'Women United Will Never Be Divided': Workers Rise for Labor Rights

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'Women United Will Never Be Divided': Workers Rise for Labor Rights

Rally demands women 'be seen, heard, and treated with dignity, especially by the new presidential administration and Department of Labor leadership'

"Women are powerful—that's why they want to shut us down," Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) told the crowd on Wednesday. (Photo: @LisMeyers/Twitter)

Women and allies gathered outside the U.S. Department of Labor on Wednesday, demanding fair wages, pay equity, paid leave, and labor rights while calling for an end to workplace violence and harassment.

The "Women Workers Rising" demonstration, organized by One Billion Rising in conjunction with a host of progressive labor and social justice groups, was set to feature appearances by Democratic U.S. Reps. Jan Schakowsky (Ill.), Pramila Jayapal (Wash.), Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), and Marcy Kaptur (Ohio). 

It happened as part of International Women's Day, during which women around the world rallied, went on strike, and otherwise took action for equal rights. With its focus on labor rights, Women Workers Rising spoke directly to one of Wednesday's larger goals: building a "feminism for the 99 percent."

As Princeton University professor Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, among the authors of the initial call to strike, explained to journalist Sarah Jaffe last month:

At a very basic level, there is an understanding that the problems experienced by women in our societies today are rooted in an economic system that privileges the 1 percent over the 99 percent. Sometimes we think of women's issues unto themselves, but really these are issues that arise out of an inherently unequal economic arrangement in this country. The fact that women make less, that women don't have access to childcare provisions, that women don't have access to reproductive healthcare. They are not just economic questions, but they are related to an economic arrangement that relies on the free labor of women to, in fact, reproduce itself as a political system.

In some ways, people have really been talking about that with greater specificity and focus since the eruption of the Occupy movement in 2011, that within that context, those unequal economic relationships have a disproportionate effect on women's lives. I think that in this past election—where you literally have a billionaire who has made his money through exploiting loopholes in the system and who has sort of ascended to the political top through abusing women, visceral sexism and hatred of women—it is not surprising given the centrality of sexism in Donald Trump's campaign that the very first protests have been organized by women, mostly attended by women, that have become a focal point of the resistance movement.

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