Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Raising a Working-Class Culture

Building a radical working class culture is part of the aim of many activists, unionists, and workers. For us in the Industrial Workers of the World, that idea is part of our very preamble: we say that “By organizing industrially we are forming the structure of the new society within the shell of the old.” But it is not only our workplaces that need reorganization and solidarity: it’s also our homes and families, no matter what they look like. Women and single parents are especially hard hit by the way in which capitalism considers childrearing a ‘personal choice’ with no bearing on employer responsibilities. Pregnant women are pressured to leave decent jobs, and after giving birth find it increasingly difficult to find a job that will pay their bills. No parent wants to give up their children, but our society makes it intensely difficult to both have children and care for them. This burden falls disproportionately on women. Working women are 41% more likely to live in poverty than men, according to a study published by policy research center Legal Momentum. Another way of looking at this same statistic is to note that of all the adults living in extreme poverty - defined as making less than half of the poverty standard - sixty percent are women.

Childcare is a part of this problem. Parents who need to work to pay for housing, clothing, and groceries need to pay for childcare, and the average monthly cost of childcare in 2003 was $340. Single women are again hit disproportionately by this problem. Although men like the author of this sentence may talk a lot about gender equality and feminism, we rarely pull equal weight in the home, whether the work involved is the raising of our own children or the doing of the dishes. Even in dual-income families, women still do the vast majority of this ‘reproductive labor.’ Increasingly, we recognize the importance of supporting parents and children in this culture. Once they have children, new parents - especially mothers - often find themselves marginalized and overworked by the very movements that they helped build. Dependable childcare is often not provided at events. This is a problem for all parents, but women are perhaps the hardest hit. Across nearly every category, women still do the vast bulk of childraising. While women are doing this most vital of labors, radical men tend to have more relative freedom to engage in public work, union organizing, or activism. By default, men continue to dominate our institutions, set our priorities, and find themselves as the most active members of our union... Read More at the Embassy of Arcturus

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