A national action against Trump’s agenda
Linda Martín Alcoff, a philosophy professor at Hunter College and the Graduate Center, had a clear idea of what kind of feminism should grow from the anti-Trump resistance: “We need feminism that will focus less on ceilings than on raising the floor, that will address the realities of poor and working-class women’s lives.”
Alcoff spoke from the steps of the Graduate Center surrounded by fellow PSC members, students and other labor activists on March 8, as women all across the country went on a one-day strike for a “Day Without Women.” Those who could not strike used the day to protest the regime of President Donald Trump on International Women’s Day. In addition to the speak-out at the Graduate Center, PSC members gathered with thousands of other demonstrators in Washington Square Park later that day and marched downtown to Zuccotti Park, the original site of the Occupy Wall Street encampment.
“We have a very broad coalition of feminism today, as we saw on January 21, we even have some conservative women in our coalition,” Alcoff said through a bullhorn, referencing the women’s marches in Washington, D.C., and New York City against Trump’s inauguration. “A coalition is not a merger. Unity does not require uniformity.”
The purpose of a day without women was to show how vital women’s labor and participation is in the face of not just the legislative backlash against women’s rights but the intensely misogynistic tone the president’s campaign set last year.
PSC Treasurer Sharon Persinger spoke at the Washington Square demonstration with other labor and women’s rights leaders. “I can tell you that organized labor is under attack in the United States. I want you to know that the attack on organized labor, on unions, is an attack on women,” she said. “There is a sign over there on my left about the gender pay gap. You all know that in the US workforce as a whole, women’s wages are 80 percent of men’s wages. But in the unionized workforce, women’s wages are 89 percent of men’s wages. We still have a way to go, but unions have made gains in closing the gender pay gap.”
She continued, “Unionized women have higher pay, are more likely to have paid leave, are more likely to have employer-provided health insurance, and are much more likely to have a pension. Let me say it again: unions benefit women, and attacks on unions are attacks on women. Next time you hear someone attacking unions, I want you to speak up because unions fight for women.”
During the Graduate Center speak-out, PSC member and graduate student in urban education Tatiana Cozzarelli recalled her time living in Rio de Janeiro, when garbage workers went on strike during Carnival, and, as a result, won a 36 percent pay raise, health care benefits and childcare benefits. She said that women and unionists should be inspired by the power of collective action.
“We need to fight back. We’re going to really need to go on strike, not for one day, but for several days,” she said. “Without a strike, we have no teeth.”
Bringing the issue closer to home, PSC member and history graduate student Emmy Hammond said that pushing for a tuition-free CUNY would be a huge help for immigrant and working-class women. “Free CUNY is a women’s issue,” she said.
Joining the PSC contingent at the Graduate Center was Tracy Kwon, a nurse at Kings County Hospital and a member of the New York State Nurses Association. Kwon spoke passionately about how austerity in the public hospital system has put a tremendous emotional burden on nursing stuff, a predominantly female workforce, who often only have two minutes to spend with each patient, many of whom are in critical condition.
“We end our shift feeling torn asunder,” she said. “Every day is life or death. Every shift is life-deciding.”