Millions of women around the world participated in events for International Women’s Day (IWD) on March the 8th. The most militant action was in the growth of the ‘Women’s Strike’, with 5.3 million people on strike in Spain. In Britain, the interest in the tactics of the strike on IWD is relatively new, yet still 7,000 women pledged to strike. In addition, links were made to grass roots unions such as the Cleaners and Allied Independent Workers Union (CAIUW) with support for their pickets for a Living Wage. Sex workers also co-ordinated their own actions for decriminalisation and trans women held an action over the problems of access to NHS services.
The organisers in Britain made it clear that the strike should focus on demands for working class women, including those who often face the most exploitation and discrimination, like migrants, sex workers, trans women. It is not just a strike about traditional work but also about ‘invisible labour’, such as care, domestic and emotional labour, and against male violence. The historical origins of the day make it clear that the purpose is not to have more women politicians or company directors (see box). Instead it is focused on the majority of women who are at the bottom of the pile, both in the workplace and in the home. According to one organiser of the Women’s Strike in Britain: “We are instead taking action – action against our exploitation under capitalism, where the domestic and emotional work we do for little or no pay is made invisible, while austerity measures force us into a more and more vulnerable position. This is feminism for the 99%”.
It was in Spain, however, that the strike was the most successful. This was partially because of the support it got from the mainstream unions. However, it is clear that they were forced into support as a result of the massive upsurge from the grass roots organisations. According to one source (thefreeonline.wordpress.com): “