Sunday, March 23, 2008

International Women's Day in Australia!

For three weeks in February and March, 2008, I toured Australia at the invitation of the Sydney Stop the War Coalition, to speak about the American labor movement’s involvement in the US anti-war movement through our organization, US Labor Against the War (USLAW). My appearances also helped build support for the demonstrations that were planned around the country to mark the 5th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq, and solicit suppor for Iraqi unions, their quest for labor rights and their opposition to the privatization of Iraqi oil. (I'll be writing about this more for CLUW and USLAW, if you are interested in hearing more.)

My sponsors also arranged for me to speak at the Sydney International Women’s Day action, which featured an opening rally at their City Hall, a spirited march of several thousand women through the streets of Sydney, and then a festival in Hyde Park. The festival featured kiosks for dozens of women’s organizations, featuring the same issues we work on at home, plus a fabulous huge tent full of memorabilia, books and exhibits about Australian women’s history. From an open stage we heard poetry, musical performances, speak-outs and more speakers. I spoke during this portion of the event to a diminished but still enthusiastic crowd. Following are my remarks on behalf of NOW and CLUW.

Kathy Black, Vice President for Finance
Philadelphia NOW

Remarks of Kathy Black
International Women’s Day Rally
Sydney, Australia
March 8, 2008

Greetings and solidarity, Sisters, from the American women’s movement, and from the women of the mighty American trade union movement. I am thrilled to be here today representing both the National Organization for Women, the largest women’s rights group in the U.S., and the Coalition of Labor Union Women, CLUW, the women’s movement within the union movement. CLUW’s mission is to lift women into power positions within their unions, to organize unorganized women, to advance working women’s issues within the union movement and in the broader political arena, and to promote Affirmative Action in the workplace. We are in the vanguard of the fight for pay equity, comprehensive reproductive and contraceptive rights, an end to domestic violence, healthcare for all, and broad political and economic empowerment for women.

My own city of Philadelphia is holding a mass action today as well, the first time in many years that large scale activities have been planned. No doubt we are inspired to be more visible this year because for the first time in our country’s history we have a viable woman candidate for President. Win or lose, whether we vote for her or for another candidate, Hillary Clinton has inspired millions of American women to believe that true equality is within our grasp!

But we are just as motivated by the need to fight back against the renewed attacks on the rights of women and racial minorities coming from America’s political right wing. As we heard toward national elections in November, the Republican Party’s dirty tricks team is already going full steam ahead. In many states, they are mounting ballot initiatives aimed at stripping away our reproductive freedom and canceling affirmative action programs which have helped millions of American women and people of color conquer entrenched discrimination, and rise into higher positions in the workplace, in academia and in political life.

Let me assure you that women in the U.S. will resist with every fiber of our beings, with every resource we have, any attempt to tamper with our hard won rights or to turn back the clock on women’s inevitable march toward full equality and complete control over our lives and our life choices. We are indeed still fired up and going strong, moving into the third wave of the international feminist movement!

In CLUW and NOW, we know that to achieve the progress for women we need, we must also work to end war – our current wars and all wars – and redirect the obscene amount of money spent on militarism to address the needs and provide the services required to support women, children and all members of society.

In fact, I am here in Australia on a speaking tour representing US Labor Against the War, the peace movement within the U.S. union movement, which calls for an end to the foreign military occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, solidarity with and support for all workers of the world, and redirection of our massive military spending to funding human needs at home and abroad. Not surprisingly, many women are in the leadership of this group, as they are always in the forefront of struggles which value universal humanity and peace over war. Women know a war economy hurts the poor and vulnerable most, and women and children are always disproportionately the innocent victims of war.

It has been a great thrill to march with you and stand with you today, as we raise and renew an international demand for full equality for all women, an end to all forms of discrimination, and peace and justice for all humankind. Thank you for having me!

Long live the international women’s movement!