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Vc>l. 18, No. 5 MAR 22 1911!; ;,50

YALE J'T�KE ·COMfARA])LE WOR,TH


MINEKJ" STIUKE .sUrrOl\,T
� llEPOK.TJ' FROM blUTAfN, ITALY, � CANADA
Editors: Margaret Cerullo, John Demeter, Marla Erlien, Phyllis Ewen, Ted German, Joe Interrante,
Jim O'Brien, Donna Penn, Ken Schlosser, Gail Sullivan, Deb Whippen, Ann Holder, Elizabeth
Francis and Ann Withorn. Intern: Virginia Bullock.

Staff: John Demeter.

Associate Editors: Peter Biskind, Carl Boggs, Frank Brodhead, Paul Buhle, Jorge C. Corralejo,
Margery Davies, Ellen DuBois, Barbara Ehrenreich, John Ehrenreich, Dan Georgakas, Martin
Glaberman, Linda Gordon, Jim Green, Allen Hunter, Mike Kazin, Ken Lawrence, Staughton Lynd,
Betty Mandel, Mark Naison, Brian Peterson, Sheila Rowbotham, James Stark, Annmarie Troger,
Martha Vicinus, Stan Weir, David Widgery, and Renner Wunderlich.

Cover: Design and illustration by Nick Thorkelson.

Vol. 18, No.5 September-October 1984

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AMERICA
VOL.18, NO.5 1984

INTRODUCTION 2

BEEP, BEEP, YALE'S CHEAP 7


Looking at the Yale Strike
Aldo Cupo, Molly Ladd-Taylor, Beverly
Lett, and David Montgomery

COMPARABLE WORTH, INCOMPARABLE PAY 21


The Issue at Yale
Teresa Amott and Julie Matthaei
THE GENESIS OF CONTEMPORARY ITALIAN 31
FEMINISM
Joanne Barkan

LETTER 37

ITALY: 39
Working Class Militancy, Feminism, and
Trade Union Politics
Bianca Beccalli

STRATEGY, COMPROMISE AND REVOLT 52


Viewing the Italian Workers' Movement
Frank Brodhead
WE'LL BE HERE RIGHT TO THE END... AND 59
AFTER
Women and the British Miners' Strike
Loretta Loach
POEM 66
Susan Eisenberg

SHARING THE SHOP FLOOR 69


Women and Men on the Assembly Line
Stan Gray
INTRODUCTION

Wo m e n Wo rkers, Fe m i n ism and th e I


1
Unions j
1
1

Margaret Cerullo with Roslyn Feldberg

The prolonged and militant strike of clerical and technical workers at Yale University this
Fall inspired this special issue on women and labor. The strike seemed to us at Radical
America to raise challenges on several important levels. The extent of disruption was stun­
ning : service and maintenance workers went out in sympathy for the full 1 0 weeks of the
strike; classes were forced off-campus into New Haven movie theaters, restaurants, apart­
ments; the Yale "community" fragmented as students, faculty, alumni debated the strike;
unusually strong faculty, student and community support went to the strikers - in the form
of tuition strikes, moratoria on classes, teach-ins, honoring of picket lines, and boycotts of
academic and social events . Not since the student movements of the sixties had the campuses
been such intense sites of rebellion. Now a fundamental critique of the university was emerg­
ing centered around the figure not of the student but of the woman worker .
The devalued position of women in the world of paid work was a central issue in a strik e
which made "comparable worth" a key demand . With the Reagan administration denouncing
comparable worth as "looney tunes, " and the Yale administration intransigent, a confronta­
tion of national significance was in the making . Getting information from the mainstream
media about the strike, despite, or because of its significance, was extremely difficult. 1 This

2
led Radical America to hold a public forum in sex-typing of occupations. But, while we have
Boston, addressed by members of the union, clear historical examples of women moving into
and student and faculty supporters, which we traditionally male occupations such as clerical
are printing in this issue. work, we have as yet no examples of the reverse
The forum, along with the other articles, rais­ process, even in relatively high paid occupations
ed questions for us about the connections be­ such as nursing. Amott and Matthaei's article
tween feminism and women's changing rela­ takes up some key aspects of these debates as
tionship to work and to workplace organizing. well as explaining the mechanics of comparable
As research has underlined, despite women's worth, and the recent history of judicial,
steadily increasing participation in the world of legislative and collective bargaining approaches
work, sexual segregation in the labor force has to achieving it.
remained strong, and women's earnings if While many of us at RA had questions about
anything have stagnated relative to men's) But comparable worth the Yale strike helped clarify
the facts of this injustice do not explain its significance. As the discussion at the forum
women's rebellion to it. The articles we are prin­ indicates, comparable worth became an expres­
ting in this issue all explore the concerns which sion of women's changing consciousness of the
are fueling women's rebellion to their place in skills embodied in their work and of the fact
the world of work. that certain jobs have been traditionally
In order to make this challenge, the articles devalued because they were associated with
suggest, women have had to depart from the women. Comparable worth challenges both the
form and content of traditional workplace idea that women's work is worth less than men's
organizing. The resistance by men to such in­ and that women need less than men. It calls into
itiatives reveals hidden dimensions of the struc­ question a nuclear family ideology which pre­
tures which keep women in their place. Stan scribes women's economic dependence on men,
Gray, for example, in "Sharing the Shop and treats women and children without access to
Floor," writes of how the meaning of work as a men's wages as aberrant or 'incomplete'
male preserve versus simply a place to earn families. This ideology, long false to many
money, was revealed when women attempted to women's situations, nonetheless functioned to
enter "non-traditional" jobs in a Westinghouse inhibit women from claiming the right to
plant in Hamilton, Ontario. The exclusion of economic autonomy. 3
women emerges as central to the confirmation Some have suggested that the source of
of manhood that the world of work provided, women's changing consciousness is in fact
and it becomes clear that more than economic women's increasing need for equal wages, as the
privilege is at stake in men's defense of their number of female-headed single parent families
workplace preserves. increases, and women's poverty along with it.
While Gray helps bring into focus the But, while women's poverty is certainly more
significance of women's efforts to enter non­ visible, more widespread and perhaps even
traditional jobs, the Yale forum and the related more acute, increased need doesn't automatical­
article by Teresa Amott and Julie Matthaei ex­ ly create transformed consciousness or worth. It
plore the emergence of "comparable worth" as seems to us that women have tended to develop
a challenge to the devaluation of women's tradi­ a consciousness of themselves as women, as well
tional work. Debate is beginning to sharpen as a willingness to challenge women's place, not
about the political content of "comparable as an automatic result of being at work or being
worth." Does the assumption that there is a in need, but in particular kinds of workplaces or
value of labor that derives from the content or through activism in other unions. Let us explore
work, for example, carry elitist assumptions each in turn.
about the "worth" of different kinds or work? Yale offers a particularly stark example of
Does comparable worth challenge or reinforce how women in contact with men as co-workers,
the sexual division of labor? Proponents argue but especially as bosses, not only see the dif­
that the equalization of pay and conditions in ferent treatment that men and women regularly
traditionally women's fields will break down the receive, but also are in a position to demystify

3
the male world of work, prestige, and power. as well as to leave it, may be the kind of creative
As secretaries and dean's assistants, working in tactics workers will need. In fact, as we look at
labs, libraries and galleries, women at Yale see the history of women's participation in union
men's weaknesses; they know the faculty mem­ activity, we may begin to see that whenever
bers and administrators they work for can't women have organized themselves, their tactics
spell, get turned down for grants, aren't have broken with traditional forms. From the
prepared for classes or meetings, sexually harass Ladies Auxiliaries' activities involving theatre
students. The emergence of women's conscious­ and entertainment to clerical workers in the
ness at Yale also recalls Sara Evans' discussion4 1930s jamming switchboards so that manage­
which linked the emergence of feminism to ment scabs couldn't do their jobs, to the public
women's prior activism in the Civil Rights 'awards' given by organizations like 9 to 5 (for
Movement and the New Left. It was in the the worst treatment of secretaries), women have
course of organizing a union and sustaining a brought a complex understanding to the dynam­
strike, rather than simply from being at work, ics or workplace organizing.
that women at Yale gained a sense of power and Secondly, comparable worth also represents a
value. This experience, in tension with the deni­ challenge to traditional union strategies which
al of their work and skills by Yale, deepened the have replicated capitalist assumptions about the
clerical and technicals' definition of what was at legitimacy of skill-based job hierarchy, a fact
issue. that may explain the long historical hiatus since
comparable worth was first proposed by a wom­
an unionist on the War Labor Board in the
1 940's and its current consideration.
The particular shape of the struggle at Yale
points to ways in which women-centered unions
will need to redefine union demands, struc­
tures, and tactics. Unions' own survival may
force the replacement of the traditional ques­
tion "Why don't more women join or become
active in unions" by a new and more radical
one: "What would unions have to look like for
women to become involved in them?" 5
The development of feminist consciousness
out of the experience of union activism is not
Nick ThorkelsonlCPF particular to the U.S. Bianca Beccalli, in her ar­
ticle "Italy: Working Class Militancy, Femin­
David Montgomery suggests that the issues ism, and Trade Union Politics" documents
and tactics of the Yale strike may offer us new women's entry into the sphere of paid work and
models for "strikes of the future." He is cer­ their involvement in trade union activity. Yet,
tainly right to point to women's centrality to the unlike the U. S., the Italian women felt
future of the labor movement. In this country at legitimate in focussing politically on personal
a time when union membership in general is fall­ life issues as part of their union activism.
ing (from 22.6070 of the labor force in 1 970 to In the 1 970's trade-union feminists sought a
around 1 8% today), the percentage of women space for women to clarify their distinct ex­
members has grown (from 21 % to 27070). Wom­ perience and needs as women within the trade
en are influential in those areas where there has union movement, as part of mounting a chal­
been union growth over the past decade (health, lenge to the male world of work and power,
the public sector, clerical and service work). rather than simply seeing integration into it as it
Old fashioned tactics may be ineffective in a now exists. Joanne Barkan's "The Genesis of
situation in which employers are apparently Contemporary Italian Feminism" analyzes the
willing and able to sit out long strikes. The unex­ sources of this particularly interesting ex­
pected threat (used at Yale) to go back to work, perience. She describes the growth of feminism
'$

4
out of the Italian New Left, including its initial
rejection by working class women and the Ital­
ian Communist Party. She focusses on the
struggle over abortion through which feminism
gained political visibility and legitimacy, and
transformed political debate in Italy. Beccalli
focusses specifically on the spread of the mili­
tant feminism embodied in the national abor­
tion struggle into the trade unions.
Of particular interest, Beccalli questions the
long term effectiveness of the form feminism
took within the trade unions. The women's
choice to create a separate space to pursue their
distinct needs, according to Beccalli, resulted in
no direct challenges to trade union structures
and traditions. In the end, the women were con­
fined within the space they created. She suggests
that rather than an emphasis on gender dif­
ference, a focus on equality is a surer route for
women to seek power. Women's demand for
simple integration, in a context of economic
crisis and a diminished left, may hold out
radical potential. In their effort to maintain and
extend their position in the world of work,
women will sustain a consciousness of how
power works and what it takes to dislodge its
hold. Yet, again, the question for women Footnotes
workers may be, "What would unions have to
look like for women to remain active in them?" 1. Jack Bishop (Village Voice, December 11, 1984) docu­
The insights from the autonomous women's ments the Yale administration's authoritarian efforts to cur­
tail the media's access to the campus.
organizing within the union may prove helpful 2. See, Donald J. Treiman and Heidi Hartmann, eds.,
in redesigning and uprooting the male­ Women, Work and Wages: Equal Pay For Jobs of Equal
dominated forms. Value (Washington, D .C . : National Academy Press, 1981).
Finally, the discussion of working class 3. For a fuller discussion of these ideas, see Roslyn L. Feld­
feminism in Italy and the publication of Joanne berg, "Comparable Worth: Toward Theory and Practice in
the United States," Signs (Winter, 1984).
Barkan's recent book, Visions of Emancipa­ 4. Sara Evans, Personal Politics: The Roots of Women's
tion: The Italian Workers ' Movement Since Liberation in the Civil Rights Movement and the New Left
1945 (from which we are excerpting) also pro­ (New York: Random House, 1970).
vides an unexpected occasion for us to return to 5. This question frames a paper by Roslyn Feldberg , in pro­
an old Radical America interest in the develop­ cess.

ment of the Italian left since the ' 'Hot Autumn"


of 1 969. Frank Brodhead's review of Barkan's
book provides an occasion for a former editor
to look again at the relevance of the Italian
debates about trade union democracy and the
role of the Communist Party for leftists in the
U.S. as we confront the eighties.

5
I BEEP, BEEP, YALE'S CHEAP
Loo ki ng at the Yal e Stri ke

A RADICAL AMERICA FORUM with Aldo Cupo, Molly ladd-Taylor,


Beverly lett and David Montgomery

Through the efforts of a union movement that began 1 5 years ago, clerical and technical
workers at Yale University and their union, Local 34, achieved a contract with the university
on January 2 1 , 1 98 5 . The resolution of the dispute with Yale was possible only after a ten
week strike during the Fall semester, including withdrawal of services by Local 35, service
and maintenance workers at Yale. Local 35 ratified their contract on January 28 . Key vic­
tories in the contract were wages, year-round j ob security, dental, and medical benefits . The
average wage increase was 35 percent over three years . A step-system in the reform of the
salary structure makes a significant step towards correcting some of the long term salary
discrimination against the c and t 's, 82 percent of whom are women . For example, black
women will receive significant increases since they tend to have the most years of service . A
seniority credit, or bridge in years of service, allows workers to take time off without penal­
ty, which implies the ability to take maternity leave . Labelled, "Public Enemy No. 1 " by
Manhattan Group economists, comparable worth was not specifically addressed in the
details of the contract . Due in part to the national attention this concept received during the
Yale strike, it is now on labor ' s agenda, as well as a key part of the broader program for
women 's equaity, in and outside the workplace.
What follows is an edited version of the transcript of a forum on the Yale strike sponsored
by RADICAL AMERICA in Boston on Dec. 6, 1 984. The forum occured at a critical junc­
ture in the contract struggle when the strikers had made the decision to go back to work,
temporarily if necessary, over the six week holiday recess . Two union members, a faculty
member, and a graduate student at Yale discuss the far reaching impact of the strike in the
Yale and New Haven communities. They detail the creative organizing strategies of Local 34
and their supporters, and the precedents the success of the union set, even in the midst of the
, struggle, in terms of women 's work and women 's lives.

Special thanks to Karin Stallard, graduate student in American History at Yale and former RADICAL AMERICA intern, for
7
help in setting up the forum, and to Local 26 Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Employees for hosting it. RA editors
Elizabeth Francis , Deb Whippen, Ken Schlosser, Ann Withorn, Virginia Bullock, Margaret Cerullo and Marla Erlien shared
the . and of the forum.
Beverly Lett is a public services assistant in the Art and Architecture Library at Yale and has
been a member of the negotiating committee. Molly Ladd-Taylor is a graduate student in
American Studies at Yale University and works with The Wages for Housework Campaign.
She was active in student support for the union. David Montgomery teaches history at Yale
University. He is the author of Workers' Control in America . Aldo Cupo is a lifetime New
Haven resident, raised in an Italian-American working class family, with a BA in English
from Southern Ct. State College. He intends to become a full-time organizer.

Beverly Lett: What we have seen in the streets of


New Haven recently is the culmination of a fif­
teen year struggle to organize the clerical and
technical workers at Yale University. Two other
union elections were lost before we won ours.
After the last election was lost, Local 35, which
represents the service and maintenance workers
at Yale and has about 1 ,000 people, decided
they needed more clout and that they would put
resources and staff toward helping us learn how
to organize. The question that we were asked
when we first started was "What can you do to
help?" It wasn't, "Sign a union card." It was, Business Week, Jan. 26, 1985.
"How can you help us get to more people?" surveys and questionnaires to organize more
And we built a structure very carefully. It took people to join with us.
a lot longer than we thought it would. We started negotiating in October of 1 983.
We were also involved in raising people's expec­
Building a Structure tations, in helping people to recognize that this
is a union that is primarily women, and to help
At Yale there are 220 buildings, with some of them feel that their work is really worth some­
those buildings having a couple of departments thing. The negotiations are still going on, but
in them, with two or three people in each depart­ last April, we were able to force the University
ment. Other departments have a couple of hun­ to agree to a partial contract, which covered
dred people. All told, there are 2,550 people in most of the major language issues: union securi­
the bargaining unit. With that kind of complex ty, health and safety, promotions and transfer,
structure, we had to have a structure for the job descriptions and classifications and the
union which reflected it. We had to build a grievance procedure. After we agreed to the par­
grassroots leadership, with leaders in every tial contract, during the summer we attempted
single workplace. Now we have what we call the to continue negotiations for the economic
rank-and-file staff, a group of about seventy issues. At that point not having so many issues
people, which also includes students, a faculty to deal with, we could focus on the economic
member as well as union members, who take discrimination against women and minorities.
major organizing responsibilities for various We worked on helping people to understand
areas near where they work. They work with the that negotiations don't simply take place in one
steering committee and the contract committee room; they take place in the offices, in the labs,
and the decisions ate made in that group of and in the streets.
seventy people; it's not a union leadership that In September, we were forced by the Univer­
makes the decisions and we're puppets. sity out on strike. The first phase of the strike
In May of 1 983, we won the union election by lasted ten weeks. In mid-November, we started
39 votes, which was a huge victory. We started discussing a plan called "Home for the Holi­
that summer after we won, putting together days," "Taking the Strike Back Inside," or
contract proposals. We used those, along with "Hell for the Holidays" - something along
-

8
those lines - which was an answer to the num­ standing up at the workplace are also standing
ber of problems which we were facing on the up at home. Many women in Local 34 are single
street, as well as a chance to catch the university mothers who have been struggling to support
off-guard again. First, Local 35's contract their families. And the strike has been so con­
comes up again on January 19, and we need the suming that the community and families are
strength and the will to support them and their galvanized to support the women who are out.
contract, since they have supported us and have For example, there was a demonstration of
honored our picket lines for ten weeks. Then, children of the strikers.
there is always the problem of attrition, people The question now has been how can we con­
just dribbling back to work. It's particularly dif­ tinue to do those things in the face of the loss of
ficult for some of our people since we make so some of our major support: when the students
little money (the average clerical and technical and faculty are going to go away for the
at Yale makes $ 1 3,400). Coupled with a strike, Christmas recess. How can we take the struggle
we're facing hardship. and keep it alive? The idea was, and it's a unique
idea, to take the struggle inside, to go back to
"Beep, Beep, Yale's Cheap" work for six weeks, and if both contracts are not
settled by mid-January, we will go back out on
The factors that have strengthened our strug­ the street. The point that I really want to get
gle have been the unity between Local 35 and across is that this struggle is a long-term strug­
Local 34, blue collar and white collar workers, gle: it started fifteen years ago and it's going to
the support of the students and the faculty, and continue until the university recognizes the ne­
the disruption we've been able to create at Yale. cessity to recognize us as human beings with the
In addition, the support of the New Haven com­ right to a better life for ourselves.
munity has been widespread. In New Haven,
there's been a great deal of support from the
Black community, from some churches down­
town, from other labor unions. New Haven is
different from Boston or Cambridge. Yale is a
weight in the middle of New Haven. Everybody
is extremely eager to see us win so that they can
win because there are plenty of people in New
Haven who are trying to get Yale to pay some
taxes, or money in lieu of taxes to the city. We
have a bumper sticker that says "Beep Beep,
Yale's Cheap - End Economic Discrimination
at Yale." People drive by all the time and are
constantly beeping their horns. We feel the sup­
port from the community when we're out there
on the picket lines, and everybody is driving by
beeping horns. Before the partial agreement last
time, we did some actions at lunchtime, and one
of the things that got Yale to realize the disrup­
tion was that with all of us standing outside
there we just heard horns for about an hour.
One member of the negotiating committee said
she was walking home one day and passed some
kids break dancing on the street to the tune of
"Beep Beep, Yale's Cheap!"
The struggle, now the strike, has changed our
family lives as well as our work lives; women HI gave them my final offer. Now what do they want!"

9
Molly Ladd-Taylor: One of the things that has
made the union successful is that they have
organized the entire community, not just the
workers. I'm here as a witness to that fact. The
key word of the strike has been "organize."
There are hundreds or organizers on the Yale
campus now - students as well as union
members.
I want to talk specifically about student and
faculty support. I think students have supported
the union for two reasons. The first is that the
strike completely disrupted university life. That
disruption forced students to confront the
union's issues, and they pressured Yale to
negotiate, so that their education could be
resumed. The second reason for student support
is that sex discrimination exists on all levels at
Yale (and society). Tremendous numbers of because everything's dark; everyone eats pop­
women students supported the striking workers. corn while they are in class.) Many classes have
When we asked undergraduates to sign peti­ a different location every week, so each week
tions, about 80 percent of the women would you lose half the class because they went to the
sign, and maybe 1 5 per cent of the men. There is wrong location.
a real "gender gap" in union support. First, let Yale has been in quite a turmoil. Research has
me talk about the disruption at Yale. for the most part ground to a halt. The scabs in
the libraries can't find the books. Education, in
Withdrawal of Services a fundamental way, has really been disrupted.
And the withdrawal of Local 35 hurt too. Bath­
The Yale administration really underestimat­ rooms are filthy, trash piled high in hallways,
ed not only the support that clerical and and the grounds are a mess. The closing of the
technical workers would have from the rest of dining halls has been significant particularly for
the community, but the extent to which the undergraduates, for much of their social life is
withdrawal of their services would dramatically centered there. So despite administration prop­
disrupt the university. There are about 2,500 aganda, students have deeply felt and suffered
workers in the bargaining unit, about 1 ,600 of from the withdrawal of services called by the
whom have been out on strike, and an additional strike and by Yale's failure to negotiate serious­
1 ,000 service and maintenance workers - Local ly.
35 - who went out with them. The prolonged Yale terribly underestimated the impact of
strike has hit Yale hard. Financial aid and ad­ clerical and technical employees withdrawing
missions are in chaos. The libraries have been services. It believed that clerical (largely
severely hurt. The art gallery has shut down. women's) work was marginal and easily replac­
The dining halls are closed, except for one which was ed. This was a critical error on Yale's part. One
staffed by scabs. The gym has shorter hours. of the main jobs clerical workers do, particular­
In the beginning of the fall, we undertook a ly the administrative assistants in the depart­
massive effort to move classes off campus, in ments and residential colleges, is help people ad­
order that the rudiments of education could go just to Yale, making life easier in a myriad of
on without people being faced with crossing the ways, such as helping people find their way
picket line. About 500 classes were moved off from point A to point B, and organizing the
campus, and were meeting in people's apart­ university'S social life. Without those services,
ments, in restaurants, and movie theaters. (Peo­ the tension and difficulty of daily life increased
ple complain that they can't see to take notes for the students and faculty on campus.
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10

� �-- ------
"You Can't Eat Prestige" the next day the administration backed down.
They're still out there wearing those sweaters.
The Yale "community" that the administra­ Graduate students in computer science were
tion prides itself on so much suffered tremen­ threatened with being fired and losing their
dously during the course of the strike, and in stipends if they didn't do c&t work, and they
fact that 's been a major strategy of the union. organized . This has happened throughout the
It's not so much to stop scabs from coming to entire campus. Undergraduates held sit-ins in
work, or to prevent students from crossing the the library to expand library hours, and they
picket line, but to go after the glorified "public were threatened with suspension. Over 100
image" of Yale, that Yale depends on to fund­ students filed a class. action suit against the
raise, to recruit "quality" students and faculty, university for breach of contract. 1 1 5 students
to reaffirm its prestigious reputation. The strike withheld tuition and put it into an escrow ac­
has exposed what's truly behind the image of a count managed by local clergy, because they
harmonious Yale community. It's become very were not getting the kind of services they paid
clear to everybody on campus that the Yale for. On Jan. 1 4 , the first day of spring
"community" is really a handful of white men semester's classes, 3 1 students sat in at Presi­
(and one white woman) who run the administra­ dent Giamatti 's office , and basically held four
tion. An extraordinarily few people make deci­ of the university's top officials hostage for two
sions , and students and faculty don't have any hours .
voice in what goes on at Yale. It's not just the At one point during the strike, Yale offered
clerical and technical workers or the service and free meals to freshmen because so few people
maintenance workers. Now we have students were crossing the picket line to go into the one
talking about, "Well, we need a union . " Grad­ dining hall that was open. We decided to have a
uate student teaching assistants say, " Hey, you picket line inside the building, but the ad­
know, TA salaries are pretty low," and the ministration threatened students with suspen­
faculty is saying, "Well, we don 't have a faculty sion if they went itlside a building wearing a
senate. " sign. So we went inside a building wearing signs,
and we are still here.
"Challenging the Unchallengeable"

As Locals 34 and 35 have been out there,


pushing people to take a stand, and as more
students, teaching assistants and faculty have
voiced their support, we have found that so­
called academic freedom and free speech does
not really exist at Yale. The Yale University
handbook says that we should "think the un­
thinkable, mention the unmentionable, and
challenge the unchallengeable, " but many ges­
tures of solidarity with the union have been met
with threats.
At the beginning of the strike, six
cheerleaders went to the first football game
wearing " Settle" pinned on their sweaters, and
were called into the coach's office and threaten­
ed with being thrown off the team. We sat down
and talked with them and said, "Well , what do
C LAe/d
you do in a situation like this, when you've been
threatened? You organize. You come together,
ORGANIZATIONJ
and you confront it . " So they went on TV , and Yale Banner...

11
One of our most successful organizing actions Women's Work
was a three-day general strike. We held it just
before Thanksgiving vacation and about fifty One of the most compelling aspects of the
faculty members and lots of teaching assistants strike has been the gender gap among the sup­
cancelled classes. There was a lot of student sup­ porters. There is a correlation between predom­
port for the general strike; between two-thirds inantly female departments like nursing or
and three-quarters of the nursing school went English, and where there is lots of support for the
out to support the moratorium, as did about 20 union. One of the reasons for this is the impact
per cent of the undergraduates . Many depart­ of the women's movement, and the con­
ments in the humanities, the divinity school, the sciousness already developed around issues
school of management, and the law school bas­ posed by the strike. Yale's clerical and
ically shut down for those three days. Shortly technicals are paid very low salaries - the
before the moratorium, we had the largest average is less than $ 1 3 ,500 after 6 years of ser­
faculty meeting that 's been held at Yale since the vice, and women and minority workers earn less
Black Panther trial (1 970) . They voted (by rais­ money even though they tend to have more
ing their hands in front of the administration - years of employment . Like many women who
their bosses) on binding arbitration, which is ad­ are students at Yale, I was a clerical worker
vocated by the union. It lost narrowly. before I entered graduate school. Many

Local 34 strikers respond to passing motorists at a rally for Local 35. Virginia Blaisdell photo.

