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Striking in the #MeToo Moment, with Cinzia Arruzza and Tithi Bhattacharya


The International Women’s Strike drew a lot of attention last year, but is coming this year in the midst of a full-on feminist moment. Women around the world have deployed the strike to call attention to their working and political conditions, and are coming together again this year on March 8, International Women’s Day, in a show of collective power. Cinzia Arruzza and Tithi Bhattacharya are two of the organizers of the strike, and they joined me to talk about why women strike and what it means when they do.

CA: The #MeToo moment has been a very important moment in the United States and also internationally because it has probably made apparent what a lot of women already knew, which is that sexual harassment and violence are part of the everyday life of the majority of women, either in the workplace or at home or in the streets. Clearly, gender violence does require a collective response. So, from this viewpoint, the Women’s Strike is not so much an alternative to #MeToo. It is rather one contribution or one attempt to try to give a collective response to the isolation that victimization produces.
The idea is that the step forward after #MeToo, after denouncing individually all the harassment and violence that we have suffered throughout our life, there must be, also, the moment of collective organizing and collective response. Otherwise, the structural conditions that enable this gender violence to continue are not challenged. One of the risks of the current attention on the issues of gender violence is that we will get rid of a few obnoxious harassers, some famous and some less famous, and this is all good, of course. I welcome this moment of catharsis, in a sense; but, this is not going to solve any problem.
In other words, the real problem is not individual nasty men. The real problems are the structural conditions that create the conditions and the impunity for gender violence and sexual violence. From this viewpoint and for the perspective of the strike, it is actually very important because clearly now we have learned in the past months to what extent women are harassed and abused as women in the workplace, but this clearly has to do with the way the workplace is organized and it has to do with labor relations, more generally. It has to do with the hierarchical nature of labor relations within the workplace, with the lack of power that the workers have.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.

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Dreaming beyond the DREAM Act, with Kristian Hernandez

The Democrats gave in after just a few days of government shutdown, setting the stage for Trump to propose an immigration “compromise” that will do real harm to many under the guise of “helping” DREAMers. Where does the immigrants rights movement go from here? Kristian Hernandez of North Texas Dream Team and DSA North Texas joins me to talk about compromises, criminalization, and strategies for an election year.

There is definitely a lot of powerlessness that comes from the Democrats, that they seem to being going off of this “Well, we don’t have a majority here.” There are just a lot of excuses for why they can’t advance in the realm of immigration. They tend to, also, come back to it, especially during times like the primaries and during election season. They have this notion that their base is assuaged by this centrist viewpoint on immigration, when really you are finding more and more people being maybe a lot more aware of the horrors that the immigration system is actually doing because people, especially during the Obama administration, may have gone with the damaging rhetoric of “felons not families” but not realizing that when you have an administration that has very effectively criminalized communities of color, you are deporting a lot more people than felons.
You are deporting people that are caught up in that collateral web and going forward from that, we know that the system works against our communities. Even going off of that really dangerous rhetoric of “Well, we are only deporting criminals” is really this false lie. It is throwing one group of immigrants under the bus for the sake of another when a lot of us who have that deeper understanding that they are making us criminals on paper by putting us into this system that punishes you if you are poor. It punishes you twice over and makes you a criminal. There are a lot of false guilty pleas and really just a whole very complex way that the criminal justice system is intertwined with immigration.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.

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Work requirements for Medicaid and other attempts to dismantle healthcare, with Rebecca Vallas


Children’s healthcare was a bargaining chip in the latest showdown in Congress, but with the government shutdown over for now, Republicans are planning more healthcare cuts. Much of this will happen on the state level, as the Trump administration has given states the green light to impose restrictions on Medicaid that include work requirements–the same kind of work requirements that helped destroy the program formerly known to most people as “welfare.” Rebecca Vallas of the Center for American Progress joins me to talk about the unending attacks on healthcare, why calling things “welfare reform” is wrong, and how to challenge the attacks on these popular safety net programs.

