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Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Women and Solidarity … United, We Must Stand! by NY Brit Expat

2:33 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

I have recently been thinking a lot about building a feminist movement irrespective of our differences of analysis and experiences of oppression and exploitation. As I often do when looking for assistance, I turned to those that have experience and a wealth of information hoping to learn from them. This time, I turned to Bell Hooks (Feminist Theory: from Margin to Center), for inspiration and she provided so many brilliant insights, that I am going to reference some of her many ideas throughout this piece.
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Feminism is often defined as a movement and an analysis that maintains that women must have equality in the economic, social, cultural and political spheres. It has never really been a singular movement; it is more correctly defined as a collection of movements trying to achieve the aims of equality for women in various spheres. The need for this movement derives from the clear inequality that women face on a daily level whether in the home, at work, in ability to access things from the most basic fundamental right of controlling one’s own body to accessing the same work at the same pay as men, from equal and shared responsibility for household labour and raising children to accessing the political sphere on an equal level to men.

That however only addresses part of the issue, as inequality with men in political, social, economic and cultural sphere is only part of the problem. If we are looking for a definition of feminism, I would actually go for a broader definition; we need a movement that addresses women’s oppression. In order to address that, it is not merely inequality that is the problem that feminists must address; rather it is the nature itself of women’s oppression and how to eradicate that oppression.
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While there are certainly disagreements among feminists on their understanding of the causes of women’s oppression and how to address it, there is no question that we agree on the fundamental idea that in a world rife with inequality, women still face oppressions that are specific to their sex and/or gender. The understanding of women’s oppression is further complicated by the fact that women’s oppression affects women differently due to different class backgrounds, their different experiences of racism, access to wealth and political power. The aims of the different strands of the movement and their understanding of women’s oppression reflect those differences.
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On some issues, clearly we can agree and fight together to obtain reforms. On others, our different histories, classes and experiences produce different needs and hence require different solutions and coming together cannot happen.

Finding commonality to build a broad movement

“Women’s legacy of women-hating, which includes fierce, brutal, verbal tearing apart of one another, has to be eliminated if women are to make critiques and engage in disagreement and arguments that are constructive and caring, with the intention of enriching rather than diminishing. Women-to-women negative, aggressive behavior is not unlearned when all critical judgment is suspended. It is unlearned when women accept that we are different, that we will necessarily disagree, but that we can disagree and argue with one another without acting as if we are fighting for our lives, without feeling that we stand to lose all self-esteem by verbally trashing someone else. Verbal disagreements are often the setting where women can demonstrate their engagement with the win-or-lose competitiveness that is most often associated with male interaction, especially in the arena of sports. Women, like men, must learn how to dialogue with one another without competition. [...] (Hooks, p. 65)”

There have always been differences in the movement; that has always been the case from the beginnings: liberal feminists and socialist feminists disagreed about what the problems were and how to eliminate them. Radical feminists disagreed with liberal feminists and socialist feminists on how to understand and address our oppression.
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One problem that I would say exists in the movement is the way we disagree with each other; disagreement does not necessary mean total rejection, it means that we disagree due to different analyses, different histories and experiences and different solutions to an issue. Given disagreements, how can we build a movement on which we can unite on issues and points of struggle?

For an example, a few years ago, Geminijen and I were attempting to put together a series of women’s dialogues here on dkos. In the context of a discussion on comparative worth, recognising that there are still segregated labour markets for women, I advocated an argument that came from feminist discussions in the 1970s; I argued that equal pay for equal work was insufficient due to segregated labour markets and argued that equal pay for comparable work should still be a slogan. Essentially this argument says that the labour that women do in different (and lower paying jobs) but using the same skills as men should be paid equally. I was told I was trying to prioritise women’s labour and got called a hairy second waver. Quite honestly, while I do not consider that an insult; it was meant as such. Rather than attack the fact of segregated labour markets, I faced what that person considered to be an insult (and what I saw as an ad hominem attack. This is not political debate, this is not a coherent way to disagree and when I faced further attack (the person mistook me for a radical feminist), the discussion degenerated further on somehow ended up with a discussion of my supposed hostility to pornography; while I dislike the objectification of women, I was never a campaigner on this issue (and I would never crawl into bed with right-wing Christians to oppose it). The hostility and negative form of discussion led to our abandonment of the project. We were frankly baffled.