12

___��_c���.��c�___��_______________________""""'''-·
students have been clerical workers during the ers are coming toegther to organize, recognizing
summer, and we harbor no illusions about the leadership that the union of clerical workers
where a lot of us will end up after Yale. has provided us . We are coming together
Further, the process of organizing has around our common interests as women and to
brought to light an understanding of com­ fight economic discrimination, which affects all
parable worth. Local 34's strategy has not been women no matter where we are.
to say, " I 'm a secretary and I should make as
much as a truck driver, " but rather, "I do im­ Strike of the Future
portant work and it is not valued . " As women
began to organize at Yale and to talk to each David Montgomery: One of the most important
other, this process enabled them to see and to things to think about in this strike is the way in
feel good about their work when before it had which it's serving as a preview for what many of
seemed invisible. The fact of economic discrimi­ us are going to go through in different settings
nation is something we all know we will face in years to come and serving as something of a
wherever we go, as long as women earn 59 cents trial run, for tactics and strategies that are going
on the dollar for every man in this society. So to be necessary in the struggles the labor move­
the women at Yale know that the c&t 's are out ment faces from this point on.
there fighting for us. This is a strike of the future, first of all, be­
The other reason for the gender gap is the way cause it's taking place in such a hostile setting,
women students and faculty are treated at Yale. starting from the preaching from our beloved oc­
Although it's difficult to get hard figures, it is cupant of the White House and going on, alas,
clear women on the faculty face a comparable through many of those who ran against him . It's
situation in terms of salary. Also, only 5 per the same notion that our salvation lies only in
cent of the tenured faculty is female, and that the marketplace, and in the strivings of each in­
percentage has declined over the last five years. dividual, as a selfish dog fighting against each
By and large, women faculty are more support­ other selfish dog , the length and breadth of this
ive of the union than men faculty, but there are land. Nobody can forget PATCO to this day as
so few of them and women faculty have much the opening signal for those who step out of line
more to lose in terms of speaking out in favor of by acting collectively. Nothing, it seems to me,
the union. There is also a lot of sexual harass­ moves more directly against the whole selfish
ment and violence against women (often by Yale thrust than what 's been going on right here at
men) which the administration hasn't taken Yale. First and foremost, the workers here have
seriously. Women are realizing that it wasn't formed this union, and taken as their major
because of Yale's benevolence that Yale got to target a wage scale based on the market stan­
be coed in 1969; it was through people out on dards of a society in which every occupation
the streets, through the women's movement predominately staffed by women is lower paid
organizing. than jobs that are predominately staffed by
Women students identify with the clerical men . There is no way that any individual can do
workers and are fighting for them because the a bloody thing about this. The only change that
strike has thrown light on the treatment we can be made has to be a change within that
receive at Yale, and shown that women can fight structure itself and it has to be a collective
Yale and win. Campus women's groups like the undertaking.
Women 's Center and women 's peace groups Secondly we know that the city of New
have thrown many of their resources behind the Haven, according to the census, is one of the
strike, and national organizations like NOW poorest cities in the United States. Indeed, New
and Black Women for Wages for Housework Haven 's real claim to fame is that the income
have come to New Haven to show their support. gap between the city and the surrounding sub­
One of the most exciting things about the strike urbs is the biggest in America. This means that,
is that we've formed a group of women from all when authorities are asked about the low scales
the different sectors of campus; faculty, gradu­ faced by minority workers at Yale, the a�swer
ate students, undergraduates , and clerical work- (provided constantly in our lovely rag the Jour-

13

.. -
nat Courier) is that, indeed, the large numbers Act Like A Gila Monster
of minority workers in low paid positions is
evidence of generosity by Yale, because it pro­ We cannot forget that the members of Local
vides employment to underqualified people. 34 proved that it was possible to pull themselves
Those who formed Local 34 and those in Local together and win a collective bargaining election
35 who went out in sympathy think that this is a in this day and age. That in itself was quite an
bunch of crap. They see that the only possible accomplishment . Remember that in 1 983 , less
way to change the low wages at Yale is by collec­ than half of all the NLRB elections were won by
tive action. But they 've also shown, through all unions, and in bargaining units of more than
the studies that they've carried out, that it's not 2,000, less than 100/0 were won by unions . So for
just the question of the university basing its low those of you who say "only 39 votes , " this is no
scales on the low salaries generally paid to small achievement. It was impressive to pull
women and to blacks, but also that the salaries together a victory in a unit of this size, in this
are low even by New Haven standards, even day and age, against the whole battery of tech­
below th;:: local clerical and technical salaries for niques that every company uses against
the region of New Haven. Yale stands at the whomever is trying to organize. Even more
bottom of the market. significant, a major strike was mobilized against
The people at Yale decided they've had an institution that 's very difficult or even im­
enough of this kind of generosity. They've had possible to hurt financially over a short period
enough of "subsidizing" the engrossing of the of time. It's not like a manufacturing concern,
university's endowment. They are tired of a net whose sales could be shut off, and boom, the
profit of thirty-five million dollars, which the money stops, the squeeze is on them, they gotta
university turned last year, only to then turn talk. It makes you think, of what, for example,
around and hear the university say that there is insurance workers all around America will be up
no way that it can do anything about the earnings against, as they unionize more and more. Or the
of its clerical and technical workers. Most im- problems hospital workers face as more and

portant then, especially in the context of our more professional managerial associations
hostile political environment, Yale's clerical and come in, or even about manufacturing firms, all
technical workers have shown that changes can parts of multi-plant companies, which can easi­
still be made through union activity. Secondly, ly shift their work from one place to another.
this union has taken the basic patterns of the We begin to see that everybody is increasingly
wage segregation in this country head on and faced with this same situation . What do you do
said that something must be done about that at against an outfit that is so hard to hurt?
Yale. Third, they have used new and effective What has been demonstrated here is first and
techniques of doing it . foremost you act like a Gila monster. Have you
-

14
ever seen a Gila monster? A Gila monster comes t a)dng place. So here, the lessons that have been
out of the desert and bites, and it never lets go. demonstrated are imaginative - and there 's
The victim can shake and j ump and scream and been something new every single week on those
stomp, for months, years, on end . And this has picket lines. There have been great non-violent
to be the essence of any union tactics today. The demonstrations, massive arrests of participants,
old Sam Gompers game of " Pull the plug; shut and rallies in which other people have come
her down lads; and wait until the company from other areas of the Northeast, all of which
comes and talks , " doesn 't work against an gave constant support. Anyone who has been on
enemy like this . This doesn't mean you give up. strike knows that there is nothing that gives a
This means that enormous imagination has to boost quite like seeing 20, 30, 50, a hundred
be brought to play. Partial agreements can sup­ people from someplace else come marching in to
plement or replace complete contracts. Demo­ say, "We're with you . " That physical presence
cratic involvement of the whole membership is makes all the difference in the world. And this is
vital, so that everybody knows what 's going on, what has made it possible, it seems to me, to
and yes, begins giving a new meaning to make such an imaginative maneuver as has just
democracy. What lessons all of us at Yale have been done.
had, just from watching this union in practice ! The extraordinary thing is that Yale was com­
Instead of just throwing a question on the floor, pletely baffled by this decision of the strikers to
for people to debate out of nowhere and make a go back to the job. The administration went
decision, the question is debated for days or bananas. There's only one sort of tactic that
weeks, before a meeting takes place. So, by the they could possibly use to stop that sort of
time people come together, everybody knows thing: a lock-out. But how could Yale's ad­
what he or she has to think about that question. ministration lock out its employees, and then
Before this last decision to go back was made, turn to the students and say, "We're promoting
the whole bloody university had turned into one your education "? Now this one was tough.
big debating society. It was clear that more in- They were confused. and the strange thing is
that the first increase in the money offer made
since September came in response to the threat
of the workers to go back to work.
Also, it's important to remember that in each
stage of a struggle like this the dynamics change ,
because soon Yale got the wavelength, and now
they've got a new strategy: attempting
to persuade everybody that now that they're real­
ly back, it's all over. And out great newspaper
again has big editorials, "Well it's finished . Isn 't
that nice? There's nothing more to do. " Clearly
the workers on the job will be there organizing
each other to carry on the struggle through this
stage, at work and in the future, to carry it on and
go off work again, if need be.
What is important here is this constant sense
tellectual activity took place at Yale last week of total involvement of the membership, first of
than all the rest of its history combined: in every all. Secondly, the amazing solidarity, that the
street and every bar, and every restaurant, all up members of Local 35, maintenance and custodi­
and down that area. And this was absolutely al workers of Yale, have demonstrated, with
necessary, because you can only use tactics like more than 85 per cent of them staying off for ten
this if everybody understands what's going on, weeks, in support of the members of Local 34.
and everybody is involved in the decision. You And this kind of solidarity, as you heard, was a
can't j ust have a telegram go out from John L . decisive consideration in the minds of the people
Lewis, and have this sort of in-and-out strategy who decided to go back together, so that they

15
could always stick together, as one unit that "Standing Together"
fights together. It means imagination, solidari­
ty, democracy, always reaching out, as Molly I slowly began to set up more lunch meetings
described, to everyone else in the community, to and get people in my building who didn't know
the students, to the faculty, to the entire region, or trust the organizer, but did trust me because
to make this battle everybody's fight. I 'd worked with them for four years. I 've been
It is crucially important to lend every possible at Yale about seven, eight years now. That was
support to this strike, not only because raising the very first program: build the organizing

wages of clerical and technical workers at Yale is committee. And when we 'd reached a certain
going to give an enormous boost to similar point, about a year into the drive, there was
workers all around the New England area, but another program which we called "standing
also because this is a strike of the future, and together," and it culminated in a list of 400 peo­
this is a place where the tactics and strategies , ple going public, which is something that had
which many of you are going to have to use never happened at Yale. The members of the
again and again in the battles to come, are being organizing commitee signed a public statement,
tested out . which said "Standing Together, We Are Local
34. " And then there was a long page of names.
Aldo Cupo: Our union is very unconventional. It was a very exciting time, and it brought about
Along the way, we've built the union through a a big issue that people have struggled with all
series of many different programs . The very along, and that .is the issue of organizing as
first program was to build the organizing com­ pushing. Pushing people one step past where
mittee. I remember I first had a lunch meeting in they thought they could go. Pushing workers to
the Naples Pizza restaurant where I was expec­ stand up and be tough.
ting the organizer to hand me a card so that I Many of our organizing committee members
could sign it. I said, "Okay, I 'm ready to go, started out by saying, "Well, all right, I'm for
where's my card?" And he said, "Well, we the union. I'm crazy. I will do anything for the
don't have one . We don't intend on having any union. I will sign my name publicly; the boss can
for a while. What we want to do is organize." fire me; I don't care. I'm proud of being from
So I listened to him and it made sense to me. It the union, but you're not going to ask me to get
made sense that the union wasn't something my co-worker to stick her neck out ." And we
that was going to drop from the sky, that I sign a said, "Wrong ! We are going to ask you to get
card and send it in. It made sense that if I your co-worker, not to stick her neck out , but
wanted to get a union at Yale, then I'd have to sign and go public, because that saves all of our
do some work. necks . " From the very beginning of this union,
it's been debates, discussions, and tough actions
that brought with them a lot of controversy, but
which rested on the basic belief that, if we push
-

16
each other and struggle with each other and taken the low road, trying to squash people's
respect each other, ultimately what we do is freedom of speech, and the community, trying
push Yale. When members say to me, "I don 't everything that they could to just hold onto their
like being pushed, " I reply, " It beats being immense wealth and power. In the face of this,
crushed ." organizing has really mobilized us so that, as
David said, we're just a force that keeps coming
The High Road and the Low Road at 'em .
On April 3rd, after we had voted to go out on
strike, we had a month interim period . We had
taken a resounding strike vote; over 1 300 people
in a vote of 1 500 people decided to go out on
strike. So we gave the university a month to
bargain. They didn 't do anything until the last
few days, when all of us in the workplace wore
buttons which said , "I do not want to strike, but
I will . " We had many different actions, at
lunchtime for example, where a thousand peo­
ple would attend. But key was that secretaries,
lab technicians, and library workers were
challenging their supervisors. They stood up
and took their supervisors on so that there was
no mistake that it was John Wilhelm or another
We continued on, organized and eventually leader, but that it was the people in the
broke down a lot of the fear people have about workplace who were really, really ready to go
what it means to be in a union. We were facing and fight .
the immense wealth and power that the universi­ We have said that in dealing with Yale we had
ty has. Anybody who 's been there for any an arsenal of weapons . One of those weapons
amount of time j ust knows in their bones what was the withdrawal of services that a strike
an opponent you're up against at Yale . We were brings, but that's only one amongst plenty of
clear that in organizing we were always taking others which showed the university that we were
the high road . In contrast, Yale has always going to fight, were determined to fight and that
taken the low road. And when I say the high we would continue to fight until they recognized
road I mean that we've never been afraid to get us as equals at the bargaining table. A lot of
together and make some very difficult deci­ people didn't understand that one of the key
sions. We've never been afraid to lead people. problems at Yale was that they would not bar­
We've never been afraid to encourage people, gain with us. It's been over a year now, and they
basically to say that we're worth something. still dictate a stance, and once every few months
On the other hand, Yale has responded to our they move six-tenths of one per cent on some­
efforts to better ourselves and to organize, by thing and claim they've compromised . Despite
hiring two of the nastiest law firms. One was a that frustration, we've proven that once we start
local law firm in Hartford, which tried to to bargain on something we achieve a settlement
squash our attempts to have a union election, which can be seen in the partial contract achiev­
and now they have hired Sayforth, Shaw, Fair­ ed in April .
weather, and Geraldson, one of the top union­ The programs, though, have always built on
busting law firms in the country. When asked taking our strength and spreading it out so that
:. about the issue of comparable worth, one of we get stronger every day. We won by 39 votes
Yale's top administrators said, " 1 wouldn 't in a unit of close to 2600, yet 1 500 people voted
, know about the comparable worth of a secre­ to go out on strike. More people voted to go out
tary to a truck driver seeing as how I 've never on strike than voted for the union. So this has
held either job . " A long series of comments already shown that, as we keep building, we can
such as that show how Yale has consistently move to the rest of the Yale community. Plenty!
of Yale students and faculty who had been those organizers were gone, out o n the street,
dubious of the union were turned around by the where they couldn't get at anyone. We decided
administration's rigidity. In fact, we usually to start reaching in, into the workplaces, to pull
find that Yale has been our best organizer . supervisors out for lunch and to ask, " What are
you doing to end the strike? Are you going to sit
Control and Disruption back here while your team says that they're not
going to compromise?" Secretaries took their
We used to think that what moved the univer­
doctors out and said, " Do you know that I
sity was embarrassment, hurting their national
make $ 1 3 ,000 while you're this doctor at the
image. But we now see that the key was disrup­
medical school, pulling in all this money?" A lot
tion, and pushing the university to the point
of the doctors didn't even know that and were
where they lost control. Once we were out on the
shocked to find out. We continued to stir the
street Yale thought, "OK, they 're out: ' They 're
campus up, even from the outside, because we
causing hell. Disruption is going on, but we now
found that Yale begins to move only when they
control the inside� " The union used to have a lot
feel they're losing control.
of control on the inside, because of the griev­
Now we have voted overwhelmingly, about
ance procedure and the strong stewards and
800 to 200, to take the struggle back inside,
organizers in the work place. With a strike,
which is another way of ripping the control right
_ 1.IT Ai
away from Yale. When I first heard this plan I
WHY NOT ARBITRATION? liked it as a contingency with Local 35, because
the University had tried to force them back in,
Sex and race discrimination
The fundamental economic problem which Local 34 members are
since they didn't have specific language in their
determined to address is that we are not paid the real value of the
contract allowing them the right to respect the
In addition to that basic problem,.. however, Yale's discrimination is
work we do, and are not paid living salaries.

eml'ha8ized by the inequalities even within the dencal and technical


picket line. The university brought Local 35 to
group. Yale pays clmcal and techrucal women significantly less than artibration in order to force them back to work.
men,. even though the women have worked at "folie longer.
YALE SALARY DISTRIDUTION BY SEX We thought if 35 was forced back to work, then
Group No. of we would go back in solidarity and then all come
Years in
Average Average Average
Salary FuJI-Time Years at
Empioyees
out together again when their contract was up in
367 (18%)
Yale Present Job
mid January.
3.8
Male $14,056 5.6 4.0
Female $13,290 1724 (82%) 6.0
But the more we thought about Yale's strate­
Similarly, black clerical and technical employees at Yale are paid
significantly less thaI' whites, even though the blacks have worked at gy to sit us out during the six weeks of Xmas
Yale longer.
YALE SALARY DISTRIBUTION 6Y RACE
recess, we realized, " Hey, let's turn the tables . "
W e went i n , because a t this point using the strike
Years in
Group AVCI'ag(! No. of Average Average

Employ"es
Salary Fu.U·Time Ye.ns at as withdrawal of services was not to our best ad­
1733 (83%)
Yale Present Job
White vantage. We have the right to do that because
Black
$13,563 5.8 3.7
$12,644 292 (1 4%) 6.8 4.4 we have a partial contract. And we are going to
A further breakdown by both :-a(c c\nd sex SOClW5 that Yale follows
the classic. pattern of discrimination it'!. Amerio : white men earn the be doing our jobs; we're not proposing sabotage
most,. followed by white Vlomen. blad. men. and black women.
or slow downs or anything like that, but we've
YALE SALARY DISTRIBUTION BY RACE AND SEX

Grou.p
been telling all the supervisors that we're going
Average No. of Average Average
to be challenging them, asking them out to
Present Job
Salary Full-Tune Years at Years in

$14,324 293
Employees Yale
White Men
lunch, pushing them. And we're going right
White Women $l:i,40f..
5.7 4.0
back out in January, if they don 't get off their
Black Men 57
1439 5.8 3.9

Black Women $12.603


$12,813 5.3 4.0
235 7.1 4.5
asses and do something.
That 's been the struggle up to this point.
much .. 2% of th� work fntce.}
�Notr. oIhn J1Icial POUp8 al'f! "ot liete4 wpe,.:··ty ht'tt' beau&C' no other group includes .,

Outsmarting the enemy, using our brains as well


Local 34, Federation of University Employees as our strength, organizing and pushing the rest
Come to our rallY of the campus to isolate the administration . At
Friday. SeDtember 21, 5:ob p.m. times this . has become very difficult. It's often
"IehIM woo!My Ha" very hard to identify who in the administration
New Haven Register, New Haven Journal-Courier, Yale

--
Daily News, Sept. 19, 1984

18

-------- . - ------ - --
makes the decisions. Mostly, it's people who more people will have a sense of empowerment.
don't even live in Hew Haven, so the Yale ad­ As Molly said, the grad students are feeling that
ministration operates like an absentee landlord . maybe they ought to have a union, and maybe
It becomes very frustrating, but the more we we ought to have a voice in what happens to the
keep going the more we keep isolating that endowment. That 's when Yale starts to get ner­
group, and the more people we win over the vous.

------... ------------------ ... .. .. . .. '.



_


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, a . _________ ___________ _ _ _ ________ _ _ __ 19
Chauncy Hare, This Was Corporate Ame rica
COMPARABLE WO RTH ,
I N COMPARABLE PAY
The I ss u e at Yal e

Teresa Amott and Julie Matthaei

A central issue in the Yale strike was "comparable worth . " Local 34, 82 percent women,
demanded pay increases on the basis of the argument that their clerical and technical work
receives lower pay than other jobs at Yale which require a comparable level of skill, training,
and responsibility - because it is done by women. For example, clerical workers average
$ 1 3 , 424, compared to $ 1 8 ,500 for Yale truck drivers . After one year of work, a lab assistant is
paid $ 1 0,208, compared to $ 1 4, 394 for a dishwasher. This the workers claim, is unjust, a not­
so-subtle form of sex discrimination. As the largest group of predominantly female workers
to strike over the issue of comparable worth, Local 34 is at the forefront of the feminist­
inspired battle for "pay equity. " What follows is an introduction to the concept of com­
parable worth, and a discussion of its strengths and limitations. We feel that comparable
worth can contribute to a socialist-feminist agenda by raising fundamental questions about
the worth of work and by increasing the income of many women workers . Nonetheless, it suf­
fers from the limitations of any piecemeal reform and needs to be pursued as part of a broader
program of demands .

21
The Emergence of the Comparable It flies
I i
I
Comparable Worth Strategy worth is just in the face
a disguised of the values that
When the Equal Pay Act of 1 963 prohibited attack on our made this
unequal pay for equal work and the broader free enterprise country great l '
Civil Rights Act of 1 964 set affirmative action system.
into motion, many assumed that the gap be­
tween men and women's wages would close. In­
stead, the average salary for a woman working
full-time year-round remained roughly 60 per­
cent of the salary earned by a man. The constan­
cy of the wage gap in the face of anti-discrimina­
tion legislation drew attention to the fact that
women and men rarely hold the same jobs .
Traditional sex roles and outright sex
discrimination by employers and workers have Some of the first attempts to broaden the con­
had the result of excluding women from most cept of equal pay emerged during World War II,
occupations other than homemaking and its when unions such as the UAW and the IUE
labor market extensions. Those paid occupa­ fought differential pay for men and women
tions open to women shared low pay, few op­ workers in order to prevent an overall reduction
portunities for advancement, and often cen­ in pay scales and to generate greater unity be­
tered around nurturing and serving others. tween men and women workers. 2 Since then ,
Throughout the decade of the 1970s, over 40 the ranks of pay equity advocates have grown
percent of all women workers were concentrat­ and a more feminist construction has been plac­
ed in 10 occupations, most of which were over ed on the concept. Women 's rights groups,
70 percent female - for example, nursing, working women's organizations and unions
secretarial and clerical work, teaching, and food representing women workers are currently pur­
service. In contrast, men, especially white men, suing three strategies for achieving comparable
had more job options and more opportunity for worth corrections to pay inequities based on sex
high pay and promotion. For instance, stock or color: litigation, collective bargaining , and
clerks, predominantly male, earn more than legislation. Often a combination of these
bank tellers, who are predominantly female, strategies is utilized by pay equity advocates.
and registered nurses earn less than mail car­
riers. As a result of this occupational segrega­
tion, legislation prohibiting unequal pay for Litigation. Prior to a 1 98 1 Supreme Court deci­
equal jobs failed to address the heart of pay ine­ sion, the courts were uniformly unfriendly to
quity between the sexes: men and women earn­ charges of sex discrimination in pay across dif­
ing unequal pay for different jobs. ferent jobs . In Denver, where nurses charged
The idea of comparable worth was devised to discrimination because the city paid them less
raise women's wages in female-dominated oc­ than tree trimmers and sign painters, the judge
cupations up to the level paid in male occupa­ ruled against the nurses, arguing that the doc­
tions of "comparable worth . " Also known as trine of comparable worth was "pregnant with
pay equity, comparable worth means that jobs the possibility of disrupting the entire economic
deemed to be of "equal value to the employer" system . " 3 In 1 98 1 , however, the Supreme
should pay the same, regardless of their sex or Court ruled that Title VII of the 1 964 Civil
race-typing. The first wage comparability case Rights Act could be applied to prohibit wage
before the courts was based on race ) However, differences in similar, but not identical, jobs. 4
subsequent attempts to apply the Civil Rights Since then, there have been lower court deci­
Act to non-identical jobs have focused on wage sions, such as one in the state of Washington,
differences origins from gender-based job which have awarded back pay to women whose
segregation. jobs have been systematically undervalued.
-

22
� Implementing Comparable Worth

I
And exactly Well . . .
what values cheap labor
are those? for one. The primary mechanism for implementing
comparable worth in wage structures is the job

� V
analysis/job evaluation study, and efforts for
:;:
pay equity usually involve ridding an existing
I
,
study of inherent sex bias and/or demanding a
formal job evaluation study where one does not
exist.
Job evaluation studies were in use long before
pay equity advocates recognized their potential
in comparable worth struggles. Generally
speaking, most large, bureaucratic firms and
state agencies do not negotiate a wage directly
Collective Bargaining. A variety of unions, in­ with each employee, but rather assign an em­
cluding AFSCME, CWA, IUE, SEIU, UAW, ployee to a particular rung of a job ladder. The
UE and others, have adopted pay equity as a worker's position on the job ladder determines
goal in bargaining , as well as in membership his or her wages. Workers in the same job would
education and lobbying . Most efforts have thus receive the same salary, while workers in
focused on public employees, largely because different jobs would be paid differently. To
information on pay scales is more accessible, determine pay scales, large firms use fairly
and state agencies may be more vulnerable to systematic job analysis/evaluation schemes,
public pressure brought through community­ often prepared by outside consultants . The first
labor alliances . Local 101 of AFSCME in San step of the study analyzes jobs through ex­
Jose, California is one of the public sector suc­ amination of job descriptions and, sometimes,
cess stories. These city employees struck to win a discussions with workers. In the most common
substantial pay increase and "special adjust­ type of evaluation, known as a point-factor
ments" to upgrade jobs held predominantly by system, points are assigned to each job on the
women. 5 Unions often combine litigation with basis of criteria (factors) such as skills, effort,
bargaining, as in the case of an IUE local which responsibility, and working conditions. In the
won pay equity raises for women workers final stage of the process, dollar values are
employed at a Massachusetts General Electric assigned to the points in each category. The
plant. same procedures, and often the same con­
Legislation. Many states have adopted legisla­ sultants, are used for job evaluations in pay
tion calling for a pay equity study of state equity cases. In smaller firms, the process is
employment, and others , including California, much more informal , but rankings of jobs are
Minnesota and Washington, have passed stat­ still undertaken.
utes which require public sector wages to be set Despite the aura of objectivity surrounding
on the basis of comparable worth. 6 In Idaho, a these studies, there is no objective way to deter­
law which assigns pay in state positions on the mine the relative productivity of jobs . Due to
basis of skill and responsibility has produced a the division of labor, a myriad of different
1 6 percent increase in pay for female clerical workers contribute to the output of any pro­
workers . Other states have begun to raise wages duct, and it is impossible to distinguish their dif­
in predominantly women's jobs without explicit ferent contributions. How can one technically
recourse to comparable worth. In New Mexico, measure the relative importance of dieticians,
for instance, over $3 million was appropriated nurses, or pharmacological staff to a hospital?
in 1 983 to raise the wages of the lowest paid state Normally, hospital adminstrators pay market
employees , over 80 per cent of them women, wages - the amount needed to attract workers
even though a j ob evaluation study has not yet - and infer the relative worth of these different
been completed. workers from their wage rates. Job evaluation

23
studies, on the other hand, attempt to determine evaluations are paid differently because of the
relative productivity of j obs apart from the weighing of different factors mentioned above
market . To do this, they must subjectively or because firms use different ranking schemes
choose a set of factors and weights. There are for different types of j obs. In these cases,
many ways in which sex, race, and class bias can legislation or bargaining agreements mandating
enter into the calculations. equal pay for jobs of equal point value (under the
One critical area is the selection and defini­ same ranking scheme) can achieve somewhere
tion of factors to be evaluated. For example, it between five and 25 percent pay increases . 7
is common to define responsibility as super­ Much more can be won by eliminating bias
visory responsibility over other workers, from the technique. This requires wide access to
machines, or money. In this case, child care information about existing or contemplated j ob
workers would receive low points for "respon­ evaluation studies. We need to disseminate in­
sibility" even though their jobs entail enormous formation on how consulting firms such as Hay
responsibility for children under their care. Associates, which serves approximately 40 per
Similarly, skilled activities such as nurturing cent of the Fortune 500 companies, 8 conduct
and guidance are rarely counted, causing tradi­ their studies, and we need to bargain for input at
tional women's j obs to receive lower points than all stages of the evaluation process. The more
men's j obs . Boredom from routinized work is we involve ourselves in the technique, taking
not commonly considered worthy of point as an power from the technocrats, the more success
adverse working condition, although outdoor we will have. Progress has already been achiev­
work and heavy lifting are. ed in this area. Most unions have staff members
Another critical area is the weighting of dif­ who are experts on the technique and feminist
ferent factors, accomplished either through the proponents of comparable worth are currently
number of points allocated to each factor or by at work expanding the definitions of factors so
the method which assigns dollars to points. This
has the effect of determining the relative worth
of different factors , and generally involves
sophisticated statistical techniques such as
multiple regression analysis. In effect, con­
sulting firms specializing in j ob evaluations rely
on previous correlations between existing pay
scales and measured factor points to predict for
new clients what a j ob's salary should be. From
the perspective of the employer, the best point

II ran kings are those which duplicate the existing


pay hierarchy as closely as possible, since this

I seemingly "objective" technique can then be


used to legitimize pay differentials. This means
that j ob evaluation schemes usually embody ex­
isting pay practices, complete with sex, race, or
gender bias . For example, the maximum num­
ber of points assigned for responsibility may be
2000, while adverse working conditions are
awarded only a maximum of 200 points; this
woul. ensure that managerial j obs pay more
than service or operative j obs.
Despite these biased methods, current
methods of evaluating j obs can still be used to
win " pay raises for those in "undervalued"
work. For example, most studies have found
that male and female j obs with equal point

24
as to recognize the value of women's traditional
work skills. (One of the most important redefi­
nitions has been the inclusion of responsibility Both Bob and I feel that a woman

for children as a compensable factor.) More who has a career can do so only at
the expense of her husband and

work needs to be done to rid the method of race children.


