Female Workers Asked To Join In 'A Day Without A Woman' Protests

Mar 8, 2017
Originally published on March 8, 2017 1:49 pm

A broad coalition of groups across the nation is encouraging women to participate in Wednesday's strike, called "A Day Without A Woman."

The organized protest comes on International Women's Day and follows the successful Women's March in January.

That mass protest on Jan. 21 — President Trump's first full day in office –- saw huge crowds of demonstrators converge on the nation's capital, and other rallies in cities across the country and the world.

The protest aims to highlight the economic power of women — as well as ongoing problems of discrimination and pay disparity.

To show their economic importance and impact on society, women are being encouraged to take the day off from paid and unpaid labor and not to shop — except at women and minority owned and small businesses.

The National Domestic Workers Alliance has endorsed the strike.

Ai Jen Poo, who directs the group, which advocates for housekeepers, elder care and child care workers, says it's a vital labor pool that's too often grossly underpaid and undervalued.

"This is an opportunity for women, like the low-wage workers that I work with, to join together with women everywhere to say 'women power this economy,' to have that be visible and recognized and to think together about how we might shape the future with that power."

"A Day Without A Woman" gained momentum in reaction to President Trump's policies and comments on women — especially immigrants and Muslims. But planning for the strike predates the Trump administration. Inspiration came from International Women's Day events outside the United States, where the day is more widely observed.

Last month, immigrants and supporters participated in a "Day Without Immigrants." Some schools and businesses were forced to close because of a lack of workers or to open with skeleton staffs. Some closed to support their employees or held votes to decide whether to open.

Other such strikes have been carried out by bodega workers and taxi drivers in New York.

One unionized group of workers showing interest in the women's protest are school teachers: 76 percent of public school teachers in the U.S. are women.

Faced with large numbers of staffers planning to take the day off for the strike, the school systems in Alexandria, Va., Prince Georges County, Md., Chapel Hill, N.C., and others told students to stay home.

The decision for schools to close has put some parents in a bind when it comes to child care.

The Associated Press reports:

"The role of women in American society is significant.

"According to the U.S. Census, women make up more than 47 percent of the workforce and are dominant in such professions as registered nurses, dental assistants, cashiers, accountants and pharmacists.

"They make up at least a third of physicians and surgeons, as well as lawyers and judges. Women also represent 55 percent of all college students.

"Still, American women continue to be paid less than men, earning 80 cents for every dollar a man makes. The median income for women was $40,742 in 2015, compared with $51,212 for men, according to census data."

In Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, there will be a "Women Workers Rising" rally outside the Labor Department.

Organizers are calling on supporters to come and "be in solidarity with women workers — for an end to workplace violence and harassment and to promote pay equity, one fair living wage, paid leave and labor rights at work."

Some conservatives on social media are calling the women's strike vague and self-serving, and say it favors wealthy women.

Organizers are calling on all those who can't take time off for the protest to wear red in solidarity.

They say red signifies love and sacrifice.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Today is International Women's Day. And some women in the United States are marking it by joining a protest called A Day Without A Woman. It is a strike aimed to highlight the economic power of women as well as ongoing problems like discrimination and pay disparity. As NPR's Eric Westervelt reports, organizers are hoping to build on the success of the Women's March.

ERIC WESTERVELT, BYLINE: That mass protest January 21, President Donald Trump's first full day in office, saw more than a million demonstrators converge on Washington. A few million more held rallies in cities across the nation. But today's protests will be more diffuse and smaller scale. There's no specific policy goal per se. The effort is to underscore broad goals of equity, justice and human rights for women. Women are encouraged to take the day off from paid and unpaid labor and not to shop except at women and minority-owned and small businesses.

The National Domestic Workers Alliance has endorsed the strike. Ai-jen Poo directs the group which advocates for housekeepers as well as elder care and child care workers. She says it's a vital labor pool that's too often grossly underpaid and undervalued.

AI-JEN POO: And so this is an opportunity for women like the low-wage workers that I work with to join together with women everywhere to say women power this economy, to have that be visible and recognized and to think together about how we might shape the future with that power.

WESTERVELT: A day without a woman gained momentum in reaction to President Trump's policies and comments on women, especially immigrants and Muslims. But planning for the strike predates the Trump administration. Inspiration for organizers came from International Women's Day actions overseas and the recent Day Without Immigrants protest. Activist and writer L.A. Kauffman.

L A KAUFFMAN: It's a model of how to use the tool of mass noncompliance in an era when labor movements have been declining for a long time.

WESTERVELT: One unionized group of workers that might buck the trend today is the 76 percent of public school teachers in the U.S. who are women. Faced with large numbers of staffers planning to take the day off for the strike, the school systems in Alexandria, Va., and Chapel Hill, N.C., told students to stay home today. Some conservatives on social media are calling the strike vague, self-serving and say it favors wealthy women. Organizers are calling on all those who can't afford to take time off today to wear red in solidarity.

Eric Westervelt, NPR News.

[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: In the audio of this story, we say there were more than 1 million demonstrators in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 21. In fact, city officials and researchers have said the crowd size was less than that – perhaps 500,000 to 750,000.] Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.