The following is a call from Women’s Strike Assembly for feminists to link up with the current higher education strikes. In particular, they are calling on workers and students to organise feminist pickets on Monday 9 March 2020.
From the workplace to the street and from the street to the workplace – we strike.
Workers at 74 universities are currently on strike. Workers and students who are active in the Women’s Strike Assembly are organising FEMINIST PICKETS across the country on Monday 9 March 2020. Why? Because the university is a hostile environment for women, queers and people of colour. We want to bring together strikes in our workplaces with the current worldwide feminist rebellion. We join our sisters and siblings around the world in honouring the radical history of International Women’s Day by struggling for a feminist future.
The UCU strike demands are over pay, pensions, job security, equality pay gaps and unsustainable workloads. It is well known that women and people of colour not only earn less but are much more likely to be employed on insecure, short term contracts. We also have higher workloads than our white male colleagues because administrative and care work at the university (tutoring, supervising, taking care of students on visit days) is unfairly divided along the axes of gender, sexuality, race and ethnicity. Universities make huge profits by refusing to pay cleaners, security and catering staff a living wage and by refusing to employ early career researchers and teaching fellows on secure contracts.
Just like at the university, our work in the home is defined as a women’s “natural” work and most of the time is unpaid, not valued, and invisible: taking care of the children, doing groceries, organising the household, cleaning the house and keeping an eye on everyone’s emotional balance. Our duties and roles at work mirror and reproduce the same duties and roles in the home and society at large.
At our universities there is a complete lack of support for mothers with children, making academia and motherhood nearly incompatible. The competitive system of REF, promotions and publication turns a blind eye to existing social inequalities and as a result contributes to reproducing them. As migrants we often lack the social networks and family-structures that many rely on in times of crisis. This plays into who gets (to keep) better jobs and who gets burnout, whose jobs are more lucrative, who stays home and whose immigration status is threatened, and who gets what pension and who is dependent on others.
We strike because the current system is inherently violent against women (both cis and trans) and racialised people. Too many of us have witnessed and experienced sexism, harassment, racism, abuse and not been taken seriously when we speak out. Our campuses are still dominated by a rape culture that universities continue to fail to address as a systemic problem. Workers in the university have been compelled to become border guards. We need the mass participation of feminists to transform the university into a radical space that allows us to (re)define labour and learning relationships. We will not be silent and complicit in this exploitative system.
Victory to the UCU! Join the pickets and make them feminist! Wear red! Red for our feminist energy and righteous rage!
Set up your own facebook page for your local Feminist Picket. Posters and other resources are available from the Women’s Strike Assembly.
Record short videos of women and non-binary people saying ‘I am joining the FEMINIST PICKET on 9 March’ and send them to: firstname.lastname@example.org.