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Gender Diversity in the Peasant Movement

Translated by staff - La Via Campesina, October 3, 2016

The global peasant movement La Via Campesina is slowly beginning to open up to the subject of gender diversity. By Paula Gioia, member of the coordinating committee of ECVC

Food Sovereignty is also connected to gender relations – and to respecting different ways of life and the rights of LGBTTQI*. The movement of landless peasants in Brazil is showing this and providing important inspirations for debates in Europe.

Since its founding in 1993, La Via Campesina has promoted Food Sovereignty and a change of the capitalist and patriarchal power relations that are dominating our world today. La Via Campesina is an international movement of peasants, land workers and landless people, fisher folk, pastoralists and migrant workers. It has about 200 million members, organized in more than 160 organizations in 73 countries. In Via Campesina, feminist approaches to Food Sovereignty have played an important role in our peasant movement from the start, to counteract discrimination and all forms of violence against women in rural areas. The participation of women in leading positions has been central to all Via Campesina organizing and campaigning, with all committees made up of 50% men and 50% women. But only after more than 20 years a debate on sexual and gender diversity is slowly beginning.

The visibility and recognition of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, trans*sexual, intersexual and queer identifying persons (LGBTTQI*) within Via Campesina

have found little consideration in our debates so far. As a movement that is the global leader in the political project of Food Sovereignty and fighting against social exclusion based on the principles of collective living and mutual respect, we must commit to widening this framework to include the rights of LGBTTQI* peasants and food producers.

Within the international context of LVC, incorporating the rights of peasants and food producers that identify at LGBTTQI* is still being sensitively explored and developed. However on localized and regional levels there are grassroots movements who are members of LVC that are already engaging with and incorporating the rights of LGBTTQI* peasants and food producers into their organizations. One example is the Brazilian movement of landless workers (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra – MST), whose experiences can serve as important reference points to the debates arising currently in the European context of Via Campesina.

Farmworkers Say “Us Too,” Demanding Freedom From Sexual Violence

By Michelle Chen - In These Times, November 21, 2017

Ahead of the Thanksgiving feast, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) hit midtown Manhattan on Monday to face down the suits with chants of “Exploitation has got to go!” CIW was there to demand humane working conditions on their farms.

Peppered with brass-band musicians and street puppets, the protesters rallied at the New York, N.Y. offices of the fast food giant Wendy’s.

CIW members hoisted tomato and bucket-shaped picket signs with slogans like “freedom from sexual violence” and “Justicia” to face off against Wendy’s cheery, red pigtails. They demanded fair wages and freedom from violence and exploitation.

This week’s march, part of the coalition’s multi-city tour to promote its Fair Food labor protection program, put women workers at the frontlines, protesting the epidemic of sexual assault in agricultural labor, which affects as many as eight in ten women.

Decades before labor-relations courts and bureaucracy-laden contract negotiations, workplace disputes with powerful corporations were resolved with fists and clubs. And in Trump’s America, CIW workers are turning Florida’s vast tomato fields into the latest frontline in the struggle for the rights and dignity of immigrant communities.

“As farmworker women, this experience poses an incredibly hard choice; we don’t have another job, we have to suffer this abuse, because we have a family to maintain,” said organizer Lupe Gonzalo, speaking on the violence that stalks women working the fields, at an October gathering at a Minnesota theater. “Our silence is something we must grow accustomed to every day.”

Voices like Gonzalo’s rarely take the public spotlight in conversations on sexual violence and discrimination, but her words resonate deeply on the edges of the economy. As a minority in a male-dominated workforce, working in brutal, isolated conditions, women are exposed daily to sexual violence, be it coworkers’ harassment or rape by supervisors.

Although agribusiness corporations have historically failed to address sexual abuse in their supply chains, CIW members say they’ve virtually eliminated sexual harassment from the fields they’ve organized via targeted enforcement, broad-based monitoring and worker education efforts. Additionally, strong community support and the group’s pioneering Fair Food Program (FFP) has helped break the culture of silence in the fields by making women’s rights everybody’s business—from coworkers and neighbors all the way up to multinational restaurant chains.

Wendy’s is now the lone holdout among the large restaurant chains that CIW has pushed over the years to sign onto its FFP code of conduct. Since the 1990s, the group has marched on college campuses, rallied at corporate offices and lobbied on Capitol Hill to promote an innovative form of collective worker protection that has evolved into FFP's worker-led social responsibility system.