We need also to be aware of how we are explaining things and those words we are choosing to express ourselves. Many women have been fighting for a long time and we are arguing positions that we think we have worked out over time. However, we may be out of touch with the perceived needs of younger women who grew up at a different time and have different perceptions about their own oppression and the oppression of women. Some women working in the movement or that have been at the forefront of struggles in the 1970s hold controversial positions on some issues; we need to think whether these issues make unity impossible, whether we undertake discussion, or rather to find some issues that we can unite on. This is hard and there will be pain that people are not responding positively to what we are arguing (or have been arguing for a while), but the most important issue for me is how to build unity towards rebuilding a movement in a period of time when women are facing constant attack. What is the best way to do that?
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An essential point to understand is that every woman has endured a lot in this rather grotesque patriarchal capitalist world; that is the nature of what we as women have to live with. All voices are important as they come from different histories and experiences; we may not like what those voices are saying, they may seem more or less poignant, we may not be able to understand their oppression, but that does not mean it is any less.

There cannot be an hierarchy of oppression, as oppression weighs on all of us. Some women not only have the experience of oppression as a woman; there is the additional oppression of race, there is the additional exploitation of class, there are those that face oppression due to their sexual preferences in a patriarchal society, there are those that face social exclusion due to physical or mental impairment in a society in which ablism is predominant. These oppressions and exploitation combine in a manner than is more than simply summation: it is qualitative, creating a tapestry of oppression and exploitation which differs substantially from that of wealthy white women due to differing needs, experiences, and the impact of cultural and social history. A movement cannot be led from above by the privileged if it is to actually address the needs and interests of those facing multiple oppressions and exploitation. Quite simply, our needs differ, our histories differ, and our everyday lives and options differ. This must be a movement whose centre contains those who face multiple oppressions so that their interests, voices and needs are heard and are at the centre of the movement.
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Addressing Oppression

“Women need to come together in situations where there will be ideological disagreement and work to change that interaction so communication occurs. This means that when women come together, rather than pretend union, we would acknowledge that we are divided and must develop strategies to overcome fears, prejudices, resentments, competitiveness, etc. [...]

While no woman wants to enter a situation in which she will be psychologically annihilated, women can face one another in hostile confrontation and struggle and move beyond the hostility to understanding. Expression of hostility as an end in itself is a useless activity, but when it is the catalyst pushing us on to greater clarify and understanding, it serves a meaningful function.

Women need to have the experience of working through hostility to arrive at understanding and solidarity, if only to free ourselves from the sexist socialization that tells us to avoid confrontation because we will be victimized or destroyed. [...] If women always seek to avoid confrontation, to always be “safe,” we may never experience any revolutionary change, any transformation, individually or collectively (Hooks, 2000, pp. 65-66).”

If the nature of women’s oppression is simply inequality in accessing political, social and economic rights in a specific context, simple reforms will be able to alter things for the better. Will that solve the problem of women’s oppression? That depends on what you believe the causes of women’s oppression are.
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However, the issue of whether the problems that women experience derive from more than the inability to accessing political, social and economic equality but are conditioned by other things, such as race and class adds additional dimensions to the question. In order to understand this, we need to understand the role that racism plays in colonialism, imperialism or neo-colonialism and what role racism serves in this process and whose interests does racism serve.

