The CSWS Symposium “Women’s Activism, Women’s Rights” brought together two scholars and two activists to a round-table discussion on women’s labor organizing issues from global and national perspectives. The symposium was held Monday, February 28, 2011. Dr. Vandana Shiva, the 2011 Wayne Morse Chair of Law and Politics, served as moderator. The panelists were:
- Michele Gamburd, Professor, Anthropology Department, Portland State University, “Sri Lankan Migrant Workers: Obstacles and Challenges to Activism”
- Eileen Otis, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Oregon, “From Masters to Servers: The Emergence and Struggles of China’s Feminized Service Workforce”
- Guadalupe Quinn, Immigrant Rights Advocacy Program Coordinator (Amigos), “Immigrant Women Workers In Oregon”
- Abby Solomon, Homecare Coordinator, Service Employees’ International Union (SEIU), “Women Healthcare Workers in Oregon”
In her closing remarks, Dr. Shiva mentioned that the encroachment of corporations into the lives of ordinary people diminished our ability to organize around labor rights. Dr Shiva said, “I am always surprised when I hear that something that is nice and shiny can cost a dollar. Do we ask ourselves how much the workers were paid for producing that particular object?”
As she noted, the more corporations expand their reach, the harder it becomes for working women to unionize and organize for collective bargaining. Market deregulation, corporate greed, and lack of safeguards for working people are the central features of the breakdown in unions and worker’s rights, whether it be in the United States or in China or in Sri Lanka. The key then is not to think of ourselves separated by national boundaries or by citizenship status, but to think of our labor as an intrinsic human right.
—Dr. Lamia Karim, CSWS Associate Director
A Lorwin Event
This symposium was part of the Center for the Study of Women in Society’s “Women’s Rights in a Global World,” the 2010-11 inaugural series of the Lorwin Lectureship on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. This yearlong series of lectures, symposia, workshops, and other events focuses on the continuing struggles for women’s rights and is intended to inspire new scholarship and activism on women’s rights. It grows out of CSWS’s historical mission: to generate research on women and gender and to disseminate that research to a broader feminist community. The Lorwin Lectureship on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties is funded by a gift from Val and Madge Lorwin to the University of Oregon College of Arts and Sciences and School of Law.