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IWD: fighting against austerity and for women’s liberation

Carolyn Egan

February 24, 2014

International Women’s Day has long been celebrated in the trade unions as well as the women’s movement. It was originally put forward at a socialist women’s conference held in Copenhagen in 1910 in commemoration of immigrant women garment workers who had earlier struck for dignity and respect in New York City.
It’s roots are tremendously important for us today because they point to the importance of building solidarity with women who are fighting for their rights in the workplace today. Governments and corporations around the globe are enforcing the neo-liberal agenda. The gap between rich and poor is widening. Women, particularly racialized women, are bearing the brunt of these attacks.
Jobs and services
There have been huge layoffs in the manufacturing sector in Ontario. Good unionized jobs have been replaced by contract and precarious work. More and more are going into the services sector without union protection. Over 4,000 home care workers struck in December demanding higher wages and better conditions from a for-profit company.
Organized workplaces such as Zellers have been bought out and Target, a non-union company, has taken over. Anti-union labour laws have made organizing much more difficult, with intimidation and harassment occurring when workers try to unionize.
Privatization has been imposed in the public sector accompanied by significant job loss.  Canada Post is planning to reduce its work force by 6,000 to 8,000 if its plans to stop home delivery are not stopped. Veterans services are being cut back across the country, with those providing services losing their jobs.
Toronto IWD
Toronto has been celebrating International Women’s day since 1978 with a rally and march highlighting women’s key demands. A coalition of unions and women’s organizations has been meeting to determine the critical issues facing women both young and old in this city.
The theme this year is “Women Taking Power.” The issues women have prioritized are “$14 minimum wage now!”, “Public services are women’s services” and “Generation Squeezed: We demand our future!”. These speak to the reality of women’s lives as well as the need to mobilize the anger that is felt by so many due to the conditions they face.
A march of thousands is expected to wind its way through the streets of the city, hopefully giving women and their allies the confidence to continue the fight. The province of Ontario has refused the demand for a $14 minimum wage, with future promises only to raise it to $11/hr. It is turning its back on those who most need a wage increase, working for below poverty line wages.
The attack on public services is putting a huge burden on women to take on more responsibility for family and children. Seniors can’t afford to access services that now have user fees. Children can’t access swimming and other recreational facilities for the same reasons. Subsidies for childcare are hard to come by and after school programs are more expensive. It goes on and on.
Young women are under and unemployed and feel their futures have been stolen from them. All of this has created huge anger. Hopefully International Women’s Day this year will express more visibly and forcefully than ever that women are rising with their allies and fighting back for a better world.
Join Toronto IWD at 11am at OISE for a rally, march at 1pm and fair at Ryerson at 1:30pm. For more information visit the website or facebook page.

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