The action was part of coordinated activities in 12 US cities held October 15th to launch a campaign for recognition of and resources for caregiving work and an end to the immoral and shocking poverty of mothers and children. The campaigners are calling for support for and enactment of the Women’s Option to Raise Kids Act (WORK Act HR4379) introduced by Rep Pete Stark (D-California) and the Rise Out of Poverty Act (RISE Act HR3573) introduced by Rep Gwen Moore (D-Wisconsin).
The campaign was initiated by the Global Women’s Strike, Women of Color in the GWS, and Every Mother is a Working Mother Network and was launched in Benton Harbor/Detroit, MI; Boston, MA; Cleveland, OH; Long Island, NY; Milwaukee, WI; Olympia, WA; Omaha, NE; Philadelphia, PA; Richmond, VA; Salt Lake City, UT and the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as a supporting event in London, England
At the protest, signs carried questions for debating candidates including: Mr Romney you say your wife is “working” raising 5 boys yet you call single mothers “deadbeats” if they are on welfare. Is raising children only “work” if you are married to a rich man? Balloons of Big Bird and other Sesame Street characters subject to budget cuts if Romney is elected were attached to the headquarters entryway. A tent, symbol of the Occupy movement, was erected outside. Banners included ‘Mothers Count, Count Mothers Work/Global Women’s Strike,’ ‘US Aid – Fund Moms & Kids Not War’, ‘End Poverty of Moms & Kids’ and ‘Every Mother is a Working Mother.’
The protestors chanted, banged pots and pans and a drum, and spoke from their personal situations about why they had come out despite 93 degree heat. Wife and grandmother Dr. Ruth Todasco of the Every Mother is a Working Mother Network spoke about the years she spent raising her child being the most important but counted as ‘zero years’ under social security, which means older women are at greater risk of being impoverished. She described being a corporate wife, and said when a corporation hired her husband they also got a second worker, his wife, at no additional cost. She also told how her work as a mom was looked down upon when she was a teacher in university.
Sidney Ross-Risden (GWS/LA) said, ‘Women’s double and triple day is exhausting, especially when kids are little,’ speaking of her workday including being a wife, mother, grandmother, part-time caregiver for elder family members and her waged job being a nurse. She called Romney’s attack on no-and low-income mothers including mothers on welfare an attack on all women. “When our work as mothers is devalued and when mothers on CalWORKS, California’s welfare reform program, are forced to work for less than the minimum wage or lose their benefits, the wages of nurses and all of us working outside the home are driven down, especially the wages of women.” And under the Romney-Ryan voucher plan for MediCare, she pointed out that fewer of us would be able to afford much healthcare at all, while women will be counted on to provide even more medical care for free to our loved ones at home.
Patricia Sanchez of DCFS Give Us Back Our Children pressed to know what candidates will do about children and their hardworking mothers living in poverty? Fellow member May Hampton, a grandmother raising 3 grandchildren, objected to the increasing numbers of children who are removed from their family members and placed in foster care because their families are poor. Young mother Stacy Swimme, nursing her infant son, said that while she was looking for a job outside the home, even if she finds one she doesn’t know how she can afford childcare, and that every child should be able to be raised in a loving supportive environment.
Rossana Cambron, a member of Military Families Speak Out, a wife and mother with a son in the military, said Mr. Romney is out of touch and his wife’s privileged situation is not that of most mothers. “It’s a lot of work, a lot of stress. It’s constant.” As the primary caregiver for her brother who has a disability, she called for resources for mothers and other family caregivers whose work is largely dismissed by government as a private family matter, unrecognized and unpaid, including the challenging work of caring for veterans who return with physical and emotional injuries.
Ruth Sarnoff, who was the oldest protester arrested when OccupyLA was evicted, a great-grandmother with the Womenscircle@OccupyLA and active in the movement against foreclosures, spoke about poverty resulting in people losing their homes. She was one of several women who pressed for the budget squandered on war to be used for mothers and children. And Sheila Nicholls of KidVillage@OccupyLA celebrated the demand for payment for caregiving work as an anticapitalist demand.
Kwazi Nkrumah (Martin Luther King Movement and OccupytheHood), spoke out on the importance of the RISE and WORK Acts especially in low-income communities of color. Giovanni Giusti (OccupyLA) and Arturo Cambron also spoke as men in support of women’s demands and about the importance of the caregiving they received from women in their lives.
Margaret Prescod, Women of Color in the Global Women’s Strike and host of Sojourner Truth on KPFK, reported on actions in other cities, and stressed that in countries of the Global South women’s workload and poverty are even heavier and women’s contributions to the global economy ignored. “The work of women (and men) in the Global South contributes to the lifestyle of those of us living in Southern California and throughout the Global North, and to the accumulation of wealth by the 1%. But when people try to escape poverty by coming into the US without documents they are criminalized and terrorized,” she said.
The protesters rang the doorbell for the Republican Party headquarters to give them a packet of information on women’s concerns, but received a cold response and were told the headquarters had no way of getting information to the national office. When Pacifica Radio’s reporter Ernesto Arcie, who covered the Speakout for KPFK/KPFA Radio News, later rang the bell for comment he got no response at all (though he was eventually able to reach someone by phone) – his report can be heard at http://soundcloud.com/kpfa-fm-94-1-berkeley/women-protest-outside-of-gop
. Shortly thereafter law enforcement arrived saying they’d gotten a complaint - he told our videographer not to stand in the street, wished us good luck with our protest and left. The protest was also covered by LAIndymedia. Alex Todasco was the videographer for the event.