Bob is helping me to fully
and class bias. understand this, emotionally as well
as intel lectually, by dropping his
clothes In lillie plies around the
house, and by telling everyone that
How Radical is Comparable Worth? my chi ldren have dry skin because I
neglect them.

While comparable worth directly challenges


sexual inequality in the labor market, it may
also have the potential for other radical change.
Comparable worth promises to undermine
male supremacy outside the labor market as
Nicole Hollander, "Ma, can I be a feminist and still like
well. Feminists have long noted the way in men ? " St. Martin 's Press, New York.
which the lower wages of women have rein­
forced the traditional nuclear family and
women's responsiblity for unpaid work in the through the "free market," and presents an
home. alternative way of achieving what the market
As long as women are denied access to men's had promised: the distribution of income to
jobs, and few women's jobs pay a living wage, workers according to their contributions in a
women are under strong economic pressure to manner which is fair and incentive-creating at
marry. Married women's financial dependence the same time.
upon their husbands contributes to sexual in­ Finally, while comparable worth does not
equality within marriage. The economic costs directly attack occupational segregation by sex,
of leaving or being left by one's husband are il­ it may do so indirectly. On the one hand, by
lustrated by the high percentage of women making traditionally feminine jobs palatable to
heading families on their own who live in women, comparable worth may reduce the in­
poverty. The risk of poverty is highest for centives for women to seek entrance into male­
women of color; in 1 982, 56.2 percent of black dominated, more privileged jobs. On the other
and 5 5 . 4 percent of Latino families headed by hand, as traditionally feminine jobs begin to of­
women were poor. fer wages comparable to those of masculine
In addition, comparable worth subjects the jobs, more men will find them attractive. Also,
pay structure to scrutiny it rarely receives. Con­ as women begin to fight for and expect working
ventional economic wisdom argues that in the conditions comparable to those of men, they
"perfectly competitive market economy," may find men's jobs more desirable, and be
workers are paid according to their "marginal more willing to fight to get them.
product," that is, according to their contribu­
tions to the production process. (In graduate Broadening the Comparable Worth Agenda
school, one of our teachers built models which
assumed that women were 60 per cent as pro­ Comparable worth gains effectiveness and
ductive as men, justifying this with the fact that constituency when combined with other pro­
full-time women workers earned on average, 60 gressive demands.
per cent as much as men !) Comparable worth Conservative economists have warned that
debunks such convenient rationalizations of the raising wages for women's work would create
pay structure, and the sexist assumptions they uncontrollable inflation. While firms will try to
both reflect and create, by showing that the increase their prices (and state agencies, their
force behind pay differences has not been pro­ tax revenues), the inflationary impact would
ductivity differences but rather power and depend upon the magnitude and speed of the
discrimination. Thus, it presents a radical cri­ pay equity adjustment, as well as the ability of
tique of our system of income distribution firms and governments to pass on the costs.

25
I
!

I'
I I
I

Ovo magazine, 1980

(This, in turn, depends upon the degree of of color, comparable worth offers little to
I I
monopoly power and citizen resistance to tax them. Raising pay for women in certain jobs re­
increases .) Finally, inflation is not the worst of duces inequality between women and men on
all evils, and can be limited by the use of wage­ the same level of the job hierarchy, but
price controls, long a demand of progressives. increases the relative poverty of those at the
What is more worrisome are the other bottom of the hierarchy. Their problems can
possible reactions of firms and state agencies to only be solved by a more comprehensive re­
an increase in the price of women's labor: auto­ structuring of work and by a deeper and more
mation, elimination of state programs, and radical discussion of the worth of work.
runaway shops to countries in which women As currently practiced, the doctrine of com­
still provide a super-exploitable labor force. parable worth accepts the idea of a hierarchy of
Already, computerization is threatening clerical workers, more or less "worthy" on the basis of
workers and job flight has created massive some objective criteria. However, as radicals
structural unemployment in the U.S. In order become involved in decisions about what fac­
for comparable worth struggles not to exacer­ tors should merit higher pay, we may well begin
bate these problems, they must be pursued in to question the rationale for the hierarchy
conjunction with demands for job security, re­ itself. I f the discussion of what makes work
training, and plant-closing legislation. worthy is extended to the grass roots, we may
So as to aid all undervalued workers, pay well determine that all jobs are equally worthy.
equity must also be extended to include com­ We may decide that workers in unskilled, routi­
parisons between comparable but racially­ nized jobs may be doing the hardest work of
segregated jobs . Even this extension will not all, for such work saps and denies their very
solve all workers' problems. Workers without humanity. Why should those whose jobs give
j obs will not benefit, nor will workers in those them the most opportunity to develop and use
j obs calculated to have the least worth. Since their abilities also be paid the most? The tradi­
these are the main job problems faced by men tional argument-that higher pay must be
-

26
groups. Julie is the author of An Economic ********
History of Women in America: Women's
CORRECTION
Work, the Sexual Division of Labor, and the
In RADICAL AMERICA Vol. 1 8 , No. 4 there
Development of Capitalism (New York:
was an editing error in the authors' biography
Schocken Books, 1982) and Teresa has written
for " Shared Dreams: A Left Perspective on
on militarism and on poverty in Socialist
Disability Rights and Reproductive Rights" by
Review, The Women's Review of Books, and
Adrienne Asch and Michelle Fine. The bio
New Political Science. should have read: Adrienne Asch and Michelle
BI!'(IN� <1IFTS Fine are members of Committee for Reproduc­
fa(OlYfAtllL.Y, tive Rights and Against Sterilization Abuse
L'(1NG- 1or1'(
CliENts QN
(CARAS A) and both work with the Women
THE'A1 oN E} and Disability Awareness Project. Adrienne
N(i Asch is a member of the National Federation of
the Blind.
*******
THANKS!
RA's annual fundraiser-party, a "Counter­
( Inaugural Ball' on Jan. 26 was a huge success
and we thank all our loyal friends and
subscribers in the Greater Boston area for their
support.
Nicole Hollander, "I'm in Training to be Tall and
Blonde, " St. Martin 's Press, New York.
The Editors

It's a Good Thing �


I'm
a cycle
of 20 poems

No t
by poet
and
electrician

Macho Susan
Eisenberg

" . . . she raises into metaphorical significance the struggle of women to do


whatever kind of work they choose, to survive encounters with disbelief,
h ostil ity, and machismo, and to change those attitudes . . . . in addition one
can find here the symbolic resonances that bring one back to reread a work
of l iterature many times . . . ." from the foreword by Denise Levertov
Available for $7.95 from Whetstone Press, 94 Green Street, Jamaica Plain, M A 02 1 30,
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28
"No women :� liberation without revolution - no revolution without women 's liberation, " Italy 1976. Gio Tavaglione, from
The Art of Protest.
THE GEN ESIS O F
CO NTEMPO RARY ITALI AN
FEM I N ISM

Joanne Barkan

The origins of the new feminism in Italy date back to the late 1 960s when the mass politi­
cal movements were taking shape at the universities. Enrollment was rapidly expanding, and
more of the incoming students were women. By 1 967-68, the female portion of the univer­
sity population was about 36 percent, a sizable jump from less than 29 percent in 1 962-63 . 1
Many young women had their first political experiences in the student movement and in left
organizations, especially the New Left parties . They acquired skills in political analysis and
in organizing . But they also found themselves frustrated by the subordinate position they oc­
cupied in relation to men . There was a pervasive indifference to their particular interests and
needs as women. They were "angels of the mimeograph machine " (angeli del ciclostile) ,
doing behind-the-scenes support work for those (mostly men) who had a public presence as
leaders, speakers, and writers . For the women involved, it was not much of an improvement
over the traditional female role as angel of the hearth . They also objected to the rigid hierar­
chies of power in the New Left parties . They criticized the " old-style, " undemocratic ways
of doing politics.
Over the course of several years, a large proportion of these women activists came to see
themselves as feminists . They eventually concluded that the sexually mixed organizations sti-

This essay is excerpted from Visions of Emancipation: The Italian Workers ' Movement Since 31
1945 by Joanne Barkan (New York: Praeger, 1 984) and printed with permission o f the author
and publisher. Praeger Publishers, 521 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 1 0 1 7 5 .
fled the politics they wanted to develop . They ing out to working-class women, feminists
resigned from the parties to form loosely struc­ began doing grass-roots organizing . They set up
tured, local collectives and consciousness­ health counseling services in working-class
raising groups where they could couple radical neighborhoods . They put together educational
ideology with new organizational forms. slide shows and took them into small towns and
The mid- 1 970s were a time of enthusiastic ex- . outlying communities. They began publishing
ploration and theoretical growth for the femi­ material that would have a wider appeal . The
nists. They published journals and newspapers, grass-roots efforts increased their contact with
set up cooperatives and archives, ran book­ other women and produced a useful exchange
stores, theatres, and women 's centers. Among of ideas in some locales.
their most important efforts were the women 's Many working-class women reacted nega­
health counseling services (consulton) which tively to feminism at first. The politics of sexu­
they organized in many cities and towns. ality, separatism, and consciousness-raising
Through the consultori, the feminists pro­ were new to them. They felt confused, afraid,
vided information on birth control, abortion, even offended . VDI members responded in
mothering , and health problems. They saw this much the same way. They were often antagon­
alternative health service as part of the struggle istic and competitive. The Italian Communist Par­
for self-determination and women 's control ty (PCI) was especially wary because the feminists
over their own bodies. In all their activities, the confronted topics that were highly controversial
feminists took up themes that the left and the among Catholics and conservatives. The Party at
labor movement had largely ignored. They that time was trying to minimize its conflicts with
criticized the sexual division of labor in society; the Christian Democrats. Some New Left groups
they explored the relationship of class oppres­ embraced feminism on a theoretical level,
sion to sexual oppression and the autonomous although many male members reacted hostilely
nature of the latter; they assigned reproductive to the notion of separatism . Men from one of
rights a preeminent place in the struggle for the groups (Lotta Continua) stormed a separa­
women's liberation. The movement was anti­ tist march in Rome in 1975, but the other or­
capitalist. According to adherents, feminism ganizations respected the decision to organize
was revolutionary in its potential to transform events and projects for women only.
economic, political, and cultural norms.
The feminists criticized the older women's
groups, especially the Communist Party­ The Abortion Campaign
dominated Vnion of Italian Women (VDI), for
adopting tightly structured and hierarchical The divorce referendum in 1974 gave femi­
forms of organization . According to the femi­ nists a new opportunity. They were able to raise
nists, these groups had not seriously considered the issues of women 's dependency and the roles
the need for separatism and financial indepen­ of the Church, marriage, and family in the con­
dence from male-dominated institutions; they text of a national debate. But it was the abor­
had maintained a false division between what tion controversy that made feminism a signifi­
were considered personal questions (such as cant social force in Italy. The struggle for abor­
sexuality and the family) and political issues. tion rights convinced large numbers of women
For the feminists, VDl's conception of to adopt a feminist perspective . It also brought
women's emancipation was too narrowly fo­ the various political factions within the
cused on formal equalities. They also argued women's movement - feminists, VDI, liber­
that VDI fell short in its approach to issues tarians - into a productive, although often
such as divorce, abortion, and birth control for combative, relationship .
fear of alienating traditional Catholic forces. The campaign began i n the early part o f the
Conscious of being small and homogeneous, decade as pressure grew to repeal the Fascist
the feminist movement did not want to remain regulations which were still the law of the land.
an isolated ghetto of young, educated leftists . According to this code, abortion was permitted
Since they were particularly interested in reach- only in cases of rape or incest. For religious ,
-

32
cultural, and political reasons, there had been most of their energies to single-issue struggles.
no effort to educate extensively about birth MLD, whose membership was sexually mixed,
control or to make contraceptives easily avail­ viewed women 's liberation primarily in terms
able. In fact, until 1 97 1 , another surviving of civil rights . This outlook put MLD at odds
Fascist law forbade the advertising and sale of with the feminists on many points, but tactical
contraceptives . The result was recourse to il­ alliances were still possible.
legal abortions. It was estimated that 1 . 5 to 2 Responding to the pressure to legalize abor­
million illegal abortions were performed in tion, the Christian Democrats supported a new
Italy each year . 2 and very limited law rather than have all restric­
In the mid- 1 970s, some feminist groups be­ tions on abortion abolished. The other parties
came involved in providing abortion services put forward proposals, none of which was ac­
for women. They helped run an illegal clinic in ceptable to the feminists. So on December 6,
Florence and arranged flights to Britain where 1975, 50,000 women marched in Rome to de­
abortion was allowed . They worked on these mand full abortion rights . It was the first ap­
projects with the Movement for Liberation of pearance of a mass feminist movement in Italy.
the Woman (MLD), a women's organization The separatist event (in which VDI refused to
linked to the small Radical Party. Both MLD participate) captured the attention of the
and the PR were influential in catalyzing the di­ media. It forced the left, especially the PCI, to
vorce and abortion campaigns. Their ideologi­ begin to take feminism somewhat more seri­
cal position was libertarian, and they devoted ously. By April 1976, the number of women

The first women's demonstration in Rome, March 1972.

33

--------"'".--��-- �.�-- -�
tion of how UDI had become more autonom­
ous of the PCI during the abortion struggle.
The organization had also begun to adopt an
increasingly feminist viewpoint .
In June, Parliament finally passed one of the
more progressive abortion laws in Europe. It
provided for state-financed abortions within
the first 90 days of pregnancy for any woman
over 1 8 years of age. The reason for seeking an
abortion could be health related, economic,
social, or familial. A doctor or recognized
health facility issued the permission for an
abortion after examining the woman and dis­
cussing alternatives with her. The women 's
movement considered the law only a partial vic­
tory because certain provisions fell short of de­
marching in Rome had grown to 100,000 and sired goals. For example, formal authorization
included UDI . The impact was strong enough for an abortion still rested with the medical
to bring down the government. establishment; the lawmakers also raised the
After the June 1 976 election, Parliament con­ age for abortions without parental consent
tinued working on abortion legislation that from 1 6 to 18 years; they stipulated that doctors
most activist women regarded as inadequate. had to perform all abortions in hospitals and
But the various political groupings within the specially authorized clinics.
women 's movement could not agree on an al­
ternative proposal of their own . Women hold­ The Evolution of the Movement
ing a libertarian position argued for simply re­
pealing the Fascist laws. This would have legal­ In j ust a few short years, the abortion cam­
ized abortion. The majority, however, main­ paign had become a powerful force that in­
tained that the legal right alone was not suffi­ volved tens of thousands of women directly and
cient. They wanted a law providing for com­ touched many others. It also gave many women
pletely state-financed abortions on demand so their first contact with feminism. The mass
that poor women would have the same rights in media greatly amplified this exposure. There
practice as wealthier women. Emphasizing the were feature reports on feminism in newspapers
right to self-determination, the feminists and magazines and debates · on television and
argued that the decision to have an abortion radio. The result was that a new and more criti­
should belong to the. woman alone and not to cal consciousness of the condition of women in
doctors or judges. Furthermore, they wanted Italy filtered through society, influencing how
abortion to be j ust one part of a comprehensive women saw themselves and their lives. This did
health care and welfare system that not only not mean that millions joined the feminist
met women 's needs but was also controlled by movement as activists, but it did mean that
women. many women identified or agreed in large part
For the next two years, the abortion legisla­ with feminism.
tion was entangled in the complex negotiations In the meantime, the movement ran into the­
over Communist participation in the govern­ oretical and organizational difficulties. There
ment. The Christian Democrats proposed one was an ongoing debate in the collectives and
provision after another to weaken the draft groups on these unresolved issues : the auto­
law, and the Communists went along with some nomy of the feminist movement and its rela­
of the limitations . During the spring of 1 978, tionship to state and political institutions such
feminists and UDI members j oined together in as P arliament and the parties; an adequate
I demonstrations outside Parliament to protest organizational structure that would provide co­
the PCl's compromises. This was one indica- herence but not reproduce old hierarchies; the
! I -

·1 1 34
I
relationship between individual needs, private
life, and activism in the movement; the focus of
future activity. At first, many feminists turned
their energies to the serious problem of im­
plementing the new abortion law. About two­
thirds of the doctors in state institutions and en­
tire staffs of Catholic hospitals declared
themselves conscientious objectors and refused
to perform abortions. (Some of them, it was
found out, were still doing clandestine abor­
tions for high fees .) Feminists organized sit-ins
in hospitals to protest the situation. They also
Le Nouvel Observateur 1977
helped set up the neighborhood family planning
and health centers which had been promised by mobilization. This environment had provided
law. But they found that the local political ideological stimulation, organizing opportuni­
powers and party cadres often dominated the ties, political interlocutors, and recruits. Once
process and absorbed the new health facilities the mobilization had ebbed and the left had suf­
into the existing institutional framework. fered defeats, the feminists had to adjust to a
Because of their informal organization, the less dynamic context. Many of them spoke of a
feminists were at a disadvantage when dealing serious crisis, but others insisted that, despite
with the bureaucracies . difficulties , the movement was still very much
By the end of the 1970s, many of the early alive at the local level . There was evidence that
consciousness-raising groups, collectives , and it had spread to provinces and small towns
coordinating committees had disbanded . Oth­ where feminism had never before been present.
ers were operating at a lower level of activity . Women there were responding to their immedi­
There was less attention focused on the move­ ate needs. They came together because they
ment as a national phenomenon. Feminism had were concerned about specific problems or
developed during a time of general political shared an interest or simply wanted to be with

Semiotext (e) 9

35
other women . The impact of feminism had not nized the existence of a dispersed and largely
ceased, but new women were finding different unseen feminist movement which, they believed,
ways to incorporate and use it . did not identify with any national organization.
As in other Western countries, the great sig­ By decentralizing itself, VOl hoped to link up
nificance of feminism in Italy was to awaken with that movement . It also decided to make
new attitudes and perceptions . The change in one of its publications an open magazine which
consciousness continued to transform social could be used as a voice for the entire feminist
relations even when the movement itself was less movement. 3
visible. There were two striking examples of The convention decisions were risky as well
this in the early 1 980s. The first was the na­ as radical, and not everyone supported them.
tional referendum on abortion. The Christian But many VOl members had changed during
Democratic Party, the Vatican, and the Italian the course of the 1970s, arriving at a point where
Movement for Life were unwilling to let the they wanted to abandon what they saw as tradi­
abortion law stand. Assuming that the more tional and hierarchical forms. In addition,
conservative political climate and the disarray they no longer wanted a close affiliation with
of the left would give them an advantage, the male-dominated parties. It was a perspective
Catholic forces threw themselves into a cam­ not unlike that of the New Left women who
paign to repeal the 1978 law . The neofascist had founded the first feminist groups. At that
party, MSI, also supported repeal . But the time, VOl had been one of the political forces
referendum held in May 1 98 1 showed that most that criticized, fought with, and distanced itself
Italians endorsed the important reform. The from the feminist. A decade later, the oldest
vote was 68 percent in favor of the law and only women 's organization in Italy undertook a
32 percent against. The sentiment in 1981 af­ sweeping self-transformation based on an
firming a woman's right to choose motherhood understanding o f and commitment to
was even stronger than approval for divorce feminism.
had been in the 1 974 referendum. Moreover,
the pro-abortion vote was equally heavy in
southern, northern, and central Italy. The Alto
Aldige, a German-speaking alpine region, regis­
tered the only majority in favor of repeal.
The second example involved the women's
organization, VOL At its national convention
in May 1982, the participants confronted the is­
sues of delegated democracy and VOl's hierar­
chical structure. Adopting a radical alternative ,
they essentially dissolved VOl as a centralized
national organization. There would be no more
full-time functionaries , no unified political line,
and no privileged relationship with any of the
left parties. A national office would still be
open, but it would be staffed on a rotating Italian Women 's Guerilla Theater

FOOTNOTES
basis. There would be open general assemblies
called by members rather than meetings of
delegates scheduled by leaders. In addition, 1 . Yasmine Ergas, " 1 968-79 - Feminism and the Italian
VOl would no longer accept financing from the Party System : Women's Politics in a Decade of Turmoil, "
left parties. Comparative Politics 1 4, no. 3 (April 1 982):276.
2. Lesley Caldwell, "Church, State, and Family: The
The decisions were the result of an analysis in
Women's Movement in Italy, " in Feminism and Materia/­
which VOl's leaders acknowledged they were ism: Women and Modes of Production, ed. Annette Kuhn
losing members. The organization was having and AnnMarie Wolpe (London and Boston: Routledge and
difficulty attracting young women and femi­ Kegan Paul, 1 978), p . 84.
e
nists. At the same time, VOl's leaders recog- 3. Ritanna Armeni, "Una femminista che vince , " Pace

-
Guerra, March 3 1 , 1983, pp. 34-35.

