence. In the second part, we will talk about plans and
forms of protest to date, how to effectively build women's social movements, what
strategies are right for now and for tomorrow.
Social struggles for women's rights
In 2016, mass protests broke out against the drastic tightening of the right to abortion -
the Black Protests and the Women's Strike took place. Also for women associated in our
relationship it was an important event. Mobilizations took place in over 150 cities and
towns, and where we operate as an IP, we were present: we spoke at rallies, we prepared a
newspaper, we painted banners. However, we want the Women's Strike to be inscribed in the
broader history of social struggles for women's rights.
Women's protests have not started in Poland in 2016 - they have been taking place in
various fields for years. For example, girls from nurseries from our relationship have
been organizing in Poznan since 2011 - they have won a lot: increases for the most
forgotten group of self-government employees, improvement of working conditions, but also
blocking the privatization of public nurseries. The wave of protests by nurses, recently
supermarket employees, social workers, carers of disabled children and others were also
flooding through Poland. Most often, they did not label themselves as feminist protests,
but it was clear to us that they addressed issues of social justice important for women.
The demands of female nurseries were not limited to narrowly understood employee issues.
Girls from a dozen or so nurseries in Poznan began to jointly demand a change in the
social and budgetary policy of the city, opposed to the marginalization of these spheres,
to which women are assigned, among others care, social welfare, education, culture. They
also began to say loudly that it is usually on their shoulders that there are household
duties related to the maintenance of the family, so they will not stop fighting for
publicly available health services and the possibility of deciding whether they want to
have children or not. This is what feminism means to us.
Clipping the belt hits women
When in 2016 someone would ask our friends why they are going out on the street, he would
hear: "We work hard, and the attack on women's rights only added oil to the fire. After
many years of tapping on garbage trucks, too low wages, often on two jobs, working hard on
chord, no access to medical services, no access to cheap nurseries. And all at a time when
it told us that Poland from the 2008 crisis came out with a defensive hand. "
For the last 28 years, expenditure on schools, hospitals, kindergartens, canteens and
community centers has been reduced in Poland - and this has caused the deterioration of
the living conditions of many women and workers' families. Between 1990 and 2005, the
number of public kindergartens decreased by 38%, and nurseries by 74%. The percentage of
children attending extracurricular activities dropped from 50% in primary schools and 70%
in secondary schools, to only 10%. The state, shirking from the obligation to take care of
the elderly and children, threw him on the shoulders of women.
A drastic reduction of the legal right to abortion would further deteriorate the situation
of poor women who can not afford a procedure abroad. Already today in Poland the abortion
underground is flourishing, where treatments are expensive and not always safe. Colleagues
from the Employee Initiative from Amazon emphasized that they were outraged by restricting
access to prenatal tests and deciding women. Many of us - they said - work hard
physically, on nicks, raising packages, making standards, under constant pressure, walking
many kilometers a day. Having to commute long hours to work, we do not sleep. The nature
of work has an impact on our health, it can increase the risk of pregnancies endangered or
dangerous to our health or life. It's hard for us to imagine that we can have a police
state that will look after us,
Every day women's strike
Women in Poland have long been striking their way - without giving birth to too many
children. We have one of the smallest fertility rates in Europe. And regardless of what
organized political forces will engage in the fight for women's rights, this refusal of
women's births is crucial. It was her that led to the fact that 500+ was introduced, i.e.
quite a high supplement for children, to induce us to give birth.
"Women's strike" is a good mobilization slogan that serves to express anger and emphasize
its economic background. The women's strike has not been carried out - and can not be
carried out - by any formalized organization. A strike is a form of pressure used by
employees, in this case women who refuse to perform imposed duties. The strike draws
attention to the subordination of our life to the rules of work, including reproductive
work (caring and home).
It is very important that it is the idea of a strike - even when in fact rallies,
protests, marches, sometimes after work, similarly will be on March 8 - moved the crowd
and also speaks to us. This distinguishes the women's movement from the movement led by
the liberal elite, whose only goal is to take power currently exercised by PiS. Protests
against the tightening of the right to abortion for a long time were organized in a
non-hierarchical way, with the participation of many different environments and people,
without clear leaders.
Against the use of grassroots resistance of women
However, for two years liberals who have lost power are trying to exploit the
dissatisfaction of women in order to regain public support. The vote on the 'Let's Save
Women' project has emphatically confirmed how much the liberal opposition is worth. We do
not need politicians and politicians. The slogan "power is a woman" is false.
Has our situation changed since more women appeared in parliament? Are our wages higher,
when the managers and not the managers supervise our work? What is the cause of low wages
of women, cuts in social security, the ban on abortion - the lack of women in power or the
economic system that only works by maintaining social inequalities? For us, it was
particularly annoying that the opposition was sticking to women's protests for a long
time, some effectively went into grass-roots structures and tried to monopolize them,
today, for example, the organization "National Women's Strike", which in our opinion
ceased to be a grass-roots structure and tries to acquis of bottom-up movement.
We are not representatives of business or politics. We do not want to act as experts,
leaders or businesswomen. We operate in trade unions, tenants' organizations, educational
associations and other groups fighting against exploitation, poverty and lack of influence
on the surrounding reality.
Our answer: we have the strength!
The mass movement against the tightening of the right to abortion has shown us what
strength we have. We want to go further and link feminist demands with workers' and social
demands. Organized together we are a real threat to the authorities. There are no women's
rights without decent working conditions, without accessible care institutions, without
Our relationship friends - who have never been involved in a pro-choice move - now say
loudly: "Each of us has her own conscience and she will be alone with her own choices, but
women must have something to say: they bear the hardships and consequences of pregnancy
and childbirth, for many years, and we live in the semi-districts of Western Europe, where
politicians want us to give birth, but then they are not interested in us anymore, and our
work is not well paid. "
A lot of women in Poland work on garbage, through work agencies, subcontractors, for less
than 2 thousand. on the hand, spending time on commuting to distant workplaces, because
there are no jobs in small cities. For example, to Amazon people commute up to 100 km one
way every day. We tell each other stories every day at work: the lack of cheap housing,
rising prices, the lack of deadlines for medical examinations, the fact that one of us did
not manage to embrace a child before going to sleep, about fear of becoming pregnant in
such circumstances , wondering whether to go abroad. Employees who have children return
home from home in the morning at 7 o'clock, they often go to school at once, after
returning they cook, wash, sleep between 10 and 13, pick up the children and at noon. 15
must go out for a staff bus.
That is why we are organizing under the IP to increase our bargaining power, it is clear
to us that we deserve higher salaries, but we are also increasingly talking about the fact
that we want to work shorter, and also under less pressure. Both girls from nurseries say
that there are too many children in groups, and in the Amazon we repeat that standards are
too high. For us, therefore, the fight for women's rights is closely related to the fight
for workers 'rights, tenants' rights and other social rights. We operate in various ways:
in the situation of local government employees it is putting pressure on local
authorities, picketing during sessions of the city council, building coalitions with
parents. Of course, IP uses the tools provided by the Trade Unions Act: we enter into
collective disputes, organize strike referenda and protests, conduct union duties, we
operate in committees of health and safety, we build transnational alliances, we develop
our local structures. And there will be more of us!
Organizer of the Social Women's Congress
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