In terms of class, clearly those whose role is solely to ensure the continuation of control over property have different wants and needs than those who also have to work in order to bring income into the home as well as to ensure the social reproduction of their class.
Women with physical and mental impairments face specific problems just accessing simple things that most of us take for granted (e.g., housing, transport), in addition they are invariably paid lower than any other group of women. They have the issue of living an independent and fulfilling life in the context of living in societies where those with impairments are deemed imperfect, unworthy, and literally second rate. Women with impairments have faced sterilisation abuse long after it has been effectively eliminated for their sisters that are not impaired physically and mentally.
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If we go back to the first struggles around women’s suffrage, equal access to property, and equal rights (they still have not passed an equal rights amendment in the US btw), we can see differences among women from the beginning. An early struggle for women’s suffrage in Britain was led by working class women in the Chartist movement after it became rather clear that the 1832 Reform Act was not going to benefit the working classes. Women’s Chartist groups existed and advanced a call for universal suffrage. This was not accepted by most working class men of the time, of course; the argument of everything in its time and place is an old one and we always come in last.
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The struggle for women’s suffrage in the US split upper class white women from women of colour and led to a split in the liberal feminist movement; with some women arguing along class lines, saying that poor and uneducated men and black men had the right to vote before they did, they being women of education and property (see National Women’s Suffrage Association led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B Anthony).

Instead of arguing for accessing the vote for all irrespective of education and property ownership (which was the position fought for others fighting for suffrage, see the American Women’s Suffrage Association led by Lucy Stone and Julia Ward Howe), they concentrated on their own needs. Many women activists of the hard left argued for supporting the extension of suffrage as part of the completion of bourgeois democratic processes; but they never believed that the vote in and of itself would create full equality for women in the context of capitalism (this was the case for Clara Zetkin, Alexandra Kollantai and Rosa Luxemburg) . Some women of the hard left, like Mother Jones, never supported the extension of suffrage as she didn’t believe that equality for the working class could be found in the ballot box.
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Moreover, when working class women struggled to form trade unions to fight for better wages and working conditions that did not apply to upper class women in the least; they did not have to work and if these struggles were successful they would threaten upper class women’s interests as their wealth, power and prestige was tied to their husbands; they wanted equality, not to lose access to that which gave them power. In The Social Basis of the Women’s Question, Alexandra Kollantai speaks of feminists in Russia trying to organise women servants and domestic labourers to help struggle for the extension of suffrage, who then saw these workers trying to get better working conditions and wages against their employers (their selves). So, while the issue of getting suffrage was important, there were things that were of immediate concerns to women workers which brought them into conflict with women from other classes.

Socialist feminism and social reproduction theory

From its beginnings, the struggle for women’s rights already faced significant differences as to how to understand women’s oppression and how to eliminate it. Could reforms in the context of the capitalist system eliminate women’s oppression or simply address inequality that does not threaten the system? Is women’s oppression due to the control of men over the societies in which we lived as it seems to exist over economic and political systems? Or does the ideology of male domination alter over time and change to fit the political and economic systems in which we live?

How can we eliminate this oppression if is there something more than simply that ideology that is responsible? If the nature of women’s oppression alters with different political and economic systems what can we do to eliminate it completely, do we need to eliminate that which underlies our oppression? The issue comes from where inequality derives, is it a left-over from older periods or is it part and parcel of societies based around class and hence property ownership? Certainly, as part of a democratic reform movement, the worst inequalities between men and women could be addressed, but would that eliminate women’s specific oppression?

I would argue no, women’s oppression requires more than simple reform; but I am a socialist feminist. For socialist feminists, women’s oppression is caused by the existence of property relations and that as long as private property (in the sense of private ownership of capital and land) exists, women would never be equal. However, the types of inequality that women face are not ones that all women bear equally and in the same way.
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Moreover, depending on the nature of the societies in which we live, the way in which things are produced and distributed, it means that women’s oppression differs in different societies and that depends on how those societies and economic systems reproduce themselves.