Though not a formal union contract, the program's model, which now protects some 35,000 workers, essentially provides a bill of rights for thousands of laborers in Florida’s heavily consolidated agribusiness sector to promote structural change at all levels of the industry. The binding agreement mandates that all companies in the supply chain—including growers and retailers—provide an additional penny-per-pound premium that is passed through to pickers. This adds a considerable amount to workers’ annual wages. Meanwhile, the agreement ensures enforceable standards for fair working conditions, job security through direct, long-term employment and due process for abuse complaints.

EcoUnionist News #33

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, February 15, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Stories:

USW Refinery Workers Strike News:

Carbon Bubble:

Green Jobs and Just Transition:

Global Anti-Capitalism:

Other News:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC

Defend (and Understand) Your Transgender Members

By Andrea Bowen - Labor Notes September 3, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

My building trades organizer friend didn’t exactly have the language, but he knew the worker was in trouble:

“She said she went to work looking like a woman, and the supervisor told her he didn’t want people like that working there.”

This was new territory for my friend—trying to help out a transgender worker—but he knew his job was the same as ever: protect her rights.

Transgender people are a workplace reality. And some unions, like the Communications Workers (CWA) and Service Employees (SEIU), have long advocated for transgender workers.

SEIU passed a resolution in 2012 vowing to provide its members health insurance covering transgender-specific needs, such as hormones, mental health care, and different surgeries that some people use for transition.

CWA submitted an amendment to the AFL-CIO constitution, ratified in 2013, explicitly stating that the federation encourages transgender workers “to share equally in the full benefits of union organization.”

These examples are impressive and remarkable. But not every union, and not every local, has the knowledge required to make transgender workers feel safe and respected at its hall and in its workplaces.

TWACtion: Environmental and Gender Rights Groups Occupy I-5 Billboard

From Earth First! Newswire - September 8, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Demonstrators from Trans and/or Women’s Action Camp (TWAC) and the Gender Alliance of the South Sound (GASS) have staged a dance party at a billboard along I-5 (Northbound, Exit 72). The billboard’s former advertisement was replaced with a massive banner with the message “Transgender Health, Not Fossil Fuel Wealth.”

This action intends to raise awareness about two issues of concern to Washington’s residents. The demonstrators oppose public tax dollars subsidizing the fossil fuel industry and the increase in oil and coal train traffic in many neighborhoods. The public would bear the largest portion of the cost of any railroad improvements to accommodate the coal and oil trains. The protesters also wish to draw attention to the fact that the investment in fossil fuels comes at the expense of the basic needs of citizens such as affordable healthcare. In particular, transgender citizens in Washington are commonly denied health coverage for medically necessary drugs, therapy, and procedures.

“Fossil fuel companies plan to turn our rails into coal and oil corridors, putting local communities and the global climate at risk,” stated TWAC spokesperson Eva Jones. “These industries are banking on taxpayers paying for better rails and training for emergency responders. This is an unacceptable funneling of limited state funds away from real public services like affordable healthcare.”

Washington State Medicaid currently discriminates against transgender residents by denying them coverage for treatments deemed necessary by the American Medical Association. Although it would cost relatively little, Washington cities and counties do not offer their employees trans inclusive health insurance. “A society is judged by the way it treats its members most in need. Transgender people have been forced to remain hidden and anonymous which results in tremendous mental, physical, and emotional damage. Transgender people deserve their basic healthcare needs to be met,” says Rikki Dean, member of GASS.

This protest concludes the annual Trans and/or Women’s Action camp, a camp for environmental and gender justice activists. This spectacle joins numerous actions that have taken place this summer against fossil fuel infrastructure in the Pacific Northwest.

Hundreds of women demand a People-Centered Agenda for SADC

By Via Campesina Africa, WoMin and Rural Women’s Assembly (RWA) - La Via Campesina, September 2, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

(Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, August 18, 2014) – Women and Mining (WoMin), Via Campesina Africa and Rural Women’s Assembly (RWA) contributed to demands made to the SADC Head of States during the just ended SADC People’s Summit held in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe from the 15th to the 16th of August 2014.

