by Diego Galdo Gonzalez
Dr. Siggie Vertommen (Ghent University) joined the event from the fifth edition of the Women’s Strike at Ghent University. She displayed the slogan of the current edition, “Care Is Essential Work,” to recognize the importance of care work at the university. This year’s strike focused on the needs of cleaners, cafeteria-workers, and childcare workers at the university – rather than exclusively on the needs of lecturers and researchers. Its organizers aimed to connect unpaid reproductive work (e.g. motherhood) with paid reproductive work at the university (e.g. catering-workers). Dr. Vertommen highlighted the mediating role that labour unions played in accomplishing these tasks.
Dr. Maud Bracke (University of Glasgow) offered a historical perspective on the women’s strike. She recognized its rootedness in women in socialist movements. These movements demanded safety in the workplace, fair wages and, later on, equal wages, maternity leave, and civil and political rights. Their demonstrations related to the broader political landscape of their times – from Civil-War-Spain to the contemporary #NiUnaMenos.
Dr. Rahbari (University of Amsterdam) explored the justifications and mechanisms through which feminists at the UvA can organize a women’s strike. She welcomed the efforts of Dr. Vertommen, but recognized the differences between labour union cultures and the mechanisms through which racism operates in Belgium and The Netherlands. These divergences demand that students, care workers, and faculty members imagine alternative ways of striking that accommodate the situation at the UvA. Dr. Rahbari proposed a strike that addresses the accusations of sexual abuse, calls for social safety, intersectionality, and decolonization, and the disproportionate effect of covid-19 on care workers and racialized women. She explained that “if we want to make our university better, we… have to make it our responsibility.”