March is Women’s History Month, a month to acknowledge the contributions and struggles women have made in history. But despite the gains women have achieved, they still remain underpaid at work, unequally burdened with childcare and housework, and face abuse on a daily basis. The struggle of being a woman is far from over and in some cases it is going backwards.
Being a woman means doing it all. Women are day care workers, housekeepers, cooks, janitors, psychologists, drivers. When both a man and a woman are working – or even when only the man is unemployed – the woman still does the majority of the housework. It’s like working an unpaid second job. According to Salary.com, stay-at-home moms put in close to 100 hours of household and childcare duties every single week. If this were paid work the average mom’s salary would be $113,586 a year.
And working moms, on top of 40-hour work weeks, spend an additional 58 hours on household and childcare jobs. If they were paid an average wage, they would earn an additional $67,435 per year. Being a woman means figuring out the
impossible. Finding childcare is always a struggle especially while trying to make a living. The waitlists for childcare programs never seem to end and further cuts to food and housing assistance have only made a bad situation even worse.
Mothers can’t afford not to work and still take care of the kids. This often means leaving a child at home and going to work. It comes down to hoping everyday that things work out, at least until tomorrow. Being a woman today means unequal pay and work. On top of all the unpaid hours women put in, a woman today can still expect to be paid less than men simply because she is a woman. It’s true, women’s struggles have somewhat closed the wage-gap between men and women but it’s still far from equal. And working mothers face even more wage discrimination. There is a larger wage-gap between mothers and women without children than there is between women and men. Women without children can expect to earn 10 percent less than their male counterparts. Mothers earn 27 percent less, and single mothers earn between 34 percent and 44 percent less than men.
On top of all this there is a daily threat of violence that comes with being a woman in general. Most often the murders and beatings of women are done by their male partners. The leading cause of death for pregnant women in the U.S. is
being murdered by their partners. But even more often, women survive the violence, battered and beaten with scars lasting a lifetime. The number one cause of injury to women in the U.S. is being brutalized by men. One out of every three women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, one out of five women have been raped in their lives, and one in four women have been the victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner.
Violence against women stretches across borders. A woman born in South Africa has a greater chance of being raped than learning how to read. On average a woman is raped every 17 seconds in South Africa. There is the story of Malala Yousufzai, the schoolgirl shot in the head by the Pakistani Taliban for advocating education for girls. Not long after there was the gruesome case of a young woman
brutally gang raped on a bus and left for dead in India. None of this has happened without a fight though. Women have been incredibly courageous in the face of oppression, holding protests, organizing rallies, and pushing forward.
Working more, working harder, getting less, and struggling to hold families together. These are the struggles that women face in the world today. If Women’s History Month is to acknowledge anything, it should be that the struggle of women around the world is far from over.
The Civil Rights Movement from the 1950s -1970s was one of the most significant social movements in U.S. history. It involved millions of people in its ranks. It was a grass roots movement often organized locally. It involved elementary school children in Selma, Alabama and the elderly, registering a man to vote for the first time, in Lowndes County, Alabama who was over 100 years old. It appealed to the consciences of hundreds of northern white students who came to participate in the Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964. A whole generation of local leaders emerged, people like Robert F. Williams, a machinist from Monroe, North Carolina and women leaders like Rosa Parks, a seamstress from Montgomery, Alabama, and Fannie Lou Hamer, a Mississippi sharecropper.
It was a movement filled with ingenuity and imagination. There was certainly violence and danger but it was also joyful, full of singing and defiant celebration – a festival of the oppressed. Consciousness changed over night and what started out as the act of conscience quickly mushroomed into a massive social movement. The American apartheid system, in place for hundreds of years, was overturned in a decade of action.
The Civil Rights Movement was launched in 1955 with the Montgomery Bus Boycott and followed in 1957, by the fight to desegregate Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas. Then, in 1960, a few courageous Black freshman from a local state university sat in at the segregated Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina. The student movement quickly spread. Within two weeks there were demonstrations in 15 cities in five southern states. Then in 1961, the Freedom Rides challenged the federal government to defend the right of all of its citizens to ride on interstate transit. By September of 1961 there were actions in more than 100 cities in 20 states, and more than 70,000 participated, 3600 got arrested and 58 faculty were expelled for participating in the movement.
The movement spread with voter registration drives and community organizing on multiple issues. In 1963, there were 1,412 demonstrations in just the first three months of the year. And the March on Washington in that summer brought one quarter of a million people to the capitol. Millions of people were active in small and larger ways. Thousands of activists gained valuable experience and a new order was born.
Young college students and other youth were the spark of the movement but it was made up primarily of working class and poor people. Members of The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters were often the backbone of the movement, bringing their experience to bear on organizing. The energy and activism of the Civil Rights Movement went on to contribute to every other important U.S. social movement of the 1960s and ‘70s. And it was a movement that had an international impact, linked to the struggles going on all over the world as people fought to liberate themselves from colonialism. Many activists of the Civil Rights Movement helped build the movement against the war in Vietnam.
