U of M ANTH 3602 - Loneliness of Working Class Feminism (25 pages)

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Loneliness of Working Class Feminism



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Loneliness of Working Class Feminism

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Pages:
25
School:
University of Minnesota- Twin Cities
Course:
Anth 3602 - Women in Latin America
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Written by Deborah Levinson Estrada Presented by Sam Pfannenstein Ups and Downs of Unions 1954 States de facto policy Used terror to get rid of political activity Late 1950 1960 Industrial growth Rebuilt trade unionism Mid 1970 Industrial growth was concentrated Large influential labor movements Call for revolutionary change State responds by redoubling terror End of 1980 Most urban working class leaders were dead or in exile Industry had declined Trade Unionism Dominated by men Oppose or try to control women s involvement Trade unionism militancy and solidarity seen as masculine Strong sense of masculinity worth honor and courage Empowers them in situation of extreme stress What has it taken for Women to become labor activists Deborah looks at the experience of a 1970s union leader Sonia Olivia History of this union at a Japanese owned ACRICASA thread factory Sonia Olivia Small village in Eastern Guatemala Parents separated Father was a peasant mother didn t live with them Olivia did all the housework Moved in with Aunt Wanted to further education and there was no high school in the area Aunt refused to let her go to school Made her work as a cashier during day and clean house at night Moved into boardinghouse with a friend She was working and could support herself Able to attend night school Sonia Olivia Olivia then left school to work in the thread factory Was able to get involved in the union because There was no one at home to stop me a woman no husband mother father mother in law father in law I was alone Society and Gender from Olivia s View Awareness of the oppressive nature of gender roles and ideologies She had to be alone outside of gender relations in order to be an activist Violation of women s ascribed role in the household Her mother rather than her father left the home Olivia left the home to go out and work Paid work as liberating Olivia was able to support herself Gave her the chance to leave her aunt and live on her own Able to get an education Class and Gender Women gain status and worth for the accomplishments within the home Men gain status and worth through social and economic value of working BUT Class and Activism complicate these ideals There is a gap between the real and ideal self of men and women in working class and poor families in Guatemala Class and Gender The secret is out Women and children are actually the breadwinners and the fathers often abandon them When the father loses his job it is the mother that holds the family together Working class families live in the gray area of gender construction Activism demanded an intellectual and world clarity that went beyond gender constructions Women in the Workforce 1970s many women worked for wages outside the home Domestic servants school teachers factories Understood women s work outside the home to be temporary Especially factory work Male work not an extension of the women s caretaking role Working Conditions Contrast between how the machines and workers were treated The machines got everything they needed to function twenty four hours a day without hitches or failures but we did not Poor conditions not specific to women Low pay 12 hr shifts lack of face masks for dust no transportation to the plant Poor conditions specific to women Absence of toilets supervisors slapped them felt vulnerable at night pregnant women had to walk excessively some were sexually abused Work and Society The fact that women were in the workforce showed a breakdown in the male s breadwinning capacity Managers sexually harassed women Stole male workers masculinity Men rushed to defend women and their masculinity Not outrage about the abuse mad about them messing with their class women Class struggle over women s bodies Line between protect and possess is thin Allowed women to join unions to protect women and to keep them in their place Start of a Union 1975 Men started organizing a union Opened leadership up to a woman Only because several men were fired after a spy infiltrated their secret meetings Women were selected for the committee because there weren t nine men willing to risk being union officials Woman resigned next day because her husband and mother made her So they appointed Olivia If they wanted a union they had to accept women Start of a Union 1975 cont Secured an injunction against company to prevent firings 100 workers most of them women joined the union Union was off and running Took 9 months to get recognition and another 15 months to get a contract During this time women were hard at work employing tactics to pressure management to negotiate Crowded into managers office brief illegal strikes painted signs inside the plant and on managers cars Finally won a contract in 1977 But had to pressure the company to abide by it Society at this time Growth of a capitalist industry and agriculture under a terrorist state State national and foreign companies gave unions trouble Union members engaged in dangerous struggles to win minimal demands Dangerous Struggles March 1977 Workers night shift strike Refusal of the company to pay overtime Olivia wasn t working but wanted to join the strike Scaled an 8 ft wall and jumped to the ground while 6 months pregnant Three months later Seize factory Force compliance with the union contract Olivia grabbed her days old son and rushed to the factory Riot police surrounded the factory Threatened to use tear gas but then worker threatened to blow up whole factory and the riot police backed off Camped inside for 15 days until company agreed Dangerous Struggles cont Union Leaflets Helped other workers Exposed injustices in the workplace Spoke about more than unions and workplaces Supported the growing Sandinista struggle in Nicaragua Mid 1978 Protest after the army killed 100 Kekchi Maya villagers in the distant town of Panzos Became active member of the broader labor movement that called for Revolutionary Popular Government As a result State reacted strongly against the unions in the popular movement In July 1978 the police seized 9 male and 26 female ACRICASA union members Took them to prison and held them on the charge of being subversive Other workers of the factory went on hunger strikes to get these members released ACRICASA union leader Gonzalo was assasinated Early 1979 Olivia and her son Pavel were kidnapped Olivia beaten released after 15 hours on the condition that they leave the country which she did As a result June 1980 Two newly elected ACRICASA union leaders


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