How Young Feminists of Color are Transforming the Labor Movement

Sheila Bapat in bitchmedia:

Workers“The personal is political” is a second-wave feminist phrase. It articulates the concept that the material realities of our lives form our political consciousnesses and our priorities. Today, young feminist women of color are fighting to transform the economic status of women—and they are succeeding. Their work has taken the concept that the personal is political to a deeper level. Driven by an intersectional feminist lens—meaning a lens that encompasses race, class, gender, sexuality, ability, and age, all the realities that make up a person’s social position—young feminist women of color are building the future of the U.S. labor movement. They are imagining—and implementing—successful alternative organizing strategies for low-wage sectors that are transforming the labor movement as a whole. A key example of this is found in the domestic workers’ movement, a movement of nannies, housekeepers, and caregivers working together to codify basic labor protections for their historically unregulated sector. The National Domestic Workers Alliance is comprised of approximately 53 workers center affiliates throughout the country, including the Chicago Coalition of Household Workers, Mujeres Unidas y Activas in California, and the Brazilian Worker Center in Massachusetts.

Critically, many of these organizations were founded and are led by women of color. Many of these leaders have been domestic workers themselves or are the children of domestic workers. Priscilla Gonzalez led the New York–based Domestic Workers United for many years before becoming leader of police reform organization Communities United for Police Reform. Her activism contributed to local and state policy victories for domestic workers in New York. Gonzalez’s personal story influences her activism. Her Ecuadorian mother worked as a nanny and housekeeper for a wealthy family on the Upper East Side of New York and experienced poor treatment by her employers. Despite working long hours, Gonzalez’s mother was not paid overtime. She was expected to pay out of pocket for the children’s snacks and toys, and she'd have to fight to be reimbursed for these expenses.

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