36
Joanne Barkan works as a writer and editor in mination, but of mass expulsion and final expropria­
New York City. She lived in Italy and has writ­ tion - and a threat of large-scale massacres falling
short of genocide - of a subject people. Does that
ten on Italian politics, economics, and social
situation, perhaps, call into question the country's
movements for many American publications in­ right to exist? And even if that extreme conclusion is
cluding Radical America. unwarranted, can we at least insist that the country's
superpower patron and its co-religionists are under
some moral obligation to stop funding and covering

LETTE RS
up for the process leading toward these criminal acts?
This is the question I would like Paul Berman to
answer. No doubt, as a leading moral theorist, he

To the editors:
would draw the line differently than might a pre­
j udiced Palestinian expelled from his land. But I
Boas Evron's essay, "Holocaust: The Uses of want Berman to tell us: where do you propose to
Disaster" (RA , Vol. 1 7 , No. 4) seems to have poked draw the line concerning 'Israel? If Israel annexes the
some raw liberal Zionist nerves. So much the better; West Bank and Gaza, thus completing the seizure of
the howls of outrage confirm Evron's diagnosis of historic Palestine, will Israel still have the same right
Israel 's illness and illuminate other basic issues as to exist? Or will it be the obligation of the world to
well. impose a new partition so that Palestinian rights can
Paul Berman 's letter (Vol. 1 8 , Nos. 2-3) is an be secured? Wouldn't it be wise to act before that
especially rich outpouring. Followers of the career of kind of choice is irreversibly imposed? And doesn't
the modern Golem, Ariel Sharon, will get a good that suggest that leading moralists like yourself
laugh from Berman 's defense of Israeli morality: should be demanding an end to the U . S . subsidy of
" Israel has of course been responsible for Israel that underwrites the annexation of the Oc­
several horrible massacres. But doesn't it strike
cupied Territories and the " several horrible mas­
you as significant that the officials directly sacres" (your term) that Israel has perpetrated inside
responsible for the most recent of these and outside its present borders?
massacres were demoted or sacked, not pro­ Let me be clear. Unlike Berman, I don't endorse
moted and honored?" the idea of outside powers carving up countries that
engage in criminal behavior. Rather, I look to the
Demoted, indeed. But Berman not only entertains, struggles of the Palestinian people and of progressive
he enlightens as well. Objecting to the term Israelis, and their international allies, to resolve the
"genocide," which Boas Evron never used but which conflict. What I want to know from Berman, really,
the RA editors mentioned in one unfortunate phrase, is what side he's on.
Berman lays down the following principle: David Finkel
"A genocidal country is one with no right to Detroit, MI
exist. The forces of the world should descend
on such a country and partition it - as hap­ ***
pened to Germany - or should acquiesce to a
neighboring country seizing control - as hap­
-SPECIAL BULK RATES-
pened in Cambodia. If Israel truly were
genocidal, then it too would have no right to For classroom, study group or organization
exist. " needs, consider using bulk copies of RADICAL
AMERICA's special issues such as "The Mel
Powerful stuff! Evidently, there is some level of King Campaign and Coalition Politics in the
state crimes against humanity at which foreign inter­
80s" with discussion of the 1983 Boston
vention becomes a moral imperative. Let us agree to
reserve the term "genocidal" for the planned, Mayoral Campaign and the national black elec­
physical, wholesale extermination of a people - toral movement (Vol. 1 7 , No . 6-Vol. 1 8 , No.
which does not describe Israel 's conduct toward the 1); " Special issue on THE ENVIRONMENT"
Palestinians up to now, nor for that matter Nazi Ger­ (Vol. 17, No . 2-3); "The Greens" (Vol. 1 7 , No .
many's treatment of the Jews from 1 933 to "1939. But
if, following Berman, we stipulate that there is some
1); "Facing Reaction: Special Issue on the New
line of conduct beyond which a country's "right -to Right and America in the 80s" (Vol . 1 5 , Nos .
exist" is called in question, then doesn't it make 1 -2); and "RADICAL AMERICA: a 1 5 Year
sense to draw that line at some point short of actual Anthology" (Vol. 16, No. 3); send for a com­
physical genocide? Should we wait until actual death
plete listing of back issues and pamphlets and
camps are in use, or even under construction, before
action is proposed?
for our discount rate schedule.
Let me take it one step further. Let us suppose that
a country is behaving in such a fashion as to pose the
clear and present danger, perhaps not of mass exter-

37
ITALY : Worki ng Class
Mi litancy, Fem i n i sm and
Trade U n ion Politics

Bianca Beccalli

At the end of the 1 960s and in the early 1 970s, a wave of working-class struggles changed the
structure of Italian trade unionism and had a profound impact on Italian society and politics.
The strike rate was the highest among the Western countries (if one excludes the isolated peak
of the French May), and so was the increase in unionization: 60 percent between 1 968 and
1 978, bringing the overall rate up to 46 percent. This wave of militancy was the result of both
changes in the composition of the Italian labor force and such wider social and political trends
as the student movement . Trade unions were ready to play a leading role within the new wave,
even at the expense of undergoing a radical renewal.
The changes in the Italian working class had begun during the fifties with the massive migra­
tion from the South to the North, from the economically backward areas of the country to the
more industrialized ones ! , of a new generation of young, unskilled workers . Although new to
both industry and the unions, they were seeking representation. They were the new collective
actor in the cycle of strikes in Italian industry. The unions, which had previously organized
mainly the skilled sectors of the working class, were weak and did not have much to lose. They
too were looking for representation and for new power, wherever it might appear.
When the wave of strikes began, the unions therefore tried to assume the leadership . The

This article is a slightly edited and revised excerpt from a longer essay which appears in Alice
Cook, Val Lorwin, and Arlene Daniels, eds . , Women and Trade Unions in Eleven In­
dustrialized Countries (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1 984) and is reprinted with
permission of the author and publisher. *

*Temple University Press, Broad and Oxford Sts . , Philadelphia PA 1 9 1 22. 39


price was a radical change in their organiza­ and demands pushed the unions more and more
tional structure and policies. The workers were into the role of mediators . A policy of com­
internal immigrants , in contrast to the guest promise at the factory level developed at the
workers of other European countries, and thus same time that the "historical compromise" of
difficult to ignore. Through their numbers, the Communist party more and more influ­
they markedly influenced union policies. enced trade union politics at the national level. 2
Changes in trade union policy included a new Yet the mobilization had some lasting ef­
emphasis on equality (a solidaristic wage fects . First, the power and privileges of the
policy, with flat-rate wage increases, and a older, skilled workers had been shaken, and
reduction in the range of the skill categories women, as a new and weak component of the
were both introduced in 1969) and on the workforce, did not have to face a powerful
hierarchical organization of work, the division structure of interests based on craft and seniori­
of tasks on the shop floor , and problems of ty in the unions . 3 Second, an extensive network
health and safety. Basic changes in trade union of activists had been created during the years of
structure were also instituted. A new emphasis extraordinary collective enthusiasm. Radical
was put on union democracy: the workplace trade union politics had become a crucial part
meetings were given formal power, and a new of their lives. Within this group of activists ,
workplace structure - the shop steward 's trade union feminism would develop .
council - became the basic unit of trade union
organization. The influence of the students' Feminist Mobilization Inside the Unions
movement was evident in both the form and the
content of the unions' political action: against The late seventies and early eighties witnessed
authority and the division of labor; for equali­ a great change in women 's participation in the
ty; for direct action and participatory labor market. A much discussed peculiarity of
democracy . The influence was not only the Italian labor market - the low and falling
cultural; interactions between workers and participation rate of women - began to change
students (and, later, the New Left) took place at in the early seventies, and in 1981 the rate stood
the factory gates, in the streets, in meetings, at 26 percent , still much lower than that of
and in various organizations of students and other industrialized countries, but definitely in­
workers. All of this is at variance with what creasing. Of the total increase in employment
happened in other countries where conflicts or, between 1972 and 1 98 1 (1 ,757 ,000 workers),
at best, distance between labor and the new women accounted for 1 ,348 ,000, more than
middle class social movements have been much three-quarters. (Female unemployment also in­
greater. As we will see below, however, women creased strikingly, from 9.6 percent in 1974 to
were marginal to this process of renewal . 14.4 percent in 198 1 , as against a male unem­
By the mid- 1 970s the extraordinary workers' ployment rate of 5 .4 percent in 198 1 .) The big­
mobilization was over . The unions had become gest increases in employment occurred among
strong. The traditional characteristics of Italian women of child bearing age, between twenty
unionism - centralization, politicization, and fourty-four years, whose participation
weakness - had changed: the unions had rates had been the lowest in international com­
achieved a high degree of control over the parisons. Women not only returned to work
workforce; they were strong at the workplace after age thirty-five but stayed in their jobs in
level vis-a-vis the employer and at the national the younger and most fertile age cohorts.
level vis-a-vis the state. The institutionalization Women were involved in the process of
of this new strength set off a different mobilization in the unions and yet were
mechanism, producing a renewed centralization marginal to it . The few quantitative data
in place of participatory democracy and more available on women's participation in unions in
influence for the political parties in place of Italy illustrate this pattern of participation and
union autonomy. At the rank-and-file level, the exclusion. 4
commitment to unity and equality were gone, Most sources agree on two basic facts: First,
and the fragmentation of old and new interests a women's membership in unions is roughly
-

40
proportional to their participation in the work­ the recruitment of men. We do not know how
force, though there are variations in some sec­ much this influx altered the previous sex com­
tors. CGIL * research shows that women made position of the unionized workforce or the
up 29.3 percent of its membership in 1 977, union leadership, but it was in absolute terms
when there were 30.2 percent of the workforce. remarkable . Compared with that of other in­
Second, despite this high unionization rate, dustrialized countries, the rate of female
women 's representation in union hierarchies unionization in Italy is high, and the "cooling
goes down as one goes up the bureaucratic lad­ off' through which women are discouraged
der. If one excludes the unions' technical and from seeking leadership roles operates on top
secretarial personnel (overwhelmingly female), of a high level of rank-and�file participation.
women almost disappear : they are 6 percent of Women were an important component of the
full-time officials in the CGIL and 1 percent of unskilled workforce that formed the backbone
the national leadership of all unions . 5 of the new movement, and they also made up a
The present state o f research o n women in large proportion of the office workers in in­
trade unions makes some data difficult to inter­ dustry who in these years organized and struck
pret. Among unpaid officials, and even among for the first time. They were visible in strikes
filll-time paid ones, women tend to be younger and demonstrations and mass assemblies, but
than men: recent recruitment probably played a they rarely had leadership positions or took the
role in this, but one should also take into ac­ floor in meetings. As long as the wave of collec­
count the tendency of women in the older age tive enthusiasm lasted and the new trade union
:� cohorts to drop out of the workforce. Women identity was being built, women 's marginality
officials are also, on average , more highly was not even perceived. It was only in the mid­
educated than male ones. seventies that this situation changed.
The recruitment of women in the seventies Around 1 975 the first "collectives" of
was exceptional; it probably more than equaled formed . The

Generale Italiane del Lavoro: 41


,.. �&&........ . Confederation of Italian Labor.
original initiatives were taken at the local level: style of their militancy, and in the marginal
in Milan and Turin first, then in Genoa, Padua , position offered to women . Women realized
and Rome, groups of trade union women their marginality only when a creeping crisis
organized to discuss their problems in the big developed in these small organizations, which
factories or the union headquarters . Who were combined extremely high levels of participation
these women? Who took the initiative? What and total sacrifice of personal life with short­
were the problems they discussed? What kind term revolutionary expectations. Even before
of action did they take? the official failure of the New Left project in
"New Feminism" and the Unions the political elections of 1 976, collective criti­
ques had begun to appear in 1 973 and 1974, ac­
The initiative to form working women 's col­ companied by i ndividual withdrawals .
lectives was usually taken by women who be­ Feminism was the most important of the criti­
longed to or had been influenced by the New ques, combining a stress on radical ideological
Left or the "new feminism , " or both. Often and organizational innovation with a return to
they were union officers or rank-and-file some of the original ideas of 1 968 .
militants; sometimes they were students or The "political" origin of the new feminism
young teachers "external" to the labor move­ has been pointed out in other cases: in par­
ment. In either case, aligning themselves with ticular in the U . S . , where the emergence of the
working women was their way to combine a new feminism out of the Civil Rights movement
socialist with a feminist orientation. 6 and the New Left has been carefully analysed. 8
The new feminism developed in the first half Broad structural changes are certainly in the
of the seventies, when the first wave of middle­ background, but participation in a specific
class feminism began to influence the second political experience can be crucial in creating a
wave of working-class feminism, both indirect­ feminist mobilization . Such a connection is evi­
ly, through the movement's high visibility, and dent also for trade union feminism. The first
directly, through feminist militants who feminist collectives developed in the areas of
brought the message into trade union circles. A greatest working-class militancy - the in­
parallel with the student movement's influence dustrial unions, especially the engineering
on the working class struggles of the late sixties unions - not the traditionally female sectors of
is evident . There is also a parallel in the forma­ the economy, such as clothing and textiles,
tion of the two waves of feminism. The hard where unions were not particularly militant, or
core of the feminist movement of the early in the areas where women were newly
seventies was made up of students who had par­ employed, such as services, which were
ticipated in the 1 968 movement. The larger marginal to the struggles of the early seventies.
themes of 1 968 were to become central to the Groups of women began to meet in some of
feminism movement as well: critiques of the the large plants in the North and in several of
division of labor and authority in society and the big cities. The women involved had par­
the family and of the "cultural production" of ticipated intensively in union work and in the
society. 7 These themes were in fact soon aban­ political struggles of the preceding years, and
doned by the emerging New Left; when the their discussions were in the beginning often ad­
students' mobilization of 1 968 gave way to the dressed precisely to this experience . The central
workers' struggles of 1 969, the student theme of discussion was the experience of
militants shifted their interest to the factories. working women who were activists in the
In the face of an exceptionally militant working unions; it was not simply the general problem
class, the students singled out and exalted of working women. This latter problem in­
classical "Marxist-Leninist " theories o f evitably was raised in the women's collectives ,
strategy and organization from among the but it never occupied center stage: it was the
movement's broad array of critical ideas . analysis of the political experience of trade
Several organizations grew out of this process, union activists which was predominant.
differing in the details of their ideologies but Much of the language and many of the
similar in their organizations structure, in the techniques used by these groups were borrowed
-

42

'I!' '''
from the new feminism, and the style of discus­ they tried to imitate this male model in order to
sion was similar to that of consciousness-raising escape their marginal role - to "count. " Their
sessions. The basic rule was separatism - a real practical , affective orientation found no place
break with the tradition of working-class or­ except at the margins of union activities. I f
ganizations. The discussion would usually start women did not want t o deny " their emotional
with the personal problems of participants and side, their orientation towards satisfying needs,
then go on to deal with the recent failures or their desire for tenderness , " they could " keep
present shortcomings of political movements. others company; cheer them up or soothe their
This small group developed an analysis of the spirits; chant slogans at the head of a march,
daily lives of the participants, focusing par­ pass out leaflets, or smile at passersby to gather
ticularly on the frustrations encountered in the support; arrange the chairs and keep the papers
search for a new identity through collective in order; or generally supply social services . " 9
political experience. Trade unions were criti­ If they wanted t o count, they had t o deny their
cized in terms of their own explicit values. For deep inclinations. Marginal but integrated, or
example, the unions had through the years of "mutilated" in order to count. "There are very
militancy and organizational upheaval em­ few possibilities of extracting a viable in­
phasized equality, but hierarchy and an un­ dividual life out of these crushing alternatives .
equal division of labor were the reality women A few can manage, and they are extraordinary
faced as union activists. Feminism provided the women, who maintain a fragile and wearying
instrument for analyzing personal power rela­ equilibrium with great intensity and an uncom­
tions in the daily life of work and politics, mon humanity . " The internal conflict of the
disguised as they were by ideology, and women militants - which they called lazera­
demonstrating the reproduction of patriarchy zione, or "laceration" - was at the center of
in the unions and the workplace. impassioned debates: union politics could not

The prevalent style of union militancy was be changed if women ignored this conflict or
masculine - a model with which women could put it aside. How could one build mass par­
identify only at great cost . In their collective ticipation on a "laceration"?
discussions the women expressed the uneasiness According to the militants' analysis, the dif­
and weariness that they had hidden for years as ference between men and women should not be

43
denied but, on the contrary, recognized and
built upon. Picking up on the message of the
new feminism, they saw women not only as vic­
tims of discrimination, but also the embodi­
ment of an alternative approach to life and
politics . Consequently, they concluded that
women should not demand a bigger share of the
pie; rather, they should develop their alter­
native approach. "Equality of opportunity"
for women was dismissed as a goal; the solu­
tion, instead, was to change the rules of the
game for both men and women. Although the
protest against discrimination had been impor­
tant in bringing these women's collectives into
existence, now their answer to the problem of
inequality within the labor movement was not
more participation or more "opportunities, "
but a new collective experience in which the
goal of change in personal relationships would
not be deferred and means as well as ends
would be emphasized. The result of this
analysis was that women confronted the unions
with a request for autonomy.

The Success of Feminist Unionism

In the confrontation between feminists and


the unions in the late seventies, the women won
their basic demands for an autonomous net­
work of women inside the unions. Only self­
analysis and the experience of an autonomous,
decentralized, nonbureaucratic structure, they
insisted, would allow the growth of a move­
ment of working women capable of bringing
about real change.
Initially, the demand met considerable resist­
ance. Union leaders, especially Communists,
considered separatism a threat to working-class
unity and feared that the loose and informal
character of the women's organiation would
make central control of class unity difficult.
The new movement's ideas were equally distur­
bing; the radical critique of gender roles
challeged - in different ways - both the
Catholic and the Communist unions . The Com­
munists had always intended gradually to L'Espresso, 1984
"modernize" the family, but never to question
it. They were cautious in raising sexual and
family issues, so as not to upset their delicate Between 1975 and 1 978 the network of
relationship with the Catholic world, and women's collectives spread rapidly. Coor­
suspicious of radical feminism, which they dinating committees were formed at the local
thought of, correctly, as connected with the and national levels, starting in 1 977 with a na­
New Left . tional coordinating committee of women shop
-

44
stewards in the engineering union. The rise and the public education system . Up to 2 percent of
growth of the movement became generally visi­ the workforce in a productive unit could leave
ble in that year when women workers by the the job in order to take courses. The courses
thousands marched in separate sections of na­ were not intended to benefit the workers in­
tional union demonstrations. (Separatism in dividually - the hours could not be used, for
demonstrations was obviously disapproved of instance, for vocational training - but to en­
by the hardcore trade union members, as much courage the development of a new collective
as separatism in organization.) The left wing of consciousness. There was massive participation
the unions directly supported the growth and in this educational experience. The teachers
legitimation of the women's groupS . I O By the were, at least in the cities of the North, largely
end of 1 978, the new role of women in the drawn from among the militant students of the
unions was recognized, and the unions opened late sixties, and the program was at first a na­
a debate - still going on - on the precise tional experiment in political education. I I Of­
forms the autonomous women's structures ficial estimates suggest that in Milan over fifty
should take. Feminist ideas - the critique of thousand workers took courses between 1 972
the family and gender roles, the emphasis on and 1 982.
sexuality and emotion - were officially ac­ The released-time courses had a special im­
cepted into trade unions discourse. A few years portance for women. In the mid-seventies
earlier this would have been unthinkable. The courses for women only treated various aspects
recognition of women moved from the area of of women 's condition: the history and
innovative union militancy to that of organiza­ sociology of the family, health and sexuality,
tion. In the most recent stage of this process, work, and politics. They were taught by women
the COIL in 1981 decided to convene a national (often by feminists) and attended by
conference of women shop stewards and union housewives and students as well as union mem­
representatives, the first COIL women 's con­ bers. The courses were based largely on self­
ference since the equal pay agreement was sign­ analysis, although they included contributions
ed and the women's commissions in the unions by experts, and the general approach was exact­
were dissolved twenty years earlier . Addressing ly the opposite of the "training for leadership"
the over two thousand enthusiastic par­ that dominates trade union women's education
ticipants, the Communist head of the COIL in other advanced capitalist countries . 1 2 These
and general secretary of the federation of courses were not designed to make it easier for
Italian unions, Luciano Lama, acknowledged women to enter the male world by giving them
the importance of sexual politics above and be­ the general knowledge, the technical expertise,
yond the struggle for equality and against and the assertiveness they lacked; rather, they
economic exploitation. were meant to strengthen women through
The network now includes small firms and knowledge of and pride in their difference. 1 3
small cities and to some extent the South, but The first five years o f the 1 50-hours program
the composition of the movement has not much roughly coincides with the development of
changed with its expansion. Its spread has feminism in the unions. The courses often led
followed the pattern of militant unionism. Par­ to the formation of women's groups and so
ticipants continue to be mainly rank-and-file helped support the network of trade union
activists, white-collar employees rather than feminism.
manual workers, young union officials, and Initially the new feminism in the unions
politicized intellectuals and housewives outside focused less on pursuing specific external goals
'
the unions. The presence of "outsiders, " im­ than on winning recognition and building a new
portant in the initial phase, later became still collective identity. Along with the 1 50-hours
more important, thanks in particular to the courses, public agitatiOn for abortion rights
unions' educational program under the " 1 50 and other issues and the consciousness-raising
hours " agreement, an adult education program activities of the women's collectives were
that developed roughly parallel with feminist significant as both means and context, produc­
unionism and considerably influenced it. ing a remarkable and successful cultural
The program, a typical product of the new growth . A number of factors help account for
unionism of the early seventies, was the fruit of the success of the movement. The trade unions,
a 1972 collective bargaining agreement that al­ particularly their left wing, were open to in­
lowed workers to use up to 1 50 hours of their fluences from outside the labor movement, and
paid working time to participate in courses in many working women and union activists were

45
.,�,

�-
exposed to the ideas of the New Left and the The basic dilemma of feminist strategy is
feminist movement. Later, when the cycle of whether to give priority to equality or to
working-class militancy and trade union demands based on the differences between the
renewal was over and the process of sexes. Consider two issues that have divided the
bureaucratization and detachment of the movement in Italy: work schedules and non­
leaders from the rank and file had begun , traditional jobs .
feminism provided women militants with a The question of part-time work has been par­
theoretical basis for collective reaction. ticularly divisive. 14 Feminists and the union left
generally agree on the desirability of reducing
Problems of Feminist Unionism working hours of both women and men, but
not on the desirability of allowing part-time
Women had won the right to tackle their own contracts . The more "emancipatory" or
problems with their own tactics, outside the "equality-minded" component of the feminist
normal channels of union activity. This victory movement opposes part-time work, since it
had, however, another side to it: namely, the tends to confirm women's inferiority and ghet­
normal processes of union decision making re­ toization; the more "difference-minded " com­
mained intact. At the end of the seventies, ponent favors part-time work, on the grounds
women had no more influence than before on that it allows women to satisfy their needs for
union politics or policies, even those pertaining both income and time with children. The con­
specifically to women . The greater cultural sen­ troversy has produced a change in the usual
sitivity of the unions toward women 's concerns pattern of alliances between feminists and trade
did not reflect a change in practice. Women had union leaders : the left-wing leaders, who have
gained a space for themselves within the in the past defended the "heretical" ex­
unions, but they remained confined within that periments of the feminists, oppose part-time
space. The larger goal - rising from a recogni­ work as a concession to the employers , while
tion of women 's difference - of producing the moderate leaders support it as part of a
changes in union politics and society at large re­ more flexible trade union policy. (This position
mained blocked. is also consistent with a conservative view of

46
women's role in society.) The debate has But this view is overly optimistic : the chances of
become confusing, and the movement seems to changing the workplace in the short run are
be stuck. In 1 979 some important women's small, and in most cases women must take the
coordinating committees came out against part­ job as it is or leave it. Hence, working women
time work, reflecting their general left-wing face a basic dilemma: does equality come first,
allegiance. Later, both feminists and union even when it means additional burdens for
leaders changed their positions as a result of the women? Why should women struggle to get in­
economic crisis. Provisions for part-time con­ to heavy, dirty, and risky jobs? Why should
tracts have actually been introduced in the main they push to work night shifts, which ideally
national collective agreements, under certain should be abolished for men too? Is this the
conditions: the choice of part-time work must best way to use women's "unique abilities, " or
be voluntary and revocable; part-time jobs should women try to preserve their protected
must provide all the rights and benefits of full­ status? As a result of these uncertainties, the
time contracts; and such work must not be feminist impact on union policy toward the
reserved exclusively for women. There have equal opportunity law has been modest and
also been attempts to regulate part-time con­ limited to a few individual cases.
tracts by law. But these developments have
been neither controlled nor directly influenced
by the debates and the efforts of the trade
union feminists .
A similar difficulty has emerged with regard
to the problems of women in nontraditional
jobs. At the end of 1 977, an equal opportunity
law was passed in compliance with the recom­
mendations of the European Economic Com­
munity and without lobbying by the left-wing
parties , the unions , or the women ' s
movement. 1 S The law opened t o women jobs
that had been segregated on gender lines; it
canceled many of the protective regulations
governing women' s work, and it made The conflict between women's special needs
discrimination against women in hiring illegal. and equality partly explains the impasse the
Because the law delegated some aspects of its movement now faces . Other conflicts concern
implementation to collective bargaining, the the means of political action and the move­
unions and the feminists in the unions were ment's structure. The women of the movement
forced to take a stand on it. The unions were chose to organize themselves separately and in a
favorable in principle to hiring women for non­ different way: to reject the division of labor,
traditional jobs, but were not ready to spend hierarchy and delegation, negotiation and com­
much energy to implement the law, which promise that characterize normal union
would have required them to establish and sup­ politics. They chose likewise not to seek more
port lines of action against discrimination that power under the existing power relationships,
the law did not explicitly provide. The but rather to develop a movement in which
feminists, for their part, were divided on the women could put into practice new forms of
prospect of an "equality" that was full of social relations. A "movement style" organiza­
disadvantage . Because the law tackles dis­ tion obviously runs many risks: for example,
crimination only in the hiring process and does ineffectiveness due to the failure to bring its in­
not provide for new professional training for fluence to bear at opportune moments through
women or for mechanisms to reform career pat­ the right channels16 and declining participation
terns, "equality" meant in most cases only ac­ due to the difficulty of maintaining a balance
cess to low-level jobs. Left-wing union ideology between the personal and the political. There
suggests that women should enter the nontradi­ are likewise the problems of representing large
tional j obs, including the heavy and dangerous groups without formal mechanisms of repre­
ones , and thus bring about changes in the sentation, and hence the risk of a growing gap
workplace that will be useful to men and between the movement and those it represents .
women; this they describe as using women's Italian trade union feminism experienced this
unique abilities on behalf of general change. whole array of problems.

