Fierce: Una visión de voces diferentes

Por casi dos semanas, un grupo de mujeres latinas de Arlandria, Virginia han estado organizando una organización nueva.  Recientemente esas mujeres decidieron formar una cooperativa de limpieza.  Sus antecedentes son diversos, de países diferentes de Latinoamérica.

¿Qué es una cooperativa, y porque esas mujeres quieren formarla?  Una cooperativa es un negocio, pero no solo.  Un negocio tradicional tiene una dueña con más poder de una trabajadora individua.  La dueña recibe la mayoría de la ganancia y las trabajadoras reciben mucho menos.

Sin embargo, en una cooperativa la situación es completamente diferente.  En una cooperativa, todas las trabajadoras son las dueñas del negocio.  Cada persona individua tiene la misma poder y recibe la misma ganancia.  Es un sistema democrático e igual.

Es importante que esas mujeres, esas trabajadoras, estén organizando una cooperativa de limpieza.  El sector de limpieza, como todo el sector del trabajo doméstico y trabajo de cuidar (incluyendo limpiar, cocinar, y cuidar de niños y ancianos) es trabajo duro y difícil.  El valor de este sector, en que la gran mayoría de la mano de obra son mujeres inmigrantes, es desvalorizado por varias razones—el patriarcalismo y el racismo son gran factores—y esta desvaluación es impuesto por el estado y su falta de leyes y regulaciones.  Trabajadoras domesticas individuas usualmente no reciben salarios o tratos justos en esta situación.  Estas normas son las normas globales en la época del neoliberalismo.

Las mujeres de Arlandria ya lo saben, y la cooperativa es una manera en que ellas pueden luchar esas injusticias.  Se dan la cuenta que juntas, en una estructura en que todas son iguales, con una visión de cinco puntos:

  • La cooperativa pagará salarios decentes a las trabajadoras.
  • Las trabajadoras trabajarán en condiciones justas.
  • La cooperativa proveerá horas flexibles a las trabajadoras.
  • La cooperativa no servirá solo las casas, sino también los negocios pequeños del área.
  • Las trabajadoras se apoyarán la una a la otra con cuidar de niños, con compensación correcta.
  • La cooperativa edificará solidaridad entre las trabajadoras y en toda la comunidad.

Sus visiones son más de visiones.  Son demandas, demandas por respeto, dignidad, y un modo de vida mejor, articulado por voces diferentes.

Porque una cooperativa no es solo un negocio; sino, es una comunidad, una comunidad diversa.  Las mujeres de Arlandria edifican su comunidad y su poder en esta manera, como mujeres, trabajadoras, y participantes en una democracia auténtica.

 

(Photo Credit: DCIntersections)

The women of Arlandria are organizing … and they vote

On December 17, 2011, the Alexandria City Council overwhelmingly voted to ignore low- to moderate-income residents of the Arlandria neighborhood who came to City Council to oppose a so-called redevelopment plan. Most of the residents who came and spoke were Latinas. Some were high school or college students. Some were young women workers. Some were women elders, who have lived in the neighborhood for decades. Many were members of the Tenants and Workers United, others small business owners, and some simply neighbors and friends.

Women who had grown up in the neighborhood, joined youth groups and women’s leadership groups and now attend college. Women from outside women’s leadership groups who had moved to the neighborhood because of its diversity and promise. To a person, they described their fears and aspirations, and a planning process that actively excluded them. To a person, they were ignored.

Each woman looked the Council members in the eyes and asked, or pleaded, or demanded that they slow down the process, that they listen, really listen, to what was being said. Each woman explained that she has had a critical role in building and sustaining the vibrant community of Arlandria. Each woman was ignored.

The women argued that the plans for upscale development [a] are a lousy deal, [b] threaten the fabric of the community, and [c] were devised without any real consultation.

Here’s the plan: turn a low-lying strip mall into two massive six-story buildings that will include 478 residential units. If the buildings are too high, as they are by city standards, throw in 28 `affordable’ housing units … out of 478, and get a waiver. This `affordable’ is designed for those earning around $50,000 a year. Basically, no one currently living in Arlandria earns that. So, no one currently living in Arlandria will qualify.

Then, claim that 450 upscale units in a tight neighborhood will have no impact on the rest of the housing market in the neighborhood. Nearby landlords will not raise their rents. No one will be dislocated. There is no need to worry about gentrification.

When the actual neighbors look at you in disbelief, tell them that they’re getting 28 new units that weren’t there before. Those units will go to someone else, but that’s not `our’ problem.

If anything else comes up, such as questions of traffic and parking, questions of public lands and recreational centers, respond with assurances and vague promises that everything will turn out fine when the time comes.

That was the plan and that was the argument presented to the residents of Arlandria by the Alexandria City Council and its staff.

The Council altogether ignored the fabric of the community. For almost thirty years, the Arlandria community has struggled to create a decent place for working people across generations; for Central and South American, African and Asian immigrants and their children, many of them US citizens; a decent place for all low income people; a decent place for all people. The Council refused to recognize that labor of dignity. Sometimes, decades of creating a community fabric must be tossed onto the trash heap of history… in exchange for 28 `affordable’ units.

The City Council did respond, at length, to the claims of lack of inclusion. They insisted that they had tried to `include’ the residents, but the residents had proven themselves to be difficult. The City Council, with one exception, Alicia Hughes, then began to express resentment at the exclusion claims and its claimants.

What’s going on here? The City Council outsourced inclusion, and democracy, to its staff. The staff reported that they were doing the very best job possible. Who monitors the staff? The staff monitors itself. When over forty people came to the City Council to say that the staff had not included them and never had a real consultative process, and that the so-called advisory groups were mostly developers and landlords, what did the City Council do? It turned to the staff, and the staff said, “We tried.”

And nobody on the City Council asked, “Why then do all these people say you have created a culture of exclusion?”

What happened in Alexandria happens everywhere. The State outsources inclusion, under the mask of liberal democracy, and then, when those who have been excluded protest, the State resents their presence, their voices, and their claims.

Meanwhile, in Arlandria, as everywhere, the women are organizing. And, as one Latina college student said, they vote.

 

(Photo Credit: WAMU.org/Emily Friedman)