It is important this February to remember and honor the struggles of the past. And today when we are facing multiple crises – growing inequality, conflict and war and global warming that threatens the very life on our planet, it is especially necessary to remember the lessons of the past; for they hold the key to our future. Consciousness can change quickly and social movements can be born. When ordinary people decide to stop being treated as victims and instead to be actors on the stage of history – extraordinary things have happened. And they can happen again.by a few daring individuals or small groups.
In Memory of Pete Seeger May 3, 1919 to January 27, 2014). Pete was a songmaster of movements from the 1930s to the 21st century. He introduced songs that helped carry the movement forward in the dark days when people filled the jails, to the brighter days when we filled the streets. His songs and joyfully defiant sprit reflected the movements he was a part of.
Lately many of us have been commenting on the spring weather and flowers in bloom – in January. But as nice it seems it makes us uneasy and it should. In California, lakes, rivers and reservoirs are at record low levels. The snow pack, which stores freshwater in the form of snow and ice, barely exists. In rural areas, the fire season never stopped. Many species of fish, including salmon, are threatened. For farmers and ranchers, especially for family farms, it means a severe loss to their herds and crops. We are going to continue to feel the effects of this crisis as food and water costs go up.
Records are being broken around the world – record rainfall, record drought, record heat and record cold. In some parts of the world these extremes have meant the loss of tens of thousands of lives due to storms, crop failures, lack of water for animals and forcing millions from their homes
This crisis is caused by the drive for profits, by the banks and large corporations. They have continued with business as usual, dismissing the warnings of scientists around the world. Those who profit from the fossil fuel industry – oil, coal and natural gas want us to believe that this climate change is natural. Or they claim that human created climate change or global warming is just a “theory”. Scientists do agree that global warming is a reality and are testing their theories to figure out how and what is going on and how fast it is taking place.
We are told that the problem is too great and complex for us to understand and combat. But that is the message of those who defend their profits with this insanity. If we continue on this path, we are headed towards the end of life as we know it on this planet. James Hansen, a former head climate scientist at NASA, says we have to drastically reduce our carbon emissions or it is “game over”.
So what solutions are proposed? Instead of taking radical measures that aim at the root of the problem, the politicians propose minor alterations in how we work and live. We are told to use less water – that’s right. Drive less – that’s right. Use less electricity – that’s right. Recycle and waste less – that’s right. But that’s not enough. And it puts it all on us and that’s NOT right. The solution does lie with us. But not mainly as consumers, but as the majority who do the work of this society.
We do not profit from the continued destruction of the environment. We do not benefit from breathing in noxious fumes from cars, power plants or factories. Our children do not have healthy lives when they are being poisoned by the chemicals and toxins in the foods we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe.
So, what do we do? First we need to understand the source of the problems and to listen to what the scientists are saying instead of listening to the oil executives and their politicians. And we can start to be active where we are by dealing with what is happening on the job and in our communities. People all around the world are doing just that.
In Pittsburg, CA, hundreds of people have begun to organize against bringing massive amounts of crude oil to be stored in their community. Across the country people are opposing fracking – the pumping of poisonous water, under high pressure, deep underground to force out the natural gas trapped in the rock formations. People in Canada and the U.S. are mobilizing to block the extraction, shipping and refining of toxic tar sand oil of the Keystone XL pipeline. People near the Port of Oakland and Richmond are mobilizing against air borne pollution responsible for asthma.
Of course this is not enough. The real question in front of us is either climate change or system change. We are a part of this planet and must protect it in order to protect ourselves. The one percent, who own and run this system, are threatening our lives and the existence of life on the planet. We can’t afford to leave them in charge. We have no interest in continuing to live and work in a society whose goal is the profit of a few at the expense of everything else. We are the majority and if we are decided and determined and we organize – imagine what we can do. And, in reality, we have no other choice.
Looking back on 2013, it was a year of records. The capitalist class – the owners of the banks and corporations – brought in record amounts of wealth. Their profits have hit an all-time record in this country, making up over 70 percent of the GDP (the gross domestic product – all wealth produced in one year). Companies are making the most amount of money since anytime after 1947 – the year that records started to be kept.
Banks alone made record amounts of money in 2013. In 2012, banks made a record 141 billion dollars and are expected to make over 25 percent more when they finish adding up 2013. And the stock market ended 2013 at an all-time high, giving the wealthiest Americans their largest gain in over two decades – since only the wealthiest can afford to own that much stock.
The super-rich in this country have gotten even richer. Today there is the largest gap in wealth than at any time in the history of this country. The richest one percent owns 42 percent of all the wealth, and the richest ten percent owns 85 percent. The average CEO earns 380 times the average worker – it takes a worker two months to earn what a CEO makes in an hour.