47
By 1 980 the movement had started to decline, the new feminism as a political movement,
and the previous mixture of collective and con­ although they have been indirectly influenced
flictual action and the development in small by the movement 's fallout, its social diffusion,
groups of an alternative style of interpersonal and its reinterpretation through the media.
relationships had disappeared . Some of the Feminists in the unions face a difficult
women who had discovered through the move­ challenge in the 1980s, as they confront these
ment their needs and the legitimacy of such structural and institutional changes as well as a
needs in the face of self-sacrifice, instrumen­ bad economic climate . There is, first, the
talism, mediation, and goal deferment required danger that the collective identity that was
by trade union organization left the public formed through the movement in the late seven­
arena altogether. 17 They often moved to a ties could become a mere subculture. If it is to
radical redefinition of their lives through be the basis for further political action, some
divorce, different work, or different social rela­ fundamental readjustments to the new popula­
tions . 1 8 At the opposite pole from this retreat, tion of working women will be necessary; union
however, new initiatives for equality and power feminists cannot just speak for themselves , as
for women are emerging. Trade union activists they did in the first years of the movement . The
who are pursuing these initiatives are not difficulties involved in defining goals and
"speaking for themselves " on the basis of their choosing means bulk large in the face of the
own needs, as their predecessors did. Instead, new, wider constituency.
they tend to address a wider constituency of On the other hand, this new constituency of­
working women, and hence the problems of re­ fers opportunities to the trade unions and
presentation and effectiveness - in both the feminism. Although working women in the
trade union and the workpace - are crucial. eighties have advanced some way on the road to
emancipation, a large, diffuse demand for
Challenges for the Eighties equality and promotion remains untapped and
still seeks representation. The economic crisis
In conclusion, two aspects of the structural has deepened this demand, since the defense of
changes in the relationships between women women's jobs and general prospects at work
and work deserve special attention . First, the has become a major test of equal treatment.
increased participation of women in the labor And aside from the demand for equality, there
market does not imply a decline in the sexual are remnants of the discontents and impulses
segregation of the workforce. 1 9 Politics and for change that the movement expressed in its
legislation have not contributed much to early years, sentiments that likewise remain to
counteract the market forces maintaining sex­ be tapped .
ual segregation . The Italian women's move­ Given the pool of unmet, unrepresented
ment was not strongly or single-mindedly demands, radical innovation through trade
oriented toward equal opportunity, and union feminism remains a live possibility. Be­
although the equal opportunity law of 1977 tween the retreat of trade union feminism into a
opened to women some previously segregated marginal subculture and the simple economic
jobs, it lacked clear rules for implementation , defense of women's sectional interests, there is
monitoring, and enforcement . still room to maneuver. What happens to this
Second, the social basis of the unions is possibility will depend considerably on the
changing very fast . A new population of receptivity of the unions themselves. Unions
women workers, with new demands for everywhere face serious challenges that the
representation, confronts the unions in the economic crisis only exacerbates. The shrinking
1 980s. They are different from the working of the traditional industrial base for unionism,
women of the mid-seventies, when union the end of "affluence, " changes in the com­
feminism developed. They often work in nonin­ position of the labor force, all affect the future
dustrial, nonmanual jobs or nontraditional in­ of industrial unionism. The trade union (and
dustrial jobs. They are more likely to be academic) response to these problems, in Italy
mothers with young children, and they are as elsewhere, has focused on "mastering the
usually better educated. They are different crisis, " generally on the terrain of relations be­
culturally: their political socialization was not tween unions and the state. Possibilities for
shaped by direct contact with the big post- 1 969 mobilization and the representation of interests
wave of union militancy, and their female iden­ outside the economic sphere have not received
tity was not defined through direct contact with the same attention. 2 0

48
Paola Agosti photo.

49
In the face of similar difficulties, the unions 9. The quotations i n this paragraph come from Bocchio and
of some countries have poor prospects of alter­ Torchi , L 'acqua in gabbia, p. 99 (my translatio n ) .
1 0 . By "left wing" I refer generally to the industrial
ing their organizational policies or their
categories, especially the metal workers, where the left-wing
priorities in collective bargaining. The Italian
C I S L (Confederazione Italiana Sindicati Lavoratori: Con­
case, however, seems rather hopeful when com­
federation of Italian Trade Unions) is particularly powerful
pared with such relatively consolidated and and where the new militant unionism took root and often
rigid systems as that of the United States . had the support of a majority of union members.
Italian trade unionism has maintained its tradi­ I I . The picture in the early eighties is somewhat different.
tion of political openness - a tradition that Participation in the courses has declined, and their
may well aid its adjustment to changing condi­ character has changed as a result of the economic crisis and

tions and changing needs. Partly because of its different union priorities.

late development, the Italian trade union move­ 1 2. See Barbara Wertheimer, ed . . Labor Education for
Women Workers (Philadelphia: Temple University Press,
1 9 8 1 ) , especially the chapter by Alice H. Cook and Robert
ment, may now be in a more favorable position
to work out modern union policies, including
Till-Retz, " Labor Education and Women Workers: An I n ­
ways to respond to new demands from women . ternational Comparison . "
1 3 . See Laura Balbo, "Women's Access t o Intellectual
The story of feminism and the Italian unions is
not at all closed. Work , " Signs 6 ( 1 9 8 1 ) : 763-70, which underlines the value
of these courses in helping women to develop intellectual
and cultural activities.
FOOTNOTES 14. See lntercategoriale Donni di Torino (\nterunion

1 95 1 and 1 97 1 upwards of 5 Women's Committee o f Turin), La spina 01/ ' occhiel/o


1 979), and Bocchio and Tore h i , L 'acqua
l . 1 t is estimated that between
million people \eft less developed agrarian areas for the in­ (Turin : Musolino,
in gabhia.
1 5 . The minister of Labor at the time was a Christian
dustrial centers.
2. See P. Lange, G. Ross, and M. Vannicelli, Unions,
Chang!> and Crisis: French and Italian Union Strategy and Democrat, not particularly favorable to the unions or

1 945-1 980 (London: Allen and U n ­ women's wor k . There are curious parallels between the
1 964 of Title V I I of
the Political Economy,
win, 1 982). passage o f t his law and the passage in

3. It should be noted that skilled workers i n Italy had never the Civil Rights Act in the United States. For an analysis of
the background to the law and international comparisons,
been entrenched in organizations such as the craft unions in
see T. Treu, Lavoro femminill' I' uguaglianza (Bari:
1 977).
Britain or the U . S . : the Italian tradition of class unionism,
De Donato,
16. One such failure concerned the demand for forty hours
even when it was de facto based o n a rank and file of skilled
workers, had always worked as an impediment to these
o f parental leave. This demand was one of the few put for­
tendencies, and the recent cycle has further contributed to a
�oss of privilege. ward by union feminists that embodied their goal o f pro­

4. National statistics on union membership with a break­ moting general change through attention to women's
special needs. The women's coordinating committees asked
down by sex are still unavailable. Only in the last few years
that forty hours of paid leave from work be granted every
have attempts been made to gather the relevant i n forma­
year to parents, either mothers or fathers, to take care of
tion, and these are limited either to a single union con­
children under ten. This would not only meet an immediate
federat ion or to a single region.
5. For the C G I L , see Biagioni, Palmieri, and Pipan, In­ need of working women, but also (at least with paid leave)

I !lagine sui Sindacato, p. 277, table 4. Even this figure over­


states the decision-making power of women inside the
challenge the division of roles in the family. Nurturance,
the feminists claimed, is a basic and fulfilling human ex­
perience of which men are deprived. In 1 979 the demand
CG I L , since full-time women officials tend to be more
numerous in collegial bodies(6 . 5 percent) than in positions was included in some important local and national union

with executive authority (4.3 percent). See M. 0' Amato,


platforms, but i n the first round o f bargaining i t was drop­
ped everywhere. The representatives of the feminists were
"II lavoro della donna: movimento sindacale e partecipa­
zione femminile, " Sociologia del Lavoro, no 3 ( 1 978). too weak to defend it against other priorities: weak in rela­

6. For a description o f the combination of i n fluences out o f tion to their own social base, since the demand had been put
forward more by activists than by the rank and file, and in
which Italian trade u n i o n feminism developed, the best
relation to union leadership, to whom they appeared only
source is a book by two participant s : Flora Boccio and An­
as isolated individuals.
1 7 . An extreme case, and a symbolic one, is that o f Flora
tonio Torchi, L 'aequa in gabbia (Milan: La Salamandra,
1 979). A review of the book and some excerpts from it were
published in Feminist Review (Spring, 1 9 8 1 ) . Bocchio. A trade union officer since the mid-sixties, and

7 . On t h e influence of 1 968 on femi n i s m , see M . L . Boccia, the central figure of trade union feminism in Milan, she left

"Per corsi del femminismo, " Critiea Marxista, no. 3


office, wrote a boo k , went to live in the countryside, and

( 1 980). late became a filmmaker for Italian televisi o n .

8 . See, for example, Sara Evans, Personal Politics: The 18. Research on the life histories of working women w h o at­
tended I SO-hours courses shows that the courses - that is,
Roots of Women 's Liberation in the Civil Rights Move­
ment and the New Left (New Yor k : Random House, 1979). the contact with trade union feminism - have been in-

50
strumental in triggering widespread and deep changes. See
O. Chiaretti and M. Piazza, "Donne delle 1 50 ore , "
LABO R' S J O KE
research report, Regione Lombardia (Assessorato alia
Cultura) (Milano, 1 982).
19. The continuing segregation is well documented in cen­
BOO K
sus data, which show clearly not only that women are un­
Edited by Paul Buhle
derrepresented in the highest skill categories, but that the A h istory of American labor h u m or from the
ratio between their participation at the highest levels of the nineteenth century through the present Sixty­
hierarchy and their overall participation decreased between four pages of gags, puns, rhymes, comics,
1 95 1 and 1 97 1 as a result both of a decrease in this ratio in cartoons and short shots that will send the
all sectors and the fact that the sectors in which the ratio foreman into convulsions! N o holds barred! ! An
was the highest have been decreasing in weight in Italian injury to one boss is an injury to them all'!!
manufacturing industry. See O. Oeroldi, "II tasso di parte­
cepizasione femminile nelle industrie manifatturiere," • Cartoons from American artists: Ste i n h i l ber,
mimeographed, 1 983. Konopacki, Art Young, Fred Wright & many
20. See V . Rieser, "II sindacato di frone ai mutamenti nella more.
composizione di ciasse, " Inchiesfa, no. 56 ( 1 982), and P . • Interviews with labor artists and h u mor
Santi, "II Piano del Lavoro nella politica della COIL: co l u m n ists.
1949- 1 952, " in II Piano del Lavoro della CGIL, ed. F. • Short fiction rib-tickling funny by T- Bone S l i m
Vianello (Milan: Feltrinelli, 1 978). & others.
• Jokes off the shop floor & picketline, limericks
off bathroom walls.

Bianca Beccalli lectures in sociology at the $3.95 ( paper) February, 1 985


University of Milan. She was an activist in the Order from: WORKERS' DEMOCRACY
New Left in the 1960s and early 70s and taught P.O. Box 241 1 5
St. Louis , MO 631 30
some of the first feminist 150 courses for work­
ing women.

S ummer Reproductive
In

I nstitute Technology
This summer institute is primarily designed for
people concerned with social issues arising out of the
FORMAT
new reproductive technologies. Technical information The program will combine informational lectures,
necessary for an understanding of scientific and slide shows, films, and videotapes, with ample oppor­
medical dimensions of the issues will be provided, but tunities for small group discussion of these issues.
the program is geared mainly toward the non-scientist.
FEES
The program begins Sunday evening, July 21.
The all-inclusive price o ftuition, room, and board i s
1 985. and continues through Friday afternoon, J uly
26. $27 5 . Friday night accommodations may b e arranged
for an additional fee.

TOPIC S
PROGRAM COORDINATORS
FETUS AS PATIENT: Legal and ethical
dimensions. Janet Gallagher is Director of the Program in Civil
Liberties and Public Policy at Hampshire College.
NEONATAL INTENSIVE CARE : The Baby Doe
dilemma. Michael Gross is Coordinator of Special Program
Development at Hampshire College
ABORTION: The eroding right?
PARE NTHOOD THROUGH TECHNOLOGY: INFORMATION :
in vitro fertilization, artificial insemination, Michael Gross
" surrogate mothers, etc.
Hampshire College
SHOOSING O U R CHILDREN: genetic screening, Amherst, MA 0 1 002
" sex preselection, hormonal theories of gender. 4 1 3/549-4600, ext. 5 6 1
�n�; ' ,;

51
ST RATEGY , COMPROM ISE ,
AN D REVOLT
Vi ewi n g the Ita l i a n Wo rke rs' Movem e nt

Fran k Brodhead
I
'i
I

Visions of Emancipation : The Italian Workers' Movement since 1945 Joanne Barkan (New
II York: Praeger, 1984).

In the late 1 960s and early 1 970s, many North American New Leftists looked to the indus­
trialized countries of Europe, rather than to the revolutionary struggles of the Third World,
for lessons and inspiration. We did so because in Britain, France, and Italy there had
occurred a fusion of a youth or student movement with a radicalized workers' movement
which, however tentative, was far more substantial than our own achievements .
Perhaps the most important lessons for the movement in the United States came from
Italy . There the " Hot Autumn" strike wave of 1 969 seemed to signal an important and
exciting change in the ways that the industrial working class was organizing itself; and we
looked for affinities in our own country, particularly in the black workers' struggles in
Detroit and other cities. Subsequently, the emergence of seemingly new kinds of leftwing
parties in Italy, " Leninist" but far more innovative and libertarian than the patheti c
dogmatism of our "new communist movement, " seemed to provide an alternative
possibility for our movement as well.
Despite the importance of the tactical and strategic innovations of the Italian workers'
movement, this experience has gone largely unrecorded and unanalyzed . Thus the
publication of Joanne Barkan' s Visions of Emancipation: The Italian Workers ' Movement
,
-

52
Since 1945 is particularly welcome. Written in a work had been organized. "Under the new
clear and accessible style, her study paints a system, " writes Barkan,
thoughtful picture of the postwar development the skilled workers were both fewer in number
of the Italian labor movement . While the book and more isolated . Many of them did auxiliary
tasks such as maintaining and repairing equip­
naturally focuses on developments in the indus­
ment. Most of the semiskilled and unskilled
trialized cities of the North, particularly in the workers were tied to the assembly lines. Yet
auto factories of Turin which produced so rather than permanently estrange one worker
much of the leadership of the radical workers' from another, this more rigid system of pro­
movement, Barkan also pays close attention to duction generated a new kind of solidarity. A
group or team of workers in close proximity to
changes in the composition of the working class
each other and involved in similar tasks faced
as it affected women, white-collar workers, and the same problems and came to recognize
workers in the less well developed areas of common interests. (p. 54)
Italy. Barkan's historical analysis is buttressed These informal · or "homogeneous" work
by many excellent photographs , and the final groups became the basis for the revival of the
quarter of the book consists of interviews with Italian labor movement and gave it its radical
Fiat workers in Turin. direction. " In the reorganized factories , " notes
Barkan, "the work groups became the source
The Transformation of the Working Class of a new kind of rank-and-file mobilization.
Much of it was spontaneous and took the form
An important strength of Barkan's book is of work stoppages and collective protests
its analysis of the social and organizational around issues that came up day by day-speed­
changes in the working class in relationship to ups, temporary layoffs , changes in scheduling,
changes in technology and the organization of or problems with peacework incentives . " (p .
production . In few countries have these 54)
changes come as swiftly as they did in postwar This change in the composition of the
Italy. working class and in working-class self-organi­
In 1 945 , the Italian labor movement began its zation, of course, did not take place all at once
recovery from the devastation of World War I I or in all parts of Italy; but in the decade
and the effects of three long decades of fascism. between the late 1 950s and the late 1 960s these
The immediate postwar years are today called developments can be seen as the fundamental
the "hard years, " a decade or more in which mainspring for the many changes taking place.
economic recovery was achieved by holding The Catholic Church, particularly under John
wages low while high profits and US Marshall XXII I , developed an "opening to the poor , "
Plan aid revived and transformed the economy. while the Christian Democrats were forced to
Meanwhile, tens of millions of US dollars create an "opening to the left , " sharing power
flowed into the pockets of conservative politi­ for the first time with a socialist party. A
cians in Italy, and the exclusion of the Commu­ student movement and a New Left created a
nist Party (PCI) and communist-led workers' radical youth movement similar in many ways
unions from power were made a precondition to that in the United States, while the enthu­
for continued US aid . siasm and debate created by the Cuban, Chi­
Economic recovery, however, helped to nese and Vietnamese revolutions fostered poli­
create the conditions for the reemergence of the tical debate even within the Communist Party.
labor movement. Particularly in the North, the
development of a modern industrial sector The "Hot Autumn" of 1969
brought millions of new workers from the
South and other underdeveloped parts of Italy. These changes set the stage for the " Hot
These sudden concentrations of new, unskilled Autumn" of 1 969, when some sixty national
workers transformed the structure of both the labor contracts came up for renewal. As a result
working class and the trade unions, as of the changes in production and self-organiza­
assembly-line and automated production re­ tion described above, by 1 969 developments on
placed the more craft-oriented ways in which the shop floor had created a rank-and-file unity

53
which overcame the divisions fostered by Italy's
multi-union structure; and joint strike commit­
tees-unity from below "- were the order of
the day. By all indices the level of class conflict
in Italy reached historic levels in 1 969, as five
and a half million workers-more than 25
percent of the labor force-walked off their
jobs. The response of the employers and the
state was harsh : 1 3 ,000 people were arrested in
the course of the strike wave, while some 35 ,000
workers were fired or suspended by their
employers. The wage gains won by the working
class represented an enormous transfer of
wealth from one class to another; but there
were a host of other gains as well, varying from
one industry to another. Many of them would
seem strange to North American unionists
either because they were won here a long time
ago or because they were ideologically far
beyond the goals of unions here. In particular,
there was a strong drive for equality of
treatment, initated by the "new " and unskilled
workers but permeating most of the working
class . "The underlying concept, " writes
Barkan, " was that of a united working class, holding assemblies; if they wanted better safety
one no longer divided by skills categories, wage conditions, they set up those conditions . " (p.
differentials, regional origins, age, or sex . " (p . 79)
71)
The radicalization and recomposition o f the Containment and Retreat
Italian working class was also reflected in new
forms of self-organization and struggle. Italian The events of the "Hot Autumn" and its
workers, unlike those in the United States, have immediate aftermath represented enormous
traditionally conducted short strikes prior to gains for Italian workers, and a life-threatening
(and often to bring about) negotiations with challenge to Italian capitalists and their govern­
management, rather than to strike in the US ment. Between 1969 and 1 973 , for example,
pattern of long strikes while negotiations take wage costs per unit in Italy increased by 47
place. Even so, tactical innovation flourished in percent: three times the increase achieved by
1 969 and 1 970. In the "checkerboard strike, " French workers, twice the gains of German
successive groups o f workers i n the same plant workers, and a gain even, greater than that by
would strike and then resume work, disrupting the massive upsurge of British workers. In an
the flow of production. In "hiccup strikes" one export-oriented economy such as Italy's, such
plant after another would conduct short, plant­ wage gains represented a severe attack on the
wide strikes. The Italians also employed profits of capital ; and the concessions
"working to rule, " which inevitably led to dis­ employers were forced to make in the area of
aster on the production line. Perhaps the most "management prerogatives" were equally
appealing strike form developed during the threatening to future rates of profit.
period, however, was what was called practi­ A particular strength of Barkan's book is her
care !'obbiettivo, or "putting the objective into analysis of the counter-attack launched by
practice. " As Barkan states, "If the workers capital and its allies to contain and reverse the
wanted shorter hours, they stopped work early; gains made by the workers. One response, of
if they wanted the right to assembly, they began course, was the employment of terror and the
5 •

54
organization of neo-Nazi groups to create a these assemblies is an important story which
"strategy of tension" by which the Italian will be familiar to students of the CIO. Initially
people in general could be induced to support an assembly in which all workers participated,
the strengthening of the state's repressive especially during strikes or moments of high
apparatus. Even more important, especially in tension, the assemblies soon became represen­
the auto industry, was the introduction of auto­ tative bodies, to which departments or primary
mated production techniques (including robots) workgroups sent delegates. (Such developments
to replace workers and/or to make certain were opposed by organizations like Lotta Con­
assembly-line tasks less arduous. A further ten­ tinua with the slogan, "We are all delegates ! ").
dency has been to disperse and decentralize Soon delegates came to be increasingly
production : "a direct response to the workers' associated with one of the trade unions, and in
movement that began in the late 1960s " (p . turn supported a contraction in the number of
1 53). Finally, and perhaps most important in delegates chosen, with the consequent increase
crippling the workers' movement in the in the number of people represented by each
mid-1 970s, the industrial recession initiated by delegate. Thus delegates became increasingly
rising oil prices both undercut the labor move­ separated from primary workgroups, and
ment and gave capitalists little choice but to became more and more removed from the rank
regain control of production and to refuse wage and file as the task of delegate became more of
increases. Thus the working class became in­ a full-time job . Additionally, many primary
creasingly divided , in the 1 970s, between those work groups lost "their" delegates : women and
workers who remained within the protections smaller departments became particularly exclu­
afforded by stable employment and industrial ded from shop-floor politics.
unions, and those workers who were marginal­ Barkan writes that ' 'some transformation of
ized in weakly organized or precarious indus­ the council system was probably inevitable as
tries. the workers' movement dropped back from its
These changes provided the context for high point of activity" (p . 87) . Perhaps . But it
perhaps the most important-and most prob­ is also apparent from the material she presents
lematic-issues Barkan discusses: the role of that the Italian unions were concerned to con­
workers ' organizations, particularly the trade tain and absorb the newly unleashed energy of
unions and Communist Party, in containing the working class as much as they were con­
and repressing the workers' movement. This cerned to use this energy in a common struggle
issue is far from simple and cannot be ade­ against employers and the state. In the end, of
quately addressed here. But two Italian debates course, a less than clear-cut picture emerges .
illustrate both the nature of the problem and its The more radical creations of the new workers'
importance to a US audience. movement were absorbed into the traditional
The first concerns the tensions between rank­ trade union structures, but these structures
and-file democracy and traditional trade union themselves were transformed. The barbaric
leadership as it emerged in the debate over the tyranny exercised by employers on the shop
election of delegates to workers ' assemblies in floor was modified by the "civilizing" achieve-
the factories. As the Italian workers had been
organized by three different trade unions in the
postwar period (whose divisions were com­
pounded by the fact that each union was associ­
ated with a different political party, thus trans­
ferring parliamentary divisions to the shop
floor), an important achievement of the rank­
and-file movement of the 1960s was to form
unitary strike committees at the plant level. By
1972 a survey found that such councils existed
in about one-third of workplaces sampled.
The fate, and ultimate bureaucratization, of

55
ments of the workers (first described and given as a primary source of the problem, the new
its proper importance by Marx in Ch. 10 of policy presupposed an accord with all produc­
Capital, "The Working Day"). Workers tive sectors-monopolistic and competitive (p.
became more secure, and their rights were in­ 1 1 7).
corporated in legal changes that amounted to
the establishment of a modern system of indus­ In essence, the Party became the party of capi­
trial relations. talist development in Italy, proposing to
A second Italian debate of great importance restrain wages in the more advanced industries
to US activists concerns the Italian Communist (particularly in the North), and to use the sur­
Party. Again, this is too complex to adequately plus achieved to foster the development of the
reproduce here; and while I think that Barkan is South while providing needed social services .
occasionally too "judicious" in her treatment On a much larger scale, of course, these are the
of the left criticisms launched against the PCI, policies of the heirs of Stalin wherever they are
her treatment of the Party in its relationship to in power; and while Barkan's study is an
the workers' movement, the state, and particu­ excellent beginning, the relationship of the
larly the needs of capitalist development is help­ Italian and other communist parties to
ful and insightful. For throughout the decades capitalist development remains to be addressed.
covered by Barkan's study the PCI has played a (It is too bad that Visions of Emancipation does
dual role. On one hand it has attempted to not contain much of the analysis developed by
achieve a hegemony-and a representative Italian groups to the left of the PCI in the early
function- over the Italian working class in the 1 970s about why the Party found itself trying to
interests of a broad, anti-fascist unity. On the mobilize working-class energies for capitalist
other hand, the Party has consistently subordi­ development. )
nated even the hint of a revolutionary program
or strategy to the requirements of that broader
unity. This has inevitably included the impera­
tive of maintaining a "strong economy , " i.e. ,
increasing the rate of exploitation and the
amount of surplus value transferred from the
working class to the largely corrupt and incom­
petent capitalist class of Italy.
This is particularly important for an under­
standing of the Party's adoption of the strategy
(or, some maintain, mere tactic) of the ' 'Histor­
ic Compromise, " by which the Party would
attempt to enter the government in alliance with
its historic antagonist, the Christian Democra­
tic Party. This policy, which led from disaster Toni Negri with his daughter, and his mug shot,
to disaster in the late 1 970s as the Party lost Semiotext(e) 9.
popular support by attempting to line up the
working class behind the meanderings of the The outcome of these contending forces and
interests, as we have noted, is a working class
Christian Democrats, was rooted, as Barkan
observes, in the Party's economic analysis. once again divided: between men and women,
"For the time being, " she notes, between North and South, between unionized
and nonunionized, between never-employed
Party leaders accepted the imperatives of capi­
young people and older, "stable" workers.
talist production, including the maximization That is, a working class very much like our own
of private profits. They argued that Italy's in many ways, simultaneously immersed in a
economic woes were due in large part to the culture of consumerism and, for many, falling
parasitic, inefficient, and speculative nature of real wages . Barkan concludes her study with a
Italian capitalism. Whereas the PCI had for­ series of interviews with workers in Turin, most
merly seen the multinationals and monopolies of whom work at Fiat. These interviews ,

56
thoughtfully conducted and nicely written,
show that the attitude of Fiat workers span a MASCULINITY FATHERING
wide range between radical and conservative, MILITARISM MEN'S HEALTH
but that all of them have been deeply influenced
MEN & VIOLENCE SPORTS POETRY
and changed by the cumulative experience of
their decades of struggle . The interviews were ANTI-SEXIST POLITICS
conducted before the great defeat of the Fiat MALE SEXUALITY GAY ISSUES
workers in the strike of 1 980; but I would like FEMINIST ANALYSIS SPIRITUALITY
to think that Palmerio still believes that " the
bosses have their hands on the levers now, but GAY/STRAIGHT INTERACTIONS
tomorrow we will, " and that Sandra stands by ANTI-SEXIST MEN'S HISTORY
her confident prediction that, "It will take time
Interested?
for the workers to control the factory and be Read all about it in M.-
autonomous in running it. But someday it will a nationwide journal of the
be possible . " anti-sexist men 's movement.

M.
Regular subscription
$ 1 2 (4 issues)
Sample copy of
current issue $3.50
Frank Brodhead is an associate editor of
Radical America and co-author with Edward M. 306 N. Brooks gentle men for
Madison. WI 537 1 5 gender justice
Herm an of " Demonstration Electi ons :
U.S.-Staged Elections in the Dominican
Republic, Vietnam and EI Salvador (Boston:
South End Press, 1984).