I think the first thing that we need to do is learn from 2017, where we actually saw Medicaid’s overwhelming popularity across party lines be what stopped Republicans from being able to unilaterally repeal the Affordable Care Act and dismantle our healthcare system. It was Medicaid that saved the ACA. I think the lesson to learn from that is, for starters, Medicaid and nutrition assistance and affordable housing and more, all these programs that help families stay afloat when they fall on hard times or when wages aren’t enough, they are incredibly popular programs.
Rather than talking in the Republican talking point terms about these programs being for “the poor” or sort of following their lead that this is about some other, we need to be talking about and thinking about these programs as for all of us when we need them when our wages aren’t enough, when we lose a job through no fault of our own, when we end up needing to care for a sick loved one or when we get sick ourselves. The more that people think and talk in “us” terms as opposed in pity or charity terms as though it is about some group of other people that they are protecting these programs for, the more that we will get to a place where not just Republicans in Congress—I should say just policy makers, generally–understand this, but also that the media starts to understand that these programs are there for all of us and these fights are ones that matter to the American people across the board.
I think that is incredibly important to hear and to think about because so often and for many, many years progressive folks who have been well-intentioned in talking about these issues have really done it in terms of “protecting the least among us” or “the most vulnerable,” all of which really reinforces that myth that somehow the poor are “them” rather than us.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.

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Self-determined governance and electoral justice, with Jessica Byrd and Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson

2018 is a midterm election year, and that means the news cycle and a lot of the political energy (and funding) will be running to electoral politics. But what does that mean for social movements, for the Movement for Black Lives? I talk with Jessica Byrd, cofounder of the Movement for Black Lives Electoral Justice Project, and Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson of Highlander Education and Research Center about what role elections play in movements for liberation, what barriers still exist to democracy in the U.S., and much more.

JB: This part of elections that I think we talk about the least is the real structural barriers in accessing democracy. Right now, our democracy is really an aspirational one versus one that we are actually finding the fruits of. What happens as we attempt to continue to access it more and more is that there are more barriers put in place for us to fully participate. When I say “us” I mean nearly everyone but white men who own land and have a college degree, etc. Those laws largely were passed as folks were gaining access to democracy and access to voting and elected leadership and finding ways to make their voices heard in our electoral system. Part of what the movement has to engage in, as well, is removing those barriers.
….
AWH: I think that what has become ever more real in the southern specific context is that even with the achievements of Black liberation movements before us, specifically around voting rights and civil rights, that we deserve more than what policy ever gave us. I think that the Movement for Black Lives is really pushing both in the Electoral Justice Project and through the Vision for Black Lives policy platform, calling for what we have always deserved and not just what we would concede to.
That looks like demanding even more protections for folks that are exercising their right to vote as one particular form of participation and building people’s democracy. It is not the only tactic, but it is definitely one that we don’t have the luxury to ignore, especially with working class Black people, especially in places that tend to be more disenfranchised, whether because you are a formerly or currently incarcerated person. Alabama, again, is another case study–people who have never been convicted of a crime that are literally not being allowed to vote. We saw folks fight and win protections for those folks and over 10,000 formerly and currently incarcerated people registered to vote in this last election.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.

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Permanent protections instead of temporary status, with Jaime Contreras


Trump has now revoked temporary protected status (TPS) for immigrants from four countries, the latest being El Salvador. Some 200,000 Salvadorans have come to the US fleeing civil war, earthquakes, and gang violence under this status, but now the administration demands they go home. SEIU 32BJ, the building service workers union, has 100,000 Salvadoran members, many of whom relied on TPS to work in the US. Jaime Contreras, a vice-president with the union and a Salvadoran immigrant himself, explains what the TPS policy has meant to people like his family and what the union is doing to protect its members and pressure Congress to fix the immigration system.

To me, this didn’t come as a surprise. We all heard the rhetoric during the campaign from this president. We knew it was coming. If there is one thing different between the Republicans and the Democrats it is Republicans say what they are going to do and they do it. Democrats, it is the ever-frustrating part where you say you are going to do something and then you do something opposite. Republicans at least stick to their guns and [Laughs] do what they said they were going to do. It is unfortunate. A lot of people were hoping it was only going to be rhetoric, but it is not a surprise.
You asked earlier “What are we going to do and how are we going to get ourselves organized?” SEIU and the rest of the labor movement, along with churches, community organizations, even the business community… The Chamber of Commerce is against eliminating TPS. Obviously, they weren’t heard. Now it is in the hands of Congress. Congress has to act and fix DACA, fix TPS, and allow these people to continue living in the United States as they have been. A lot of these people, like I said, they own homes, some of them are business owners, they have US-born children, they have roots here. They have roots here. You can’t uproot people who have been here for over two decades just like that. It is just not the American thing to do. So, we are going to be lobbying Congress and demanding they fix this problem once and for all for these people who really should be US citizens by now, if they were allowed the opportunity to do that.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.