And what is the source of all this inequality? Where did these record-breaking profits come from? Did companies magically sell more products in this country and around the world? Did they secretly stumble on some pot of gold at the end of a rainbow? No!
There is only one source for the off-the-charts wealth of the capitalists, only one reason for this unheard of inequality. The only reason the rich have gotten richer is because workers have gotten poorer. As profits are at an all-time high, wages are at an all-time low, not even increasing since 1972.
In other words the source for their wealth is that they have stolen it from us. In every major industry, as companies are reporting their record profits, they boast how they have cut their costs to make this money. What they mean is they have fired workers, cut our overall pay or benefits, and pushed more work onto fewer of us. Today fewer Americans are working than at any time since 1980.
The source of their wealth has been our labor, and they’ve stolen that wealth and made our lives more miserable in the process. But in fact, the wealth of society belongs to those who do the work. And organized together, workers can retake what they have stolen from us.
We don’t have to be the victims of their robberies. Workers have the power to fight back – we could decide how all the enormous wealth that we create gets spent. We could decide whether the trillions of dollars that our work creates just sits in banks, pays for missiles and mansions and skyscrapers – or is actually spent on what we need.
We could spend it on schools for our kids, on more hospitals, on public transportation, on affordable housing, on putting everyone to work so we can have time off. It’s our wealth, and when it is stolen from us, it only makes our lives more miserable. We should be the ones to decide how we want to spend the wealth that we create.
If we don’t want to be the victims of this crisis – we have to fight for our own interests. It’s not enough to be divided into our own little corners, with one group of workers pitted against the other. We must be part of the same fight. In every industry, all workers are facing the same setbacks. The wealth we create has been stolen from all of us. But organized together we can we control that wealth, improve our lives, organize a better way of living, a new society, and a better world.
Looking back on 2013, it couldn’t be any clearer whose year it was. Let’s make 2014 our year.
The holiday season is supposed to be a time when people look forward to getting together with family, friends, neighbors and co-workers, relaxing and eating good food. It is supposed to be a break from our normal routine, a chance to take time off of work and kick back and enjoy ourselves.
But for many of us this is not the reality. Some of us get no time off from work for the holidays and some work even more hours. Others of us have no jobs and are barely getting by. Some are homeless with no place to go and the holiday season makes it even more painful when you feel left out. Many of us have families who live far away from us; across this country or in other countries so we cannot be with them.
We are told that the best way to celebrate is to spend money – to show our love and affection by giving gifts. We are surrounded by television commercials and announcements of this or that product – as if these are real news stories. How can we not feel the need to buy the next Xbox or PS4, the latest cell phone or tablet or monster TV or whatever? The pressure can be enormous and people can end up buying gifts they can’t afford.
People are pushed to use credit cards, which puts them deeper in debt, which is not the way anyone wants to go into the New Year. So, showing our love for those close to us, will mean turning our backs on them in the coming year – working overtime or another job to try to make the bills.
This is also the time of year when we are asked to give money to charities, to help those who are less fortunate than us. As a result, working people are the ones who give the most to charities, much more than rich people who can afford it and often get publicity because of their supposed generosity.
Something ends up missing and that is the sense of a real holiday – whether you are religious or not. If the holiday is about getting stuff, there is never enough. In fact the only people who get to spend the holidays the way they say we are supposed to – who get the time to relax and have the money to spend for gifts, meals and drink – are the very wealthy. They have this privilege not because they’re smarter or work harder or are more deserving. They have this privilege because they are the one percent – the ones who own the corporations and banks, all the property and wealth of society. And they are the ones who benefit, not from their work, but from the work done by the rest of us.
We do have some choices. We can choose to celebrate the holidays on our own terms and many people do. Some people help out at a soup kitchen or shelter and serve dinner to those less fortunate. Others open their homes to friends and family or join them in a real celebration. This is not to say that we should be content with just doing the best we can over the holidays because often it falls short of expectations – especially for the children.
No matter how hard we try we can’t make it right – not the way the world is today. San Francisco boasts the addition of new millionaires ever day, while people who have lived in the city for years are being evicted from their homes.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. We only have to look around to see the possibilities. There is no reason why everyone can’t have a decent job and if we shared the work no one would have to work so many hours. Everyone could have a place to live and a role to play in the greater community. Education could be for a lifetime. Theaters and museums, concerts and movies could be free and available to all. The intelligence and creativity of each child could be encouraged and developed. We live in an incredibly beautiful area – wouldn’t it be nice to be able to walk the beaches and hike the hills whenever we felt like it?
That world should and could be a reality. But it won’t come into being by following the path set up by those who rule over society today. That reality will only come into being when working people decide not just to keep society running for others but to run it for ourselves. Then each day will be a celebration of life.