Feminism and the left


For years, the left has been telling the women's move­
ment what its politics should be. Now, three women
who have long been active in both movements are tellin �
the left what it must learn from feminists.
Sheila Rowbotham, Lynne Segal and Hilary
Wainwright, in Beyond the Fragments: Feminism
and the making of socialism, suggest that many pro­
gressive groups fail because of their oppressive internal structure. he women's
movement, on the other hand, has found important new ways to approach
political theory and practice. These feminist methods can be integrated into
political organizing, say these women. In fact, they must be integrated, and they
show how it can successfully be done.
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,,'. } 57
\'.
-.lIIli\i,;
New Statesman, (England) Dec. 1984
WE'LL BE HERE RI GHT TO
THE EN D . . .
AN D A FTER
Wo m e n and the B riti s h Mi ne rs' Stri ke

Loretta Loach

The 1984 miners strike will go down in history as a crucial and bitter dispute. It is already a
year old and the government and coal board have remained steadily intransigent. But it will
a/so be recorded as a turning point in the lives of hundreds of working class women who have
surfaced amid this strife and have shown a capacity for organizing that has offended the pride
of many a miner. In the following article reprinted from Spare Rib, the British feminist
monthly, two such women are interviewed.

Bobby and Sue come from a small pit village called Bentley in South Yorkshire. They are
sisters and their family have been part of the mining community for over 1 00 years . The deci­
sions that affect their lives and those of other working class communities are remote from
them. ' It happens down in London' said Sue, the youngest of the two. ' It were nothing to do
. with us. We imagined that people in London thought we were still in clogs and flat caps.
We're northerners, you're southerners . When you had snow down in London we'd say ' well
they've got everything else, they may as well have that as well. ' Before, we didn't used to care
;two sods what Margaret Thatcher were doin' with oil or price of oil, now we do because it af­
fects us. ' 'Put it this way, ' says Bobby carefully, 'you read more and you're more wary of what
you read. At one time I didn't care about coal. I were a wife, those things didn't concern me,
-
This article is reprinted from the October 1 984 issue of Spare Rib, the British feminist
monthly . Spare Rib's address is 27 Clerken well Close, London EC 1 , England. 59

- - � --��.-----.-'.-.-....
---,.,,--.--.
but now we're taking some of those things on . ' to feed everybody so we could keep fighting
Until the moves t o safeguard their liveli­ against pit closures, but we didn' t expect it to
hoods, Bobby and Sue have never been involved last as long as this. At first you only got men in
in anything even distantly political. Their ac­ for food, women never came, they thought it
tion, like those of other women in the coalfields, were only for men, now they come, and kids .
grew out of the practical needs of the communi­ Everybody sits in with everybody, women don't
ty, but through their energy and initiative they j ust sit together. We talk about everything:
and the other women who make up Bentley picketing, what's been happening - they
Women's Action Group have created a pro­ should have strike headquarters down at kit­
found and unprecedented change in the essen­ chen because everybody's there. '
tially male culture of the mining community. When I arrived at Bentley pavilion just before
'Now when we're in pub we sit with the men and lunchtime the kitchen was just preparing to dish
join in instead of chatting about kids and the up. There were about five women and two men
home and things. We can sit with 'em and talk in there, one being a retired chef who offers his
about pit. We want to know about things, about services freely in support of the strike. Do men
what's happening in the union . ' 'Some morn­ help? 'They do come in and wash up for us, ' said
ings I' ve been picketing before him and I 've Bobby. ' If we're busy they'll muck in. They'll
come home and he's done the housework. ' 'I've do shoppin' and sweep floor. Before if they'd
always thought well, men do thinking. But I been asked to do those things they'd have said
speak my mind now more than I ' ve ever done. "who she bloody talking to, " now they do it -
I've always been outspoken but I've never push­ don;t get me wrong, you can't change 'em in 22
ed myself. ' weeks but they do it.'
The women are now central i n the communi­ But getting men to help seems to them un­
ty, they have extended their influence to every dignified and compromising. When the group
area of village life, even the sacred male institu­ was first set up, the union offered them £50
tIon of Sunday cricket has been brought within (roughly $65 U.S.). The women chose to regard it
their remit . 'By weekend we've no money left as a loan saying 'we want to be self-supporting
out of Social and we don't do meals in kitchen, we don't want nout to do with NUM. We want­
that's the time when you can get depressed. So ed our own control. Can you imagine having
we've organized games on Sunday. Women play men, they'd say "I think you can do it like this
men at cricket and rounders. ' How have the or you can just have this , " we didn't want none
men responded to that?' 'You know, you'd of that. We wanted to have money, we wanted
think we were playing test cricket at Lords. They to have control of the place. At first we said let
take it so seriously, you know, "we'll show them go picketing, we'll feed 'em all, we don't
them women. " 'One day' Sue said imitating need them, we'll do it ourselves. We've made
·1
!
them ' they said "if there' s any cheating we're every decision as far as running the thing is con­
not playing anymore. " They even make us mark cerned . ' Whilst wishing to be independent of
it officially on sheet - Bentley Women's Action men they do not rest content with the arduous
Group versus Bentley pickets. They made us labour of 'women's work' in the kitchen. They
wear bloody pads and they couldn't stand it if a wanted more involvement in the dispute, they
woman hit a good one . ' wanted to go picketing and initially they were
met with stubborn resistance. 'When they
How Did I t All Start? wouldn't let us go picketing we all got together
and played hell with the union. The treasurer of
'We went on a rally for Women Against Pit the union local wasn't keen at first and he said
Closures and said if anyone is interested in set­ we weren't on the books anymore' (that means
ting up a kitchen let's get in contact with one you are not covered by the NUM if you are ar­
another. Our first meeting were about five rested) 'but that were just a threat. ' Bobby
weeks into strike. We thought kitchens were a laughs. 'They hate to think that women's get­
good idea because we women could then play a ting top dog of 'em. '
part and keep everybody together. We'd be able Bobby is the sort of woman who believes

60

- - - --- -�- ��-� �� - ��-- �-� -------�- -- - �-


things can only be achieved if you contribute picket line they'd think differently about the
every bit of yourself to the fight. It's not a posi­ strike. When Anne Scargill got arrested the
tion, that's just the way she is, pushed strongly cameras went mad . Don't get me wrong, 1 think
and powerfully by the emotional waves of the she does a wonderful j ob , but there's plenty of
strike. The first time she went picketing was a ordinary women doing the same but the tele ig­
mass picket at Harworth colliery. 'I was petri­ nores them. '
fied. I'd never seen so many police, you just
don't in a little village like this. It were a weird Standing Up To The Men
feelin. ' Then, you only have to see one scab and
police talking into their machines and down the Through their activity, the women have ex­
line goes the whisper, 'They're coming' and you perienced the more general oppression they feel
just erupt. There was no stoppin' me, 1 broke in relation to men though they would not refer
through and got over the other side of the road to it as such. 'We've stood up for ourselves .
because it was near scabs. At first they wouldn't We've stood up to them. Like, we say we're go­
let me through, it was too dangerous, but I said ing to London. At first it were "can we go to
I'd catch a bus round there if they didn't. First London , " we used to think that we should give
time on a picket line and I turned two blokes a few days notice; break it to them gently and
back. I 've told 'im' she said, nodding in the get housework and washing done. Now
direction of her husband, ' If you'd have let sometimes you get a phone call two hours before
women go picketing in the beginning you'd have you've got to go and we just drop everything
,
got through to them long ago.' and it's " I ' m off to London. " The action
Have you ever seen a woman on a picket line group is a place where, apart from business, the
when you watch TV? ' asked Sue, who now takes women exchange stories about the men's reac­
it in turns with her husband to go picketing, so tion to what they are doing. The example they
. one of them can look after their two young give to each other provides the momentum and
children. 'It never shows women on a picket opportunity to overcome some of the tradi­
line, the camera seems to stop dead at women. If tional passivity and timidity in the home. One
the Notts women saw Yorkshire women on a woman bargained with her husband to be allow-
..,;
61
meeting, even kids aren' t allowed near. Keith
took Neil, he's only ten, when I were in London.
They turned him out. They wouldn't speak in
front of a non NUM member and everyone
looked round wondering who they were refer­
ring to . ' 'You see' said Bobby 'we're trying to
change all this not just in Bentley . ' The women
believe they should be allowed in union meet­
ings when they are discussing business which
concerns them. 'This strike has been on for 24
weeks and we've done everything the men have,
we've done more, we've done kitchens, speak­
ing, rallying, picketing, the only thing we
Spare Rib, (England) Oct. 1984. Bobby talks about the strike. haven't done is go down pit and we intend to do
ed to go to London for a rally. She exchanged that when the strike is over . '
sex for his permission. When she mentioned this
to some of the women in the group she said ' I Men's Jealousy
thought, what the hell am I giving i n t o him for, '
recognising what she was doing in order to keep Are some of the men jealous of the trips to
him quiet. In the beginning they were asking. London, the meetings, the sheer excitement of
Now they are just doing. ' If it's an issue we're being active? Bobby's husband has been in the
fighting on' said Sue ' If the husbands say no the NUM for 22 years and he said to her 'you've
women come back and tell us and we'll get on to done more mouthing in 22 weeks than I've done
them and say "what do you bloody mean no . " ever, the whole time I've been in the union. ' Sue
There'll b e n o comeback because h e knows it said, 'They'd never in their wildest dreams have
would come straight back to the group. When imagined that we would be where we are today.
we first met in a pub it were 'Oh he'll not let me They thought we'd be saying "we've got to have
go to a pub and we'd say, ask him, and if he said help . " They make remarks, like when we got
no we'd be on to him . ' union mini bus to go to Nottingham they said
The Bentley Women's Action Group and no "bloody marvellous they can get mini bus when
doubt others like them, has rivalled the union as they want . " And if we had committee meeting
the key organizing vehicle in the community. in pub we'd stay for a drink after, that niggled
The implications of this for women hardly needs them at first . When we got to kitchens the day
emphasizing . Out of the material need to pro­ after we'd have con flab , ' out said last night
vide food their energy has been released and when you got home? were it alright? Aye, nout
they have drawn strength from the powerful mentioned. ' A lot of the men have gone for
role they now play in things. Through their im­ women's action groups but we're not scared,
pulse, challenges are being made to myths and we've got gobs, we'll use 'em . '
assumptions cherished for centuries in the min­ U nsurprisingly , hesitation and lack o f con­
ing community. Mr. Scargill may walk on water fidence characterised the early days of women's
but he does so because unknown to him, the im­ involvement in the strike and this was felt as
agination and initiative of women is providing much in relation to 'educated' women in Lon­
the scope and thrust of this rebellion. ' Margaret don as it was to men. 'When I first went to Lon­
Thatcher didn't bargain for us. Can you im­ don' said Bobby 'I expected to be laughed at,
agine what would happen to strike if Kitchen fell the way I spoke, the way I am, but I made some
through -they're depending on u s . ' friends and that gives you more guts to do what
' I think women wanted a say before about you're doing. It's not really me, speaking in
coal issue, about strike. But nobody has ever let public, I get nervous but I think well, we are
them, nobody has ever, ever wanted to listen. somebody and we've got to do it. If more
The NUM being all men; they wouldn't listen, women could see and hear women such as me
no-one is ever allowed near when there's a who'd not had a right good education they'd see
, <'"

62
they could do it and we'd get on much better . ' ing " I was scared, did he think I was?" Bobby
Sue, the more business like o f the two, normally j oins in, 'when we talked about it with these
speaks at union meetings. ' I make notes before­ feminists they said, "why be scared, there's
hand. I don't go into great detail . I say what I ' ve nout to be ashamed of" and they put their point
got to say and that's it.' She mentions proudly to us and it were logical, so I said to young
her sister's capacity to rouse an audience. 'She Anne, "your place or mine! " Sue interrupted,
makes 'em cry. I mean, she jumps around from ' But that's making' a mockery of lesbianism'
one thing to another but it's all her, from her 'We weren' t though, ' replied Bobby.
heart, it's truth. ' 'When Maggie Thatcher came to power a lot
When they visited women's groups in London of it were to do with women. I think we thought,
the Greek Cypriot women met them with a table great, woman rulin' country, it'll be money in
of food, £50 donation and the warmth and pockets and for women high up in the country
understanding of another community who had with good j obs, educated women, it was. She
faced strife. Maria, one of the workers , said said we could buy our council houses but she
'Our community are very sensitive to issues like conned us, she wanted us to have a mortgage so
these, they have a long history of struggle, and we would be frightened. You know, "give 'em
they relate to it straight away. ' Bobby thanked everything they want and they'll not come out
them, shook all their hands and embraced them, on strike. " Before we'd have never talked
their kindness had moved her to tears . politics or religion now I ' d have my say on
Through the experience of the Bentley women both. '
the language of politics has woven its way, giv­ The women have sustained their organizing
ing shape and meaning to the wealth of things effort for over six months. When they speak of
they are encountering. 'Do terms like sexism the group they refer to the friendship and bond
have any meaning for you?" They paused. 'Oh that has grown between then. 'We really want to
you mean men slaggin' off women? Yes, they'd
shout things at women on picket lines and we' d
go up and say " we're not here for stuff like
that. " It makes 'em think . Sue believes that one
of the reasons women have had the confidence
to speak out is because of Greenham Common.
'It was only women that made peace camps, it
was the women that made a stand for peace. I
know men agree with it but it took women to get
up off their arses and do something before
things moved. ' Bobby mentioned a rally where
'even the men' gave a standing ovation to a
woman from Greenham. 'They're brilliant
those women. '
" The line up here was that they were scruffy
lesbians and there were lesbians in one camp and
junkies in another. I know they do that, I know
they do have lesbians there, but they're fighting
for a cause. I could see that and people
shouldn't slag 'em off for what they do. "
'I'm not a feminist, ' said Sue ' I don't know
though, I 've got feminist views on some things,
I read your magazine, I agree with some of it but
I'm not what yous are, you're too feminist you
are, but when they appeal to you' she gives an
example 'like when police called you (Bobby) a
fucking lesbian on the picket lines you were say-

63
stick together and we've said that after the strike
we can't let it go, and when we meet we always
say don't forget it's our fight and we'll be here
right to the end and after it. We no longer stand
behind men, we stand with them . ' It has given
them all confidence. ' Linda who lives up the
road, we took her to London and she hardly
opened her mouth. She does now . If she hears
anyone pullin' us down she'll stand up to 'em.
Her mom has said, "God, this has really
brought you out of your shell. " We'd have all
cracked up if we'd not had the grou p . ' Such a
long dispute like this places an immense strain
on the women and their relationships. Manag­
ing on social security, worrying about feeding
and clothing a family, arrears on HP payments
can all prove too much. 'One woman in the
group split up from her husband, she'd got three
little kids and it got her down, she's gone home
to her mom . ' For the most part, the existence of
the group lessens the feelings of anxiety and
isolation that all of the women feel . By sharing
day to day problems some of the pressure is
relieved . Have things changed in the home at
all? ' Yes, Kit' (Bobby's husband) ' has to do
Photomontage by Cath Tate
more. This morning I thought, I can't shop I'm
too tired, and before I knew it he'd looked to see lose this close bond. Instead of asking a bloke
what was needed and gone. Any other time it we have asked each other. It's brilliant. We've
would have been me saying, "go for a loaf, fought for this. After, we might j oin the Labour
duck . " 'It's the same if we go to one of our Party and form a women's section. I 've told yer
houses for meetings, none of us make tea we say we'll be here right to the end and after . '
to 'em, put kettle on, love. ' Do you think that
after the strike the changes that have taken place
HAS YOUR SUB EXPIRED?
will go back? 'I don't think any of us will allow
that, it will be job share. The women have had a If you have received a renewal notice recently,
good thing, they'll not go back to it especially please don't hesitate and send it in with your
the young lasses . ' payment right away. You won't miss an issue of
But this i s not a normal time for the people of RADICAL AMERICA and we'll get some
Bentley. It is an exceptional period of industrial financial resuscitation ! Here's what your mail-
ing label looks like: __ � OL . 1 8�6
and social militancy. If the women have the con­
fidence and energy to continue organizing after 02/29/85 <iD;as
OU1 1000000
the strike, their bargaining power in relation to JAMES STARK
men will no doubt diminish. Being politically in­ 93055 E. EDEN
volved in matters relating to the men is one thing PASO ROBLES CA 93447
but when it comes to issues independent of them The circled number is the last date of your cur­
will they be so tolerant? rent subscription. We have kept longtime
Nevertheless things in the coalfields of Britain subscribers on beyond the end of their subs. So,
will never be as they were prior to the strike. The when you renew, please include enough pay­
working class women in these communities ment to cover the issues you have been receiving
have, through intense persona-! struggle realised since your last payment. If you have any ques­
some of their strength and potential. 'We can't tions, call or write the office.

64
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65
Quitting Time

Tommy's wife, waiting in the car with two small children,


calls to me as I leave the shop :

-How's it going?

-Fine!

-How are Tommy and the other guys to work with?

-They're okay.

-They don 't pick on you for being the first girl?

-No . They've been pretty good.

-That's good . I told Tommy if he gave you a hard time,


1 ' d punch him out .

Susan Eisenberg

66
Through the Ceiling, Maiden Voyage

Sliding
under an airduct, then
scrabbling crab-like along pipes and crossbars­
my flashlight breaking
the darkness, my bodyweight
placed gingerly (not to fall through)-

I ask the stillness,


has another woman passed
before me?
to witness this
pulsation of building life:

arteries of plumbing pipes branch across


electric nervelines sinews of metal
secure airducts
pumping coolbreath/warmbreath
to the skeletal
framework of iron beams.

How many times I have passed


under ceilings
unaware
unsuspecting.

Susan Eisenberg

Reprinted from: "It's a Good Thing I 'm Not Macho" a cycle of poems by Susan Eisenberg (Boston:
Press, 1 984).
SHARI N G THE SHOP
FLOO R
Wo m e n and Me n o n the Assem bly Li n e

Stan Gray

. On October 25, 1 983, a group of women factory workers from Westinghouse came to the
. United Steelworkers Hall in Hamilton, Ontario . They spoke to one of the forums on Af­
, firmative Action sponsored by the Ontario Federation of Labor.
The women told about decades of maltreatment by Westinghouse. They were first con­
fined to j ob ghettoes with inferior conditions and pay. Later, when their " Switchgear" plant
shut down, they fought to be transferred to the other Westinghouse plants in the city . They
had to battle the obstruction of management which wanted to exclude women. Some of their
brothers in the shop resisted as well, but others helped them out. They won, but when the
. recession hit, they were systematically weeded out, laid off regardless of seniority, and left
with little or no income protection in their senior years .

I have worked at Westinghouse for the past 1 0 Yz years and went throught the various bat­
for workplace equality. As I listened to the women that night, I thought of how much
coming into our plant had changed myself, my fellow workers and brother unionists.

article is a revised version of one that appeared in the June 1 984 issue of Canadian 69
"'rrl�n.':lnn , Suite 801 -44 Princess St. , Winnipeg, Manitoba R3B l K2 Canada.
r I
I

One way unions can improve in this area is for The following account therefore focuses on
male unionists to self-critically review these the men rather than on the women's battle, tells
events and learn from the achievements and about the debates and struggles among the men
errors made along the way. on the shop floor at Westinghouse. It tries to
The Westinghouse women had to come on concretely bring out the men's issue and the
their own behalf. The male staff officials of male interest in the fight against sexism .
their union had blocked the women'scommittee My education on the problems of the Switch­
of the labor council from presenting their brief. gear women began in November 1 978 when I
They claimed it was inaccurate, since the prob­ was recalled to work after a layoff. We had just
lems weren 't really that bad and, at any rate, been through a very bitter 5 month strike. We
the brief didn 't credit these male officials with went back to work defeated, having gained lit­
leading the fight for women 's rights. But the tle.
women 's committee refused to include their The union* represented 1 800 workers in 3
rewritten and sanitized version. plants. Its various divisions produced Turbines,
And so the Westinghouse women had to Motors, Transformers and Switchgear equip­
come and tell their own story first-hand. When ment. I had worked at the Beach Rd . plant
that union did give a brief of its own, it pre­ where I was laid off out of seniority after the
sented a theoretical and historical discussion of strike, a victim of an anti-union vendetta of the
male-female relations and situated it in the con­ company taking advantage of the strike defeat
text of the global class struggle - making no and work shortage.
reference to Westinghouse or Hamilton or any I was later recalled, but not to my oid job.
women it represents . Rather, it was to an all-female department in
This kind of thing happened in other cities the Switchgear plant 7 labor grades below my
and with other unions. It indicates that the of­ original one . The company was trying to keep
ficial union support for affirmative action is a me out of my oid plant . . . and also, it
bit deceptive. The policy briefs and unanimous seemed, to humiliate me.
convention resolutions tend to mask a male re­ The plant was mostly segregated . Jobs had
sistance within the unions and on the shop floor been designated, either male or female, and
that doesn't surface publicly. many departments were all-male or all-female.
Too many men pay lip service to the battIe The women were on a separate seniority list
against sexism and leave all the real fighting to with their own j ob titles and grades, and those
the women. I was one of those unionists who were inferior in wages to the male ones. That
for years sat on the fence on these matters until system of dual wage rates and dual seniority
certain sharp events in the shop pushed me off lists was enshrined in the collective agreement
the fence. I then had to take the rhetoric very - for decades signed and enforced by both
seriously and try to fully deal with these issues company and union.
in practice. At Switchgear I heard the grievances and
Male unionists need to openly confront complaints of the women. They worked at
chauvinism with their brothers in the shop and more demanding jobs in terms of monotony,
in the labor movement. This is needed in order speed and work discipline. They got lower pay
to give meaningful help in the fight for sexual for that, were frequently laid off while j unior
equality. males stayed in; they were denied chances for
But it is important for another reason: sexism promotion and training at more skilled work.
is harmful to working men. It runs counter to In their eyes, the majority of male workers were
their interests and undermines male trade treated like privileged babies by the company
unionism. The progressive men in labor have to and would not help them out .
speak up and say so, analyze the various aspects
of chauvinism in their own way and speak to
the men about it from a male perspective. The
process of seriously grappling with these issues
has made many men better unionists.
-

*The union here is the United Electrical Workers, Local 504. The UE in Canada is a contradictory phenomenon, its militant
70 rhetoric rarely matched by its concrete practice. Nevertheless, the chauvinism described here is by no means unique to the UE .
Their complaints also applied to the union, traffic thoughout southern Ontario .
whose leadership was thoroughly male. In fre­ When I persisted in talking to the women and
quent conflict with that leadership, they accus­ taking their complaints seriously, the leadership
ed it of sanctioning and policing the inferior started to ridicule me . The Chief Steward began
treatment of the women. The union would calling me "The Ambassador " . . . to the
never fight for them, on grievances or in other women . He said that he and the President were
arenas . It was often in cahoots with manage­ now happy, in fact, that I was there and speak­
ment to sweep the women 's complaints under ing to the women. This would save them from
the carpet. The leadership was insensitive to the that distasteful task. They could from now on
problems and concerns of the female members. just speak to me and get the womens' bitches
From the first day it was obvious to me that relayed to them.
the company enforced far harsher standards The new contract had for the first time
with the women. They worked harder and integrated the male and female seniority and
faster, got less break time and were allowed less wage lists. This was due to the fact that it was
leeway than the men. When I was later transfer­ now several years after the passing of the
red to the all-male machine shop, the change Ontario Human Rights Code which prohibited
was from night to day. such discriminatory practices. The integration
As for the union, the Men 's Club that ran it of the lists had recently been included in the
made its views known to me very early and very union 's bargaining demands. It had, however,
clearly. The staff rep had made his spurs in that never been stressed by the union and only flip­
Switchgear Division. He told me the first day pantly treated in negotiations. That year
that he himself would never work with women. Westinghouse and other companies in
He proudly said that he and other labor Hamilton had moved to abolish the separate
leaders of his political persuasion drink at the lists. Given the new laws, they had strong
Wellington House, the one remaining all-male reasons of their own for eliminating official
bar in Hamilton. segregation.
The local President was in Switchgear and he
In 1 979, the company announced it planned
was very upset when he heard that I was
to close the Switchgear plant and decentralize
seriously listening to the complaints of the
production in smaller towns with cheaper wage
women workers. Their gripes were usually
rates . For the women, this posed a serious
frivolous and unfounded, he stated. He told me
threat. The contract applied to 3 plants, but ex­
that he always just listened to their bitching,
cept for a part of the Motor Division at Beach
said "yes, yes, yes . . . " to their faces , and
Rd . , all areas were bastions of male j obs.
completely ignored it all afterwards. (This was
Would the women be able to exercise their
exactly what the women told me he did . )
seniority and bump or transfer to those jobs, or
I had just been elected t o the Executive i n a
would they find themselves out in the street
rank-and-file rebellion against this Old Guard .
after all those years?
The President seemed to assume that a common
male bond would override our differences. Divide and Conquer
I had already learned to be skeptical about Thanks to shop floor pressure by the guys, I
the leadership's statements on their women had been recalled to my oid Department at the
members. During the strike I had been in Beach Rd . by fall 1 979. There was then a lot of
charge of the "warehouse squad, " a secondary talk and worry in the plants over the prospect
picketting operation that had substantially of large-scale transfers from Switchgear. When
damaged the company. We were told by the the first ones began, there were some bad in­
leadership that the women wouldn't be able to cidents with male departments shafting the
perform on the squad - they had children, women. They refused to show them the j obs or
• family duties and weren't very militant. We ig­ hassled them in other ways.
nored this advice and recruited a group from Some of us once tried to have a full discus­
Switchgear. This largely female squad become sion of these problems at a Stewards' Council,
!��1 One of our best shock troops in stopping scab but this attempt was a flop. The leadership was
.:'i,___________________________________
71
in no mood to openly discuss and confront sex­ red up the pot with the spectre of the Invasion
ism. A lot of raw nerves had already been of the Women. Two hundred Switchgear
touched. In typical fashion, the leadership's women would come and throw all the Beach
bully-boys went after us. With a lot of shouting Road Breadwinners out in the street. No one's
and breast-beating, they blamed the women for j ob would be safe. Day after day, week after
the problems, and threatened us for implying week, we were fed the tales: for example, once
the union leadership needed a new approach . it was that 1 4 women with 30 years seniority
Having been frustrated in handling the pro­ each were coming to this department in 8 days
blems through the union structures, we were and no male would be protected . Better start
left to our own resources in the shop . The thinking now about unemployment insurance .
Transformer Division I was in was all-male, The first transfers in one department were
and its management was determined to keep it some fiercely individualist women determined
that way. There were some managers who were to keep their new j obs. When the men hassled
well known to be dedicated opponents of any them, they fought back. When the company
women ever setting foot in their domains. told them they had to out-produce the men to
As steward, I insisted to management that keep their j obs, they did so. There was vicious
the Switchgear women had every right to j obs fighting between the men and women. Both
in our department, at least to trial and training. sides ended up ratting on the other to the boss,
Their seniority entitled them and we wanted the "militant" steward included . The men were
them in our plant. This ought to be done in an furious and sexist about it; they went all over
orderly manner rather than competitively, i.e. the plant to warn others against allowing any
the open j obs in Transformers to be posted in "cunts" or "bitches" into their departments .
Switchgear and a gradual series of transfers That department was next to mine. I had
rather than bumps. fought for the women to be called into the jobs
Management was opposed, but they had a opening up in our "iron stacking" area. The
problem: the Switchgear women had legal and union's Business Agent had insisted the women
contractual rights to those j obs. Management couldn't physically handle those and other
therefore developed a strategy of Divide and j obs. But I won the point with the company and
Rule. Use the women in a provocative manner we were next on the list . The major women's in­
to push the male workers to keep them out. flux would start here.
Foster splits. Present the women as a threat to For weeks before their arrival, the depart­
the men's j obs and livelihood and get the hour­ ment was hyper-alive, everyone keyed to the In­
ly guys to do management 's j ob for them. vasion of the Women. I was approached by one
Management had a secondary objective here, of the guys who said that a number of them had
which was to break our shop floor union j ust discussed the problem. They wanted me, as
organization. Since the trauma of the strike and their leader and steward, to go to the company
the post-strike repression, a number of and tell them the men didn't want the women in
stewards and safety reps had patiently re-built here and are prepared to fight to keep them out.
the union in the plant, block by block-fighting That moment was a personal watershed for
every grievance, hazard and injustice with a me. As I listened to him, I knew that half
variety of tactics and constructing some shop measures would no longer do. I would now
floor unity and network. We had been doing have to take the bull by the horns.
this in the teeth of the opposition of both com­ I had been dealing with male chauvinism over
pany and union, whose officials were overly the years in a limited fashion. As a health and
concerned to get along peacefully with each safety rep, I had to constantly battle with some
other and have everything calmed and controll­ men who would knowingly do unsafe acts .since
ed. Fostering war of the sexes in the plant was a it was "manly" to do so. In the inside-out mind
weapon in management's counteroffensive of the male chauvinist, such dangerous work
against us. somehow affirmed his masculine superiority.
For months before the anticipated transfers, The bosses certainly knew how to use guys like
foremen and their assorted rumor-mongers stir- that to get j obs done quickly and unsafely.

