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Victory for women janitors and farm workers

Irene de Barraicua  |  Issue: January 2020
women janitors in Sacramento CA

“Ya Basta! [Enough!]” theater performance by women janitors in Sacramento, CA.
PHOTO: IRENE DE BARRAICUA

SACRAMENTO, CA — Women of all backgrounds and trades have been fighting for equality in the workplace for generations. Much progress has been made, but as we say, the struggle continues or “la lucha sigue.”

In recent decades, women and organizations have used social media and the hash-tag specifically to take their activism towards gender equity and justice to a new level. This cyber-movement—from the #Metoo to #Timesup, and most recently #YaBasta (Enough)—has brought to light sexual crimes, thereby capturing the attention of millions. Latina farmworkers and domestic workers are among the women coming out from the shadows.

The “Times-Up” movement addresses the dire need for solidarity among all women, regardless of background and occupation. Women from Hollywood began to see the significance in joining with women of various sectors of the labor industry to address sexual assault and harassment.

Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, a national farmworker organization, is one of several organizations on the forefront of this effort to consolidate. Líderes Campesinas, a network of women farmworker leaders in California, has dedicated itself to the empowerment of women and doing away with taboos associated with gender-based violence by conducting theater skits and encouraging members to do outreach and education in their communities, also more recently, informing about the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund administered by the Women’s Law Center to aid victims of sexual assault and/or harassment in the work place has been a primary focus.

In 2019, Alianza Nacional de Campesinas and Líderes Campesinas increased efforts by joining forces with SEIU janitors to help bring attention and push their legislation. The National Sexual Assault Coalition Resource Sharing Project in a recent newsletter highlighted this collaboration. Entitled “Organizing at the Intersections—The National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) and Líderes Campesinas,” it speaks of the NDWA’s most recent campaign work and how Lideres Campesinas has thirty-years of ground-experience bringing light to similar issues. Thanks also to the valuable partnership of California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA), they have helped assure progress in sexual assault and harassment prevention for these two industries.

The Ya Basta! Coalition, led by women janitors to “end” rape on the night shift via powerful theatrical performances, is a most recent example. Veronica Lagunas, member and co-founder of the Ya Basta! theater company, shared her gratitude and excitement to continue ties and a friendship with the farmworker women.

The month of September alone saw great strides for these two groups of predominantly Latina women who are among the most vulnerable to sexual attacks and harassment on the job. CAL-CASA’s role in uniting forces was strengthened when women farmworkers and janitors were invited to take part in a statewide-conference encouraging women to speak up, learn from each other, and empower one another.

On September 9, members of Líderes Campesinas, Alianza, SEIU, CAL-CASA and other community members and organizations joined the janitors at the capitol grounds in daily demonstrations, theater and other innovative ways to promote awareness and urge the signing of AB 547 by Governor Newsom. This legislation passed and its dedicated to sexual harassment and prevention training in the janitorial industry. Victory!

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