The RWA, WoMin and Via Campesina delegates were part of the more than 2,500 delegates drawn from grassroots movements, community and faith-based organizations, women’s organizations, labor, student, youth, economic justice and human rights networks and other social movements.

The Peoples’ Summit was convened under the leadership of the Southern Africa People’s Solidarity Network (SAPSN) and Peoples Dialogue at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair grounds in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe under the theme ‘Reclaiming SADC for People’s Development-SADC Resources for SADC People’. This political position responds to our shared analysis that the SADC development agenda is increasingly determined by corporate interests, which are privileged above the region’s 260 million people.

Via Campesina and RWA met under the agriculture and food sovereignty cluster while WoMin met under the extractives and climate cluster, and developed their own statements, which were included in the communiqué submitted to the Heads of States.

The Mozambique Union of Farmers, member of La Via Campesina, met to speak about Pro-Savanna’s role in land grabbing in Mozambique and asked for regional solidarity.

“Rural women in Africa are the main producers of food, yet their contribution remains invisible. They are the most marginalized in terms of access to land and secure tenure, natural resources, and political rights. Patriarchal relationships continue to prevail, making rural women vulnerable and subject to violence” read part of the RWA declaration.

The communiqué went on to demand that governments fulfil their commitment to allocate 10% of national budgets to agriculture following the Maputo declaration at African Union level.  RWA and Via Campesina also demanded that governments include small-scale farmers in policy and decision making processes.  Other demands included women’s rights to land and security of tenure and protection of organic products, indigenous seeds and knowledge to ensure food and seed sovereignty.

Industrial Workers of the World - Gender Equity Committee Statement / Call to Action

By the IWW Gender Equity Committee
August 1, 2014

Events of harassment, sexual violence, abuse and misogyny have transpired in many branches and projects of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). A recent job survey showed that 1 in 6 people experience sexual harassment in the workplace. This survey goes on to say that 51% of those harassed say it was from a peer, not their boss. However grassroots and radical our union's purpose, as a union made up entirely of peers, without bosses, we are not exempt from societal norms—such as the subjugation of people based on sex, gender identity, race, disability, sexual orientation and class. Women and gendered minorities within this union are intensely and disproportionately affected and victimized by these incidents which are without a doubt the rotten fruit of patriarchy.

The result is often the resignation and continued disenfranchisement of valuable and capable fellow workers. These fellow workers are lost to our cause because of our union's frequent inability to enact compassionate healing and judicial processes.

The IWW Gender Equity Committee (GEC) strongly recommends that EVERY branch of the Industrial Workers of the World make the active resistance of patriarchy, sexual violence and other forms of oppression a priority for their branch and the members within. We encourage our fellow workers to diligently develop and effectively implement official practices and policies that address incidents of injury where terms of immediate relief, punitive action, and transformative justice prioritize the needs of the survivor(s). We also encourage branches and members to thoroughly familiarize themselves with the existing complaints procedure and conflict resolution policies outlined in Article III of the IWW Constitution’s General Bylaws as well as any additional relevant policies that may already exist within your branch.

Public Transit Still isn’t Safe for Women, but we Can Change That

By Eve Andrews - Grist, July 3, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The other day, I was talking to my dad on the phone about an essay I wrote about sexual harassment in a warming world.

“Honey,” he said, “I thought it was great – but where did you get the idea to write about something like that?”

“I don’t know,” I replied. “Personal experience, I guess.”

“You mean men say things like that to you? Just walking down the street?”

Well, no — not just walking down the street, but also on the bus, in parks, and even in the Twittersphere. I suppose no father wants to think of his little girl being talked to that way, but I was shocked that it had never occurred to him because for me and billions of other women all over the world, it’s such a constant reality. I started thinking more about how, as a woman, my right to exist peacefully and safely in public spaces is compromised on a fairly regular basis. And I know that I’m not alone, which is why I’m still writing about it.

Anarres Project with Chris Crass: Social Justice and Hope

By Chris Crass and the Anarres Project - Earth First! Journal, July 2, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s. Crass was also an organizer with the IWW in San Francisco.

Chris Crass on Social Justice Heroes, Obstacles and Hope in the Movement, and Movies: The Anarres Project for Alternative Futures Interview

Chris Crass is a longtime organizer, educator, and writer working to build powerful working class-based, feminist, multiracial movements for collective liberation.  He gives talks and leads workshops on campuses and with communities and congregations around the U.S. and Canada, to help support grassroots activists efforts. He balances family with his public political work and believes they are deeply interconnected, as both are about working to bring our vision and values into the world.