) 72

�------ - �
They would also thereby roll back the gains we But all this only went so far. Now, with the
had made in safer procedures in the depart­ approaching Invasion and the Great Fear that
ment. gripped the department, r had to deal with an
With a mixture of sarcasm, force, and reason, angry male sexism in high gear. I got off the
r, had been arguing over the years, "It 's stupi­ fence.
dity not manliness to hurt yourself; use your I told this guy: No. These women from
brains-don 't be a hero and cripple yourself; Switchgear are our sisters and we had fought
you 're harming all of us and helping the com­ for them to come into our department . They
pany by breaking the safety rules we fought so are our fellow workers with seniority rights and
hard to establish, rules that protect all of we want them to work at Beach Rd. rather than
get laid off. If we deny them their seniority
this r was familiar with how irrational, rights, it hurts us, for once that goes down the
anti-collective the male ego drain, none of us has any protection. It's our
be. Also, I had learned a great deal from enemies , the bosses, who are trying to do them
, ' , women's movement over the years, and this out of j obs here.
a neverending struggle with my own And with that reply, the battle was on. For
. On and off, I would have debates with the next few weeks the debate raged hot and
male co-workers over women 's liberation heavy, touching on many basic questions.
related topics. Workers from other departments in the plant

73
came over j oining in. fighting to make them safer and easier for
Many men made the accusation that the ourselves. Well, they answered, the women may
women would be the bosses' Fifth Column and be able to do certain j obs, but not all of them .
break our unity. They would side with the Right, I would say, and how many guys in
foremen, squeal on us, out-produce us and here only do certain of the jobs? Haven't we all
thereby force speed-ups. The women were our fought to protect older or sicker or injured or
enemy, or at least agents of the enemy, would potbellied or whatever guys, from certain of the
be used by Them against Us. And many pointed tasks they can't do and still keep their rates?
to the experience of the next department, a There were enough cases of diabetes , heart pro­
situation that festered and worsened every blems, asthma, back injuries, etc . , around the
week . department . Stewards had even fought for ex­
The reply was that if we treated the women as emptions for guys who found certain things
sisters and friends, they'd side with us not the personally distasteful.
boss . Some of us had worked in Switchgear and If the women can't do certain jobs, we treat
knew it was the men who got favorite treat­ them the same way. We don't victimize people
ment. The women were treated like dirt by the who can't physically do everything the com­
company. Our own shopfloor unity left a lot to pany wants them to. We protect them . As our
be desired and so some of us sarcastically brothers. And as our sisters.
pointed out all the squealing and kow-towing to
the boss that many of our male co-workers Some claimed the women would never be
engaged in. You could be sure the women were able to do the tanking-hard work in confined
not our equals in this area at least. spaces, haven of the macho crowd. Nonsense, it
We had common class interests with our was proclaimed, they have smaller and more agile
sisters against the company. This was in the bodies and so can tank easier. They're natural
protection of seniority rights and assuring that tankers.
the Switchgear workers, male and female, got In picking at the irrationalities of the sexist
jobs at other Westinghouse plants rather than double-standards, the guys were being pushed
get thrown out in the street after 20 or 30 years to apply their class principles-universal stan­
of service. dards of equal treatment . Treat the women just
It was easy to tease guys with the contradic­ as we treat brothers regarding work tasks,
tions that male double-standards led them to . seniority, illness, etc.
They were afraid the women would over­ Countering Sexism
produce and result in speed-ups-yet at the Part of this fight to self-identity with the
same time insisted the women wouldn't be able women as co-workers was the battle against
to physically perform our "man 's wor k " ! calling them "cunts" or "bitches" . It was im­
Either they could o r they couldn 't, was the portant to set the public standard whereby the
answer to that one, and if they could, they women were labelled as part of Us, not Them .
deserved the jobs and it would be up to us to in­ Male sexist culture strives to degrade women
itiate them into the department norms. We in­ to nothing but pieces of flesh, physical bodies,
sisted on the right to trial and training for mindless animals . . . something less than fully
ourselves-to deny the women a chance to human which the males can then be superior
make out would hurt us. If they're so inferior, to. Such name-calling carried the connotation,
as you say, that will show and so you've got in this context , that women were in a different
nothing to worry about . Besides, it was always category than Us and so merited different and
brought up, no women could ever out-scab inferior treatment.
such and such a male in production. I wouldn't be silent with anyone using these
Many of the guys said that the women would sexist labels and very aggressively pushed the
never be able to do certain of the heavy and rot­ point. Eventually everyone referred to "the
ten j obs. As steward and safety rep, I always women ".
jumped on that argument: We shouldn 't do After a while we established a bias in the
those jobs either. Look how long we've been department with most of the men. Having the

74
women in, or giving them a chance, was the Fairness and equality seemed to triumph here
right thing to do by any standard of fairness, too. The guys understood that everyone who
unionism, solidarity, of the values and prin­ had a job at Westinghouse deserved equal pro­
ciples we respected, of the basic human decency tection. But then, some men developed a reac­
that distinguishes Us from Them. tion. As one, Peter, put it, HI have no respect
The focus shifted to other areas. Many men for any woman who would come in to work
came back with traditional arguments against here in these rotten conditions. (The names of
"

women in the workforce. They belong at home the plant workers referred to here are not their
with the kids , they're robbing the male bread­ real ones .)
winners of family income and so forth. But The come-back was sharp : What the hell are
other men didn't agree with this. Most of the you putting up with this shit for? Why didn 't
guys' wives worked, or had in the past. A fami­ you refuse to do that dirty j ob last month?
ly needed at least two wage earners to get by Don 't you deserve to be treated with respect?
these days. How can you deny for others what And: is your "chivalry" going to protect the
you need for yourselves? women by restricting them to minimum wage
Some men answered that in bad times a fami­ jobs, like slinging beer where they get their
ly should have only one breadwinner and so all asses pinched and harassed for 8 hours? Or
would have an income, share it fairly. Fine, working in textile sweat shops? Is that the
they were told, let's be really fair and square, Woman's Pedestal you'd like to put them on?
half and half; you go home and clean the house As Invasion Date approached , I got worried.
and leave your wife at work . Alright, they Reason and appeals to class solidarity had had
countered , they could tolerate women suppor­ a certain impact. Most of the guys were agree­
ting a family on their own being at work, but ing, grudgingly, to give the women a chance.
not single women working . Fine, I picked out 4 But the campaign had been too short, fear and
single men in our department and proposed hostility were surfacing more and more. Look­
they be immediately sacked. ing at similar situations in other plants, it was
quite possible we'd have some ugly incidents the
first day or two. This would set up a pattern.
A unionist's first and bottom-line priority
here had to be to work to guarantee the women
their right to a job. If all the men weren't fully
convinced that this was the proper thing, then
at least they could be forced to behave the right
way. Much of the male hostility had been kept
in check because myself as the official steward
was so aggressively fighting the issue. I decided
to take this one step further and use some in­
timidation to enforce the basics of public
behavior.
In a tactic I later realized was a double-edged
sword, I puffed myself up, assumed a cocky
posture and went for the jugular. I loudly
challenged the masculinity of any worker who was
opposed to women . . . A real man has nothing
to be afraid of, wants strong women, welcomes
women's liberation . . . . Any man worth his
salt doesn't need the crutch of superiority over
his sisters . . . stands on his own two feet, fears
no female. A real man lives like an equal,
doesn't step on women, doesn't degrade his
To Be A Woman in America 1 850- 1 930 sisters, doesn't have to rule the roost at home,
' .

75

�- " --� ----- - - ---,,- ��.� -. -.�-=�� "..,.


be a dictator, in order to affirm his manhood. The Day The Women Arrived
Real men fight the boss, stand up with self­ The department crackled with tension the
respect and dignity, rather than kick our sisters morning The Women arrived. Two of them, to
and wives as scapegoats. start with. The company was evidently scared
I was sarcastic and cutting with my buddies: by the volatile situation it had worked so hard
This anti-woman crap of yours is a symbol of to create. They backed off from a direct initial
weakness. Stand up like a real man and behave confrontation-they assigned me to work with
and work as equals. the women, along with my younger helper
There was a lot of play-acting here. I 'd out­ George.
do some of the worst guys, in verbal intimida­ The women were very uptight and on their
tion and physical feats. Then I'd lecture them guard . Betty and Laura, in their late 30's, were
on women's equality and welcoming our sisters expecting trouble. They were pleasantly shock­
next week. ed when I said matter-of-factly that we would
I zeroed in on one or two of the sick types. I train them on the job. They were overj oyed
physically threatened them if they pulled when I explained that the men had wanted them
anything with the women. They were told to in our department and had fought the bosses to
stay away. bring them here.
All of this worked, as I had hoped. It It was an unforgettable day. Men from all
established an atmosphere of intimidation on corners of the plant snuck near the iron stack­
the issue. No one was going to get smart with ing area and spied on us. I explained the work
the women. Everyone would stand back for a and the drawing to the women and we set about
while. Some would co-operate, others would be our tasks. We outproduced the standard rate by
neutral watchers. The psycho-sexists would just a hair, so that the company couldn't say
keep out . the women weren 't able to meet the normal re­
This tactic was effective because it spoke quirements of the work.
directly to a basic issue. But it was also effective The strategy was to do everything to get over
because it takes a leaf from the book of the the hump of the first few days. I knew that once
psycho-sexists themselves. the guys got used to the women being in there,
At Westinghouse as elsewhere, many of the they'd begin to treat them as people, not as
men are less chauvinist and more sensible than WOMAN, and the hysteria would go away . It
the others . But they often keep quiet in a group was critical to avoid incidents.
context . They allow the group pattern to be set I forced the guys to interact with the women.
by the most sexist bullies, to whose style of For example, I pulled over one of the male op­
woman-baiting everyone at least gives in to. ponents. I introduced him as Bruce the slinger
The psycho-sexists achieve this result because who knew all the j obs and was an expert in lifts
they challenge, directly or by implication, the and would be happy to help them if asked and
masculinity of any male who doesn 't act the could always be called on to give a hand. This
same way. Your manhood is on the line if you put him on the spot. A big smile, and then,
don't gloat at the pornography or ridicule the "Sure, just ask and I'd be pleased to show you
women or j oin in the harassment. All the males, anything, and to begin with, here 's what to
whatever their real inclinations, are intimidated watch out for and . . . "

into acting or talking in a manner degrading to The morning went by. No incidents. At lunch
women. The more moderate men don't speak tables, then, they all asked George: What's the
up or challenge the sexist bullies, afraid of hav­ verdict? What's it like to work with a woman?
ing their masculinity questioned. (No point asking me, I was prejudiced.) George
I had done the same thing, but in reverse. I looked at them all and thoughtfully pronounc­
had challenged the masculinity of any worker ed: "There 's no difference working with a
who would oppose the women, and I scared woman, I guess it 's the same as with a man. Ex­
them off. cept that you have to watch yourself that you

-=O_: _tO
don 't swear. " Silence. (Betty constantly voiced
her amazement at the men of this department :
-

76
basis for department story-telling for the next
three months. And this was repeated the next
few Christmases.
Was this, then, the Peace Between the Sexes?
The integration of men and women as co­
workers in the plant? Class solidarity trium­
phing over sex antagonism?
Not quite. Although they were now together,
it was not peace. The result was more com­
plicated . . . for now the War Between the
Sexes was being extended from the community
to the workplace.
Male Workplace Culture

As our struggle showed, sexism co-exists and


often is at war with the class consciousness and
trade union solidarity that develops among fac­
tory men. Our campaign was successful to the
extent it was able to sharply polarize and push
the contradictions between the two tendencies
in each individual . With most of the men, their
sense of class solidarity triumphed over male
chauvinism.
Many of the men had resisted the female
invasion of the workplace because for them it
was the last sanctum of male culture. It was
away from the world of women, away from
responsibility and children and the civilized
society's cultural restraints. In the plant, they
could regale in the rough and tumble of a
masculine world of physical harshness; of con­
stant swearing and rough behavior, of half­
serious fighting and competition with each
other, and more serious fighting with the boss.
It was 8 hours full of filth and dirt and grease
and grime and swear-manual labor, a manly
atmosphere. They could be vulgar and obscene,
talk about football and car repairs . Let their
hair down.
The male workplace culture functions as a
form of rebellion against the discipline of their
society. Outside the workplace, the women are
the guardians of the community. They raise the
kids and enforce some degree of family and col­
lective responsibility. They frequently have to
force this upon individualistic males. The men
would rather go drinking or play baseball or do
their own thing while the women mind the kids,
wash the family's clothes, attend to problems
with the neighbors and in-laws, and so on.
Like rebellious teenage sons escaping

77
.
.
- .-... -�-- � ' - . ­
..,

""'O:'.o.MIIbiJI____ ;.;,,;;?5j, ... 77 ---.


Q )-'- : ' e!.. • •• .U . Ii. ­
.
�- - - - '

'- )\.X '


- ' -.�
r:T\ . . .. ..
. J .

� 1��
' ./ .'_

•• •• 1'� •• 1I
Joan Green & Steve Wall

mother 's control, male wage earners enter the Working men are everywhere treated like
factory gate; there, in their male culture, they dirt; at the bottom of the heap, under the
feel free of the restraints of these repressive thumb of the boss at work , scorned by polite
standards. society. But , the men can say, we are better
The manly factory culture becomes an outlet than them all in certain ways-"man's work" .
for accumulated anger and frustration. But this Physically tough. The women can 't do it, the
is a vicious circle-for the tedious work and the bankers and politicians neither. Tough work
subordination to the bosses in the plant is in gives a sense of masculine superiority and this
large part the very cause of the male worker 's compensates for being stepped on and ridicul­
dissatisfaction . He is bitter against a world that ed. There's some ways we 're better than all of
has kept him down, exploited his labor power , that Fine Society.
bent him to meet the needs of production and
profit, cheated him of a bettet:. life, makes the
daily grind so harsh.

78
Not all working men, of course, share these Sexism undermines and subverts the proud
attitudes . All one can say is that it is more or tradition of the dignity of labor. It turns a
less true for a sizeable portion. Furthermore, class consciousness upside down by accepting
this male workplace culture is not one-sided - and then glorifying the middle-class view of
it contains a fundamentally positive sense of manual labour and physical activity as inferior,
class value. The workingmen contrast them­ animalistic, crude. When workers identify with
selves to other classes and take pride in having the savages the boss class sees them as , they
concrete grasp on the physical world around develop a contempt for themselves .
them. The big shots can talk fancy and It is self-contempt to accept the scornful
manipulate words, flout their elegant manners. labels, the negative definitions, the insulting,
But we control the nuts and bolts of produc­ de-humanized treatment . The cartoon-like
tion, have our hands on the machines and gears stereotypes of class chauvinism: the Super­
and valves and wires and lathes and pumps and masculine Menials. The factory goons. The in­
furnaces and spindles and batteries . We're the dustrial sweathogs.
masters of the real and the concrete, Remember Peter: he said he couldn't respect
manipulate the steel and the lead and the wood a woman who would come here to work in this
and the oil and the aluminum. What we know is hell-hole. It's obviously a place where he felt he
genuine - the real and specific world of daily lost his own self-respect .
life. My reply to him was that he shouldn't put up
Workingmen are the wheels that make the with that rotten treatment, that the men deserv­
society go round, the creators of social value ed better also. We should be treated with digni­
and wealth. There would be no fancy society, ty. Respect yourself,-fight back like a man,
no civilized conditions, if not for our labor. not a macho fool who glorifies that which
The male workers are contemptuous of the degrades him.
mild-mannered parasites and scornful of the Everything gets turned inside out . It's seen as
soft spoken vultures who live off our daily "manly" to be treated as less than a man, a
sweat : the managers and directors, the judges strictly physical, instinctual creature.
and entertainers, the lawyers, the coupon clip­ Another contradiction: this is precisely how
pers, the administrators, the insurance brokers, sexist society treats women: mindless bodies,
the crooked legislators . . . all those who profit pieces of flesh, "biology is destiny " . You
from the shop floor, who build careers for would think that male factory workers and the
themselves with the wealth we create . All that women ' s movement would be natural
social overhead depends upon our mechanical allies . . . they would speak the same language .
skills, our concrete knowledge, our calloused They share a common experience of being
hands, our technical ingenuity, our strained used as objects, de-humanized by those on top .
muscles and backs. Men in the factory are treated not as persons,
but as bodies, replaceable numbers, com­
The Dignity of Labor
modities, faceless factors of production, pieces
of capital to be shuffled around at will.
But society treats us like a pack of dumb The working men 's and women's struggles
animals , mere bodies with no minds or culture. revolve around similar things. The abortion
We're physical labor power, the intelligence campaigns, for example : reproductive freedom
belongs in the management class. Workers are and the right to control your own body. Is this
sneeringly regarded as society's bodies, the not what the fight for health and safety on the
middle-class as society's mind. One is superior, shop floor is about? To have some control over
the other inferior. One is fully human, the other our bodies, not let the bastards do what they
is less than human, close to animals . . . socie­
want with our life and limb, to wreck us in the
ty's beasts of burden. search for higher profits.
The male workplace culture tends to worship The demand for reproductive freedom of
thi s self-identity of vulgar physicalness. It is as
Choice-is this not somewhat like what the
if the men enjoy wallowing in a masculine filth . right to refuse unsafe work is about? Let us

79
decide. domination/ownership of a woman becomes
Male chauvinism turns working men away basic to how he sees himself.
from their natural allies, away from a rational All of the above are powerful individualist
and collective solution to their problems, diver­ pressures, the traits of the business class:
ting them from class unity with their sisters into foreman of the family, man of property,
oppressors and degraders of their sisters . possessiveness. These elevate the wage earner
Robbed of their real manhood, they get a: above the category of downtrodden common
false sense of manhood in lording it over the labor, deflecting him away from the road of
women. collective struggle with his brothers and sisters
Many men at Westinghouse felt they were to change their conditions.
fighting a losing battle anyhow in trying to keep Capitalism is based on competitiveness and
the women out of our department. Times had encourages everyone to be better than the next
changed. In this day and age you couldn' t stop guy, to rise up on the backs of your neighbors.
workplace integration. It was happening Similarly the male chauvinist typically seeks
everywhere, the law was on their side, most of superiority over others, of both sexes. Males
the wives and daughters worked, the Steel tend to be competitive, always putting down
Company of Canada (Stelco) across the street one another, constantly playing oneupmanship.
was now hiring women, etc. Also, new Men even express appreciation and affection
technology was eroding the heavy manual for each other through good-natured mutual in­
labour. You saw the engineers and rate-men sults.
redesigning the jobs-making them simpler, Sexist culture undermines the working-class
easier, more standardized, taking the strength traditions of equality and solidarity. It provides
and skill out of them . a recruiting ground for labor 's adversaries .
Playing The Foreman At Home
Over the years at Westinghouse I had noticed
that a high proportion of workers who became
Many me 1. compensate for their wage labor
foremen were extreme chauvinists-sexual
status in the workplace by becoming the Boss at
braggarts, degraders of women, aggressive, in­
home. Tre'.ted terribly in the factory, he plays
dividualist, ambitious . . . ever willing to push
foreman after work and rules with authority
other workers around.
over the wife and kids. He thus gains at home
Male competition is counterproductive in the
that inr:ependent status he loses on the shop
context of the shop or union, where we ought to
floor. He becomes a part time boss himself.
cooperate as equals and seek common solutions
The women nre his servants and this becomes
rather than be always bickering and out-doing
key to his identity and sense of self-esteem .
the other guy. The male ego makes for bad
Working-class Patriarchs - rulers of the roost .
comradeship, bad brotherhood. It also makes it
This Sf nse of authority has an economic un­
difficult for chauvinistic men to look and deal
derpinning. The male worker's role as Primary objectively with situations . Their fragile egos
Breadwinner is critical - the economic func­
are always on the line. They have to keep up a
tion of his paycheck is to give him power over
facade of superiority, are unable to handle
the family and status in society. And it also
criticism, no matter how constructive. Their
makes him the beneficiary of the woman's un­
chauvinist crutches makes them subjective, ir­
paid labor in the household.
rational . . . and unreliable. And often self­
A wage laborer not only lacks in­
destructive, as with men who want to work or
dependence, he also lacks property, having
drive dangerously.
nothing but his labor power to sell. Sexism
Male workingmen pay a high price for the
gives him the sense of Property, as owner of the
very limited material benefits they get from sex­
family. His relation to a woman (wife or
' i girlfriend) is critical. She is his sexual property.
ist structures. It's the bosses who make the big
bucks, have the big egos and enjoy the real
Workers who have nothing can find fulfillment
power from the inferior treatment of women.
as owners. As Elvis sang, "You are my only
possession, you are my everything. " This

80
The Next Round
For the first few months after the Invasion,
the women worked mainly in the iron area.
They proved quite capable and competent.
Soon Betty emerged as the informal group
leader and co-ordinator, even the men taking
the lead from her.
The next battle was to assure that the women
would get a crack at the more skilled and high­
paying assembly jobs up the floor. When these
became available, the company moved to ex­
clude the women and tried to promote j unior
men. We had a new fight on our hands.
Unlike before, the women were there to
speak for themselves and take on their varied
opponents . Also , there were now stewards in
other departments who would back up the right
of women to equal opportunity. The shop floor
was less hostile, many of the men being quietly What Women Have Done
sympathetic or neutral.
The fight was done more collectively. As for women's rights , and that's us and we're
their steward, I often sat at the women's lunch here to stay and pity any man who tries to take
tables and we plotted and conspired in com­ these down! And the posters remained there for
mon. We discussed every step of the campaign, as long as those jobs were on the floor.
made common strategies, acted as a group, Around that time I saw a copy of Steelabour,
assigned everyone a special task after these ses­ the newspaper put out by the Canadian section
sions, etc. of the United Steelworkers union. It had a big
The bosses did their own scheming and front page color photo of a woman miner.
counter-manoeuvres but were rattled by this The article inside told of a movie the union had
determined collective activity they saw. made about the fight of women out West to
We pushed and won. The women were given break into the previously all-male mines. The
training up the floor. They made out. They had paper supported the movement of women into
broken another barrier. traditionally male jobs and said the union
In the midst of all this, the "Women Back In­ would distribute the movie to its locals.
to Stelco" campaign was to have an anniver­ I was quite surprised to see this. We had had
sary rally on International Women's Day 1 98 1 . to battle the union establishment as well as the
I handed out their leaflets at the women's company in our campaigns. I thought of how
tables. The women at the lunch tables all objected much easier it would all have been if our union
to their leaflet: we're all for equal pay and oppor­ had backed up its staff reps, used its considerable
tunity but we're no women's libbers; who the hell resources to promote workplace integration.
do those women think they are anyhow, and so on. With such support, we would be capable, as
I jokingly said they were all hypocrites, since the movie title put it, of " Moving Mountains" .
they themselves had just won a big fight for While all the men still maintained the women
female equality. That's different , they said, and were inferior workers and could never do
so on. The lunch bell broke up our heated "men's work , " they were generally co­
dispute and I left for my job up the floor. On operative with the women. There was, however,
.y way back at 2 p . m . , I passed the assembly a continual bickering between the sexes, which
. !rea where the women were working. A occasionally turned nasty.
:,itYoman's Day leaflet was pinned up on every

The foremen were always fostering sex divi­
l: sformer a woman was working on. The sions. They would tell the guys stories of all the
• J:l$les were
fiercely told that the poster stands mistakes the women supposedly made on the