Throughout the 1990s he was an organizer with Food Not Bombs, an economic justice anti-poverty group and network; with them he helped build up the direct action-based anti-capitalist Left internationally.  Building on the successes and challenges of the mass direct action convergences of the global justice movement, most notably in Seattle against the WTO in 1999, he helped launch the Catalyst Project with the support of movement elders and mentors Sharon Martinas, Elizabeth ‘Betita’ Martinez, and Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz.  Catalyst Project combines political education and organizing to develop and support anti-racist politics, leadership, and organizing in white communities and builds dynamic multiracial alliances locally and nationally.

In 2000 he was a co-founder of the Colours of Resistance network, which served as a think tank and clearinghouse of anti-racist feminist analysis and tools for activists in the U.S. and Canada.  After Sept. 11th, 2001, he helped to found the Heads Up Collective which brought together a cadre of white anti-racist organizers to build up the multiracial Left in the San Francisco, Bay Area through alliances between the majority white anti-war movement and locally-based economic and racial justice struggles in communities of color.  He was also a member of the Against Patriarchy Men’s Group that supported men in developing their feminist analysis and their feminist leadership.

He graduated from San Francisco State University in Race, Class, Gender and Power Studies.  Originally from California, he currently lives in Nashville, Tennessee with his partner Jardana Peacock and their son, River.  He is a Unitarian Universalist and works with faith-based communities to help build up the spiritual Left. 

The Servant Problem: Josie Foreman of Feminist Fightback asks those who see themselves as on the left to reconsider employing a cleaner.

By Josie Foreman - Red Pepper Blog, June 9, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Something strange is taking place in my world. My friends are employing servants. These are not rich people by any means, but lower-middle class teachers, NGO types, trade union organisers and cultural workers. They are liberals and lefties. Often they are people living in a rented room in shared houses, since living alone in London nowadays is beyond most people’s means. But they can afford to employ cleaners.

I have to admit that I have a strong reaction to this – a mixture of self-righteous moralism and class rage which is not necessarily very politically useful and certainly rather unattractive. Yet I have two kinds of vested interest in this issue: firstly my mum worked as a cleaner, my dad still does, and I used to in my early twenties; secondly, I now write about and research the history of domestic servants, focusing on the nineteenth century when 1 in 3 women cleaned other people’s houses for a living. So I’m writing this article to try to dissect the overwhelming feelings that rise up in me when I hear about my friends employing cleaners – to trace the historical roots of this revulsion and to find out whether it can illuminate the political issues or whether I should just dismiss it as a self-indulgent persecution complex.

What I am sure of, however, is that this is not a trivial question. I do not think that wanting to scrutinise why people employ cleaners is an act of middle-class self-loathing akin to worrying that your friends spend too much money on their organic veg boxes. Because the global market in migrant domestic labour touches on an even wider problem – the problem of reproductive labour. As our sisters in the Wages for Housework and Women’s Liberation Movement pointed out, reproductive labour (cooking, cleaning, caring) ‘reproduces’ labour power and therefore capital by ensuring that people are well-fed, clean and emotionally stable enough to work each day for a wage. Many commentators have suggested that the present historical moment is one of a crisis in care, whereby much of the reproductive labour previously provided by the state (free school meals, old people’s home, childcare centres) are being cut and pushed back into the private sphere of the home.

What all this amounts to, therefore, is that we should not assume that people employ cleaners because they are lazy. The burden of reproductive labour placed on the individual household with all adults in full-time waged work is now immense. This is coupled with the fact that anyone lucky enough to be employed right now is expected to work excessively long hours and to bring work home with them. Many of my friends quite understandably claim that they don’t want to spend their one day off a week doing more work cleaning their house. For people who have children, the problem is intensified – domestic labour is boring and exhausting and takes up far too much of our precious free time.

So does this mean that employing a cleaner is a sensible solution to the crisis in reproduction? Someone gets a job and someone else gets a break? This is the justification given by many of my cleaned-for friends. Yet I believe the dilemmas and emotions awakened by the employment of cleaners extend far beyond this simple calculation, and have powerful material and historical implications for our ability to build solidarity with other human beings and create a different kind of world.

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