81
j ob; or spread insulting sexist remarks about respected the women's movement I paid only
them. They would play games with the work lip service, if that, to this distinction, and was
assignments-reserve the worst j obs for the in fact more often scornful of this " women's
men, telling them the women couldn't do those. world" . Sissy stuff. Over the years I had
The men would thus have their self-superiority become a more aggressive male, which I saw as
boosted and also resent the women's so-called distinct from being a chauvinist or sexist male.
privileges. The women would be grateful for In the world of constant struggle, I thought,
not having to do those j obs. you had to be aggressive or go under. We'll
Some of the supervisors became quite skilled have peace and love in the new socialist socie­
at buddying up with the guys andforgingcom­ ty . . . some distant day.
mon cause against the women. They developed As a unionist, it became very clear to me that
a masculine solidarity with some and fed their the women almost naturally acted like a collec­
ever enlarging male egos. They would thereby tive. And in those months of going back and
get those guys to break the safety rules, out­ forth between the men's and women's lunch
produce, rat on other workers and so forth. tables, I took a long and serious look at this
The male bond proved stronger here than the women 's world. There was obviously
union bond and our collective strength suffered something genuine there and it seemed to offer
as a result. a better way. It also became obvious to me that
The women acted as part of the shop collec­ the gap between the sexes was enormous and
tive. When we put in a department grievance that men and women were far from speaking a
against a boss doing hourly work on off-hours , common language.
the women were the first to sign and circulate it It was an unnerving but pleasant experience
in their areas. The same with petitions, or to sit down among friends, no competitions and
grievances against the company revising job put-downs, not to have to watch out for flying
descriptions and lowering the rates. objects, not be on the alert for nerve-shattering
noises, in a non-threatening atmosphere. I
Woman's World
learned from these experiences and developed
As for myself, I was learning and changing a
some respect for this Women's World.
lot as a result of these experiences. The sessions
at the women's tables affected me in many A Women's Committee?
ways. They were good talks, peaceful and con­
structive, with no fighting and argument, no Gender conflicts were breaking out all over
competition . . . all of us sensibly talking the plants as the women progressively moved
about a common problem and figuring out how into male areas . Very often the men fought
to handle it as a group. It was a relaxed and back and refused to train women. Here and
peaceful half hour-even when we had major there, all-male departments threatened to
problems and serious di fferences. wildcat to keep the women out.
This was a marked contrast to the male lunch These conflicts intruded into the local union
tables, which were unusually boisterous and divisions and politics in the strangest ways . We
raucous during those months. There was a lot had developed a rank-and-file caucus at the
of yelling and shouting, mutual insults, fist Beach Rd . plant, mainly stewards and other ac­
pounding, throwing things at one another, tivists.
making shocking noises. We were in constant and bitter conflict with
When you ate at the women's tables, you sat the conservative Old Guard of the union. In­
down to rest and relax. When you ate at the itially, we were all male. The women's Inva­
men's tables, you sat down to fight . sion split us. Some of our stewards responded
I had read and heard a lot from my feminist to peer group pressure and were in fact leading
friends about this so-called women's World of the anti-woman actions !
warmth, cooperation and friendship, con­
strasted to the men's norm of aggression,
violence and competition. Although I had
always advocated women 's Hl5eration and

82

au ..
Unionism is not male bonding and so we had old guard was led by the union 's national
some sharp internal struggles over this. At the president and fought us tooth-and-nail . At
same time, a younger militant woman, Mary, some executive meetings and a number of
j oined us. She was a hell-raiser for women's tumultuous membership meetings, they railed
rights in the plant. Things quickly came to a and thundered against the very idea of a
head in our group. Most of the men opted for women's committee. It would split the member­
women's rights, the strong sexists withdrew, we ship, the problems were all imaginary, it was an
included a plank for women's equality in our anti-union idea, a form of separatism the union
program and Mary become one of our leading had always rejected , nothing but a foil to dis­
spokespersons . credit our fine leadership, and so on.
One of our priorities was to set up a women 's Where they had the upper hand, this was rail­
committee in the local. It was critical for the roading through with a lot of heavy-handed in­
women to organize themselves into some sort of timidation. At other times it was different . At
autonomous structure. one noteworthy membership meeting, for ex­
Such a women's committee would become an ample, very large numbers from the shop at­
important force against the company in the tended and backed our position on this and
shop. It would also better raise to the fore other issues . The highlight was a long speech by
women 's demands in the local, push the union Alice, a woman from my department . She
to fight for equal treatment, paid maternity blasted the leadership , recalled the many in­
leave and other women's concerns . It would be stances where they had refused to fight for the
a new way of combatting sexism among the women, pointing to specific officials . Given
male workers - in the shop and at local that there were threats of expulsion by the old
meetings, the men would have to deal with a guard , she emphasized that all the women
group of fighting women unwilling to put up would back up any of our male shop leaders
with the old crap. under the gun since they had fought for the
The women's committee would also allow the women 's rights.
women a forum of their own to develop a com­ The men and women of the shop floor had
mon outlook and strategy, to collectively here forged a unity in struggle . Alice declared
develop their own priorities and policies. Over that none of the women would let the executive
time a women 's committee would develop in­ carry on like a dictatorship. When one of the
dependent and strong women's leaders , speak- bully-boys started his patented tactic of
challenging his opponents to a fist fight, large
, ing and acting on their own behalf.
This would also remedy the lop sided numbers rose to take him on and the platform
development that had occurred at the Beach quickly changed the subject.
Rd . plant . The women who had come over We were eventually defeated on this issue and
from Switchgear were unwilling to get involved no women's committee was ever formed . Over
in the union, given their bad experiences with time, however, the leadership's public rhetoric
the hostile leadership . The defense of their changed. By 1 983 most of the local and na­
rights had therefore become overdependent on tional officials had learned how to voice a non­
a few male stewards, acting as "protectors" of sexist position on women 's rights - without,
the women. An autonomous women's organi­ however, doing much to advance that cause.
zation would leave all that behind : women The local president would occasionally boast of
would represent women's interests, direct their the success of women making it into nontradi­
.·., �truggle themselves . tional jobs at Westinghouse.
' r With all this in mind, we set out in the fall of

:>1981 to get a local union women's committee, The Recession Hits


in the lead, backed up by a group of In the Spring of 1 982, the recession finally
in the shop and our militant caucus. We caught up with us at Westinghouse . . . con­
it would be a tough fight, given the sexist tinuous layoffs in every Division. With that, we
authoritarian nature of the old guard . were in deep trouble.
battle extended over several months. The We had made a lot of progress in the integra-

83
I

I:
would be ousted, their jobs abolished or
bumped or whatever . . . or everyone put on
short time. There was a lot of demoralization.
The company made examples of fighters and
protected the ratters. Everyone was being
cowed into going along with the company, beg­
ging not to be axed.
The economy was in deep recession, there
were no jobs out there, anywhere. Once out,
you probably wouldn't work again . People
with 30 years seniority went out the door while
others with 5 years stayed in. The contract and
union were paper protection. Better roll with
the punches, please the foreman or you'd be
next.
With the power relationships so altered, the
The Electrical Workers. Westinghouse workers masquerade company assaulted us on every front. They re­
as capitalists in an equal-pay-Jor-equal work demonstra­ vived their timeless dream of a "management­
tion, 1942. controlled plant. " They became arrogant and
insulting to the militant stewards . They went
tion of the women when the work was plenty.
On this issue, as on others, the shop floor had after hard-won department traditions on wage
rates and soon got people working at jobs
weapons to wield against the bosses-they
above their labor grades . They shuffled people
needed our work and cooperation. But this
around at will. As the months went by, man­
leverage disappeared when the work got slack .
Our bargaining power shrank. With production agement gradually took back unto itself more
going steadily downward, the shop floor was rob­ and more of the power and authority it had
bed of the means to fight the company with . been forced to give up to the shop floor over the
Our instruments of struggle were disappearing. years.
It was a tide you couldn't stop. Bitterness
And once the spiral of layoffs begin,
everyone is afraid for his or her own job and and frustration were everywhere. Seniority
meant nothing, all our time-honored rights
this concern overrides all others.
The company wasted no time in rolling back were out the window. Resentment was also
the clock. They vastly exaggerated the future directed to union officialdom, who too readily
job losses and overposted the surplus/layoff went with the tide, leaving us defenseless
lists. They did this constantly, keeping workers against a vengeful management. When you
on edge from day to day. They cut back on really needed the union, it wasn't there. There
whatever inadequate seniority protection was in was a lot of despair.
the contract. Junior workers stayed in while Management retrenched on health and safe­
senior ones were often railroaded out. They ty, given the fear that gripped everyone. With
manipulated job classifications, combined and the hobs disappearing, workers competed with
recombined jobs, put people in categories such each other to be able to weld in the hazardous
as "loan" to avoid seniority rules, refused trial gases we had been struggling to get rid of.
and training periods, sheltered favorites and so Those jobs became prizes, not ones to be re­
forth. fused . And the guy who battled for a month to
Workers were pitted against worker s . be able to bump into the shipping floor was not
Everyone was in competition for the shrinking going to refuse to spray the toxic leaded paint
number of jobs. the moment he got the job.
The company had all the cards and it seemed The company went after the women. They
futile to resist. You'd hold the fort in one area; were to be weeded out of the plant, despite
protect 4 workers. The next week they'd ar­ seniority or skills. With few exceptions, they
range for massive shifts and thoseA plus 7 more posted the women regardless of years of ser-

84
vice. They claimed these women had no trans­ But the most interesting and telling re­
ferrable skills and shunted most of them to the sponses to the situation can be seen in how the
least skilled job in the plant, "chip and grind . " women acted as they were being given the gears
That job soon became almost a womens' job by the company . . . and what this provoked
ghetto, or, more accurately, a revolving door as amongst the men.
more senior women came in and bumped out Some of the women gave in to the inevitable,
the less senior ones. The company gave a nasty but many fought back and fought well. Jill was
twist here. This was the worst j ob in the plant slated for layoff and designated to bump into a
- heavy, dirty, rotten , unpleasant . You'd heavy job in an all-male department . Everyone
almost want to be bumped out of it. A few said she couldn't do the job; she herself was
women simply declined to exercise their seniori­ convinced of the same. Besides, that manager
ty when they got their notices, being unwilling was the worst of any in keeping women out of
to suffer through chip and grind. his department . Some of us persuaded Jill to try
The progress the men had made seemed to the job. She didn't want to, but gave in - part­
vanish. From the first day of the layoff an­ ly to please us, and partly out of an obligation
nouncements, many of them rallied to the call to seniority principles and womens' rights .
of Get the Women Out First. The harassers and She had two weeks t o learn. The guys were
psycho-sexists came out again into the open and un-cooperative . But Jill became more deter­
campaigned full blast. They found many sym­ mined as the days went by and she discovered
pathetic responses on the shop floor : protect that she was capable of doing that job. She got
the .breadwinners, all the women out before the angry that the bastards were trying to deny her
men . They had no right to be there in the first her right. Some of us pressured her male co­
place, displacing Heads of Families. Were these workers and the steward. They began to co­
men to be thrown out in the street and whole operate. Many of them pitched in, recorded her
families suffer while women occupy jobs that successes so they would be future grievance wit­
are rightfully ours? They can't do the work nesses. Jill did well and at the end of the two
anyhow. No women should be allowed to bump weeks, the manager reluctantly told her that she
a male since they're not physically capable of had the job.
doing everything we can. Big victory. Smiles all around. One week
It was war of the sexes all over again, but far later, the company arranged to have a senior
worse in this context . The situation allowed no male bump her out . That department is still all­
leeway or give. There was some baiting of the male.
Women. The atmosphere in the plant became This and similar incidents also show that
i1gly at times, a hateful place to be in, for all many of the men had obviously changed a lot as
workers . a result of the women coming into our Division.
The company used the changed mood to try There was no going back to their previous out­
to do a job on the shopfloor militants. In my right chauvinism . Whereas years before they
case, some of the guys loudly expressed their fought the Invasion of the Women, they now
anger at me for having helped bring the women backed up Jill and other women in trouble.
into the Division in the first place. Mind you, they had to be pushed and pressured
Pevastating as its effect was, the recession at first, and not all joined in, but it was nothing
not all powerful. We managed to win all like the resistance of years earlier. When the
health and safety battles in this period. The chips were down, many men took their stand
continued to re-elect militants as shop with their sisters against the company . . .
. The guys in my department were despite the rececession.
more co-operative with the women Maureen is a long service worker. While
a few of them were recalled later on for a junior men stayed in our department, she was
period of time. Many of them had by then shunted to the dreaded chip and grind. But she
a new lunch table area, distinctly more was furious about the whole situation and
and relaxed than the other. decided to go out fighting. She is small and

85
thin, but managed to do the job quite com­ tant to give support and have sometimes op­
petently. The boss then called her in and said posed them. But unions were founded to fight
that while she is doing alright, he is worried for equal treatment for all workers; an injury to
about her. Something might happen, he was one is an injury to all. The men unionists ought
nervous and so he would have to lay her off. to take on that fight for the sisters' advance­
Maureen put up a stink. The boss then said that ment more forcefully and openly battle their
there were certain extra-heavy tasks a woman foes - the employer and also the chauvinists,
would not be able to do. Maureen dragged him harassers, sexist bullies within our own midst.
into the shop and in full view of all the men, Sexism is anti-labor and it shouldn't be
demanded he try to do that task. He couldn't tolerated, even passively, by the men. Take
do it, and was shamed and humiliated. Okay, them on like we take on the squealers, brown­
she said, if you can't do it, then don 't hold it nosers, back-stabbers in the shop - opponents
against the women. of our common struggle.
The men had stood aside at first, but now All of this we do to aid the women who are
quickly rallied to her side. They helped the prime victims of sexist structures and
Maureen out and kept the bosses at bay, the behavior . But the fight against sexism is also a
union stewards in the lead. She kept the job . . . fight for the men. Sexism is destructive of the
and was bumped out into another plant . . . to labor movement and the working man's strug­
another chip and grind job. But she was able to gle. It has led men to confuse their class inter­
keep that job, again with the co-operation of ests, to side with the boss time after time, to
her male co-workers. seek false and illusory solutions to their situa­
tion as exploited wage earners, to escape the in­
B�yond the Workplace justices of class by lording it over the women,
degrading their sistes.
The women in the labor movement have Sexism instills the ideas and values of the
made gains largely on their own, confronting enemy class in our ranks . It ingrains false ideas
their various adversaries with their organized of manhood and strength. It cultivates indi­
collective power. The men have been very hesi- vidualist attitudes and competitive behavior

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86
when what we need is collective struggle . It de­ to lead, but their function is to serve the mem­
ludes men and pushes them into irrational ac­ bership, not be served by them. We draw the
tions. It channels the men 's anger and rebellion line of Us and Them between the workers and
along destructive paths - destructive to them­ employers, not between union officials and
selves as well as to their sisters . workers.
This sexist madness is part of how capitalism I learned about the errors of authoritarian­
keeps the male workers in line, and as such men ism through some of the experiences in the
have to openly fight it. It's anti-labor, anti­ shop. Over the years I had always seen it impor­
working-class, it's our enemy. We should so tant for union activists to be non-competitive
label it and treat it. In doing so, we are fighting with fellow workers, to talk and reason as
for our own liberation as well as that of our equals, listen, learn, try to convince, make
sisters. common cause, tease in a spirit of friendship. It
That fight goes beyond the workplace. The was important not to put down, make fun of
sexist structures of family and community per­ others, or threaten and intimidate. Those were
petuate those at work . And the problems are in the weapons you used against adversaries, not
those structures, those ways of living, not just Us. We're trying to build a self-confident and
in men 's heads. open-eyed group of workers, and you can't do
One of these is the unequal sharing of com­ that by humiliating or bullying or manipula­
munity responsibilities , particularly in the rais­ tion. Nor by pushing people around. That 's
ing of children. how you fight your enemies .
Another is authoritarianism. Fear of authori­ I had taken a leaf from the book of the
ty keeps working men down. Good unionists psycho-sexists when I challenged the masculini­
have rebelled against the authority of the boss ty of male fellow workers during the campaign
and the society, but they often re-assert that to get the women into our department . But I
authority over their fellow workers. Union of­ also took a leaf from the book of the union
fice can sometimes become a power trip for leadership . I was intimidating my fellow
male Presidents, chief stewards , staff reps. workers. I was up against the wall and so lashed
They want to run the union like the army. They out with the weapons of the union bully boys . I
become our foremen, think like patriarchs . used my position as steward and my resources
This is harmful to the labor movement because as a strong personality to cow and frighten the
it is anti-democratic and restricts participation, guys, to push them into a position where they
inhibits the development of a self-reliant rank­ behaved the right way.
and-file, the source of real power. It is allied to It worked, in the short run . I didn 't resort to
the style of "business unionism , " where those methods again. I was . disturbed by what
authoritarian control and a passive workforce had happened and chose not to use those tac­
are part of a sweetheart relation to the boss , the tics . Because all I would be doing was to rein­
staff rep substituting himself for a democratic force the sexism I was combatting .
and active membership. Authoritarianism, intimidation, aggression
Authoritarianism does set union leaders - these are a basic part of what sexism is all
apart from the ranks. For example, rather than about. You can't separate aggression from sex­
openly discussing mutual concerns with their ism . Aggressive ways of relating to people is
brothers and sisters in the work force, such of­ part of what sexism is. To be a chauvinist is to
ficials meet in secret and then hide their dif­ establish a competitive and power relationship
ferences to confront the ranks and bulldoze or to your own people, to seek to dominate your
"sell" united leadership positions. brothers and sisters. To treat Us as Them.
The trouble is that these are methods we You can't combat sexism by reinforcing the
to handle the company, our adver­ fear of authority, or by intimidating the men.
; with workers we discuss common prob­ By becoming the loudest shouter at the male
as brothers and sisters. Such as approach lunch table. The peaceful women 's lunch table
that union officials have interests is stronger because it is noncompetitive and col­
from the membership . Officials ought lective. During the upgrading campaigns, I saw

87

....
the bosses were a lot more scared by the quiet theorized in new ways and taught all of labor.
women then they were by the mouthy men. The militant working men have to learn from
You can use force and authority to outlaw them and also confront on their own the big
discriminatory practices and structures, but issues the women's movement has raised -
sexist attitudes cannot be fought with the equal treatment, union democracy, non-com­
weapons of authority. Authoritarianism is part petitive formats, human izing the use of power,
of the problem of sexism and so it has to be the relation between community and workplace
challenged and undermined at the same time. problems, the family, sexuality and repression,
The male anti-sexist fight has to be put within a authoritarianism. Those issues have to be
democratic framework of rank-and-file in­ debated amongst the men, in their own way,
terests. developing their own non-sexist answers.
The woman 's world has enriched and
strengthened the world of labor in many ways.
Men have to recognize and appreciate these
contributions . Part of this involves recasting
the conception of work and labor as something
uniquely masculine, accepting and learning
from the distinct methods, rhythms and styles
of the women miners, assemblers, and
machinists.
When the women first entered the coke ovens
and blast furnaces at Stelco, many of the men
threw their sexist male culture in the womens'
faces , pornography and all. If you want a
Dllllhie Dare. VarnellI' P. Honeywo(Jd
man's job, they said, you have to take this ob­
noxiousness. It comes with the work.
In Ontario, as elsewhere, the affirmative ac ­ We have to declare that the pornography
tion programs in the labor federations have had does not come with the work, is not part and
the backing of the male hierarchy, which is parcel of masculine workplace culture. We have
fine. But it is only part of the answer. Labor to develop and strengthen the tradition of the
has to go beyond paper resolutions and beyond dignity of labor, not let it be warped and
placing women in top leadership positions. The perverted by the indignity of sexism.
struggle against sexism has to be deepened Workingmen share basic common interests
where it really counts, on the shop floor and with their sisters; when more of them recognize
within the locals. these, define and speak about them in their own
The militant men in the labor movement have way and act on these common interests together
to organize themselves and speak ou� publicly: with the women, we'd then have the ability to
express an anti-sexist position that reflects the start moving the mountains that stand in our
mens' experiences, that speaks in a masculine way.
voice and develops its own unique language.
Such a position would label sexism as anti-labor
Stan Gray worked at Westinghouse for 11 years
and show how it is harmful to the male wage
and he is now director of an occupational
earners . This rank-and-file male current would
health clinic sponsored by Local 1005 of the
be distinct from the women 's voice but allied in
United Steelworkers in Hamilton, Ontario.
the common fight .
Men need to speak to men about sexism. It is
difficult for the women because they are con­
fronting the men and are part of the problem as
the men see it. The women have been the most
dynamic part of the labor movement for the
past two decades - they have.. organized and

88
Workers' Struggles,
Past and Present
A "Radical America"
Reader
Edited by
James Green
Contents Selected from the pages of Radical
Introduction by James Green America, one of the few New Left
Part One: The Struggle for Control publications originating in the 1 960s to
The Demand for Black Labor: Historical notes survive into the eighties, these articles are
on the Political Economy of Racism, by Harold
a rare combination of labor and social
M. Baron ' Four Decades of Change : Black
history written by engaged scholars for a
Workers in Southern Textiles, 1941- 198 1 , by
Mary Frederickson · The Stop Watch and the
popular audience, as well as contemporary
Wooden Shoe: Scientific Management and the studies of labor movement politics and
Industrial Workers of the World, by Mike Davis workplace struggles written by worker
The Clerical Sisterhood: Rationalization and the intellectuals and activist historians. Long
Work Culture of Saleswomen in American before mainstream scholars of American
Department Stores, 1890-1960, by Susan Porter history, the writers in Radical America
Benson · Sexual Harassment at the Workplace: were focusing on the work experiences as
Historical Notes, by Mary Bulanik
seen from the shopfloor and on the special
Part Two: Organizing the Unorganized issues of women and blacks.
Working Class Self-Activity, by George Rawick ·
• Union Fever: Organizing among Clerical

Workers, 1900-1930, by Roslyn L. Feldberg ·


Organizing the Unemployed: The Early Years
of the Great Depression, by Roy Rosenzweig •
The Possibility of Radicalism in the Early
1930s: The Case of Steel, by Staughton Lynd ·
A. Philip Randolph and the Foundations of
Black American Socialism, by Manning Marable .
Organizing against Sexual Harassment, by the
AUillnce Against Sexual Coercion
Part Three: Militancy, Union Politics, and
Workers' Control Workers, Unions, and Class
Forces, by Stan Weir · Defending the No-Strike
Pledge : CIO Politics during World War II,
by Nelson Lichtenstein . The League of
Revolutionaty Black Workers : An Assessment,
by Ernest AUen, Jr. • Beneath the Surface: The
Life of a Factory, by Dodee Fennell . Where Is
the Teamster Rebellion Going?, by Staughton
Lynd . Holding the Line: Miners' Militancy and
the Strike of 1978, by James Green . Shop Floor
PolitiCS at Fleetwood, by John Lippert Tanning
. .

� � .


er, anning Hides: Health and Safety
m a Leather Factory, by Andrew


Madiao • orkers' Control and the News: The
n, WIsconsin Press Connection, by David
W. and Paul Buhle • The Past and Future
of� orkcrs' Control, by
David Montgomery

437lf' Temple
UNIVERSITY
PRESS
"RADICAL AMERICA: A IS YEAR AN·
THOLOGY" Spedal retrospective with selection or

• ••
articles that have appeared in RA since 1961: Black •••••••••••••
Uberation, Work-place Struagle$, Feminism, Com-
munity Activism, American Lert, Culture and Art.

Articles, commentary, poetry and art by C.L.R.


James, Sara Evans, E.P. Thompson, Herbert Mar­
cusc, Diane DiPrima, Ken Cockrell, Marprel Ran·
dall, Staushlon Lynd, Mannin, Marable, Todd
Gitlin, Man Jo Bullle, Ann D. Gordon, Ellen Willis,
Michael Lesy, David Monl,omcry, Alme Cesairc,
Bemice Johnson Rcaaon, Sonia Sanche%.. Dan
Georgakas, Leonard Balkin, Gilbert Shellon, Edith
Hoshino Altbach, OWr,c Rawick. Marlene Dillon,
Mark Naison, Sheila Rowbotham, David Widgery,
Ron Aronson, Harvey O'Connor, Lillian Robinson,
David Wagner, Hans Genh, Peter Biskind, Daniel
Singer, Jean Tepperman, Martin Glaberman, Stan
Weir, Dorothy Hcaley and the editors or Radical
America. Edited by Paul Buhle.
"FACING REACTION" Special double issue on

the New Right and America in the SOs Vol. I', Nos.
•..
• • • • • •••• •

1 & 2 (Spring 1981) ... 160 pages, illustrated.

Featuring: IN THE WINGS: NEW RIGHT


ORGANIZING AND IDEOLOGY by Allen Hunter;
THE CONTINUING BURDEN OF RACE: a review
by Manni", Marable; ABORTION: WHICH SIDE
ARE YOU ON? by Ellen Willis; THE LONG
STRUGGLE FOR REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS by
Linda Gordon; THE WOMEN'S MOVEMENTS:
FEMINIST AND ANTIFEMINIST by Barbara
Ehrenreich; RETREAT FROM THE SOCIAL
WAGE: HUMAN SERVICES IN THE 80s by Ann
Wilhorn; also THE NEW TERRAIN OF
AMERICAN POLITICS by Jim O'Brien;
ECONOMIC CRISIS AND CONSERVATIVE
POLICIES by Jim Campen; DEMOCRACY. SOCI·
ALISM AND SEXUAL POLITICS by the editors or
Ga)' WI; and Noam Chomsky and Michael Klare on
COLD WAR II and US INTERVENTIONISM IN
THE THIRD WORLD. Plus, BILLBOARDS OF
THEFUTUREI

"DREAMS OF FREEDOM" - Special double issue


featuring "Having a Good Time: The American •••••••••••••
Family Goes Camping" ...Vol. 16, Nos. I & 2 {Spring
1982). .. 180 pages.
,
Featuring: Interview with Carlos Fuentes: SPECIAL
SECTION: Reviews of rc<:ent Radical History on
women, blacks, rural populists, auto workers and
responses 10 industrialiution; POSTAL WORKERS
AND SCIENTIFIC MANAGEMENT by Peter
RachJeff; PEACE AT ANY PRICE?: FEMINISM,
ANTI·IMPERIALISM AND THE DISARMA­
MENT MOVEMENT by the editors; SOLIDARI­
TY, COLD WAR AND THE LEfT by Frank
(plus S� poslag�) Brodhead; E.R.A., R.I.P.·BUT HOW HARD
SHOULD WE CRY AT THE FUNERAL? by Anita
SPECIAL BULK RATE AVAILABLE:
Diamant; and, poetry. movie satires and more.
40'1. IJlscount ror S or morc copies

Radical America (USPS 873·880) Second Class Postage


38 Union Square No. 14 Paid at Boston, MA
Somerville, MA 02143 und additional
ISSN 0033·76 17 D�", Offices

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