For socialist feminists, women’s oppression under capitalism is two-fold. On the one hand, like all members of the working class, women are exploited under the capitalist economic system. They are exploited as what they receive as wages differs from the value of what they produce as workers. A portion of the goods and services they produce is taken by employers. On the other hand, women face an additional oppression and that relates to the process of social reproduction. Women not only produce the next generation of workers, they are also responsible for socialisation and raising their children, they are responsible for maintaining home and household and they are responsible for the care of the infirm and elderly members of the family that are unable to work in the labour market. Moreover, their labour in the home is unpaid; they do it with no recompense.

Throughout human history, in different societies, with the existence of private property, women’s roles in society were determined by their class. The role of women of the upper classes in physically producing the next generation of the ruling class was predominant; this also meant controlling their reproduction and limiting their unfettered access to the real world (think of foot-binding in China, purdah in Islamic areas, and the seclusion of royal women) to avoid children born on the wrong side of the sheet for example. Their wealth, inherited from their fathers (or their husband if they survived them) was part of dowries that added to the power and prestige of their husbands and not under their control. They may have controlled the running of the households they lived in, they may have even controlled spending, but political and economic power derived from the power of their husbands and families.

On the other hand, non-propertied women (the vast majority) worked and created the next generation of those to labour in the field, factories, etc. In the US south before the civil war, black female slaves worked the fields next to men; there was no gender segregation for field slaves. The labour of women was part of the labour of the extended family, we may have had different tasks, but it was not less essential (and it is still essential). In some countries, (not in all), peasant women worked the fields alongside their husbands. Moreover, they also produced subsistence goods for home consumption; they produced clothing, bedding, and food and also raised the children, and took care of the family and the elderly. Their labour was not seen as lesser or not important.
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If you think about how an economic system reproduces itself; it is not only the capital goods as inputs that need to be replaced; it is the labour that is used in production which must also be reproduced as well. That labour itself needs to be physically reproduced, it needs to be fed, clothed, and have housing; it also needs to be educated, trained and able to participate in its role as workers when old enough to join the work force. In capitalism, if we consider the reproduction of labour; for the individual capitalist this may be seen as a cost to himself, but for the system as a whole, it is essential for ensuring the continuation of the system.
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The fact that women do work in the labour market for wages (and they have always done so in the capitalist economic system), but are still overwhelmingly responsible for social reproduction at home has impacted women seriously and we can still see this today.

Why should capitalists pay for labour that is provided for free at home? Given the need for women’s labour for the capitalist system, it means that some provision for coverage of child care is needed. However, that was not seen as extremely profitable compared to other sectors and areas where profits could be had, e.g., in industry and manufacturing. So, since women’s labour was needed, coverage for the sick, coverage for the elderly (beyond pensions) and childcare began to be provided by the state. However, a generalised socialised form of this labour was never done; the state sector and the social welfare state never provided complete coverage and this means that women still face a two-fold exploitation and oppression.

Building Solidarity

“When women actively struggle in a truly supportive way to understand our differences, to change misguided, distorted perspectives, we lay the foundation for the experience of political solidarity. Solidarity is not the same as support. To experience solidarity, we must have a community of interests, shared beliefs, and goals around which to unite, to build Sisterhood. Support can be occasional. It can be given and just as easily withdrawn. Solidarity requires sustained, ongoing commitment. In feminist movement, there is need for diversity, disagreement, and difference if we are to grow. [...]
Women do not need to eradicate difference to feel solidarity. We do not need to share common oppression to fight equally to end oppression. We do not need anti-male sentiments to bond us together, so great is the wealth of experience, culture and ideas we have to share with one another. We can be sisters united by shared interests and beliefs, united in our appreciation for diversity, united in our struggle to end sexist oppression, united in political solidarity (Bell Hooks, 2000, p. 67).”

I have argued that women’s oppression cannot be eliminated until we eliminate private property. But does that mean that we do not struggle now to address what inequalities we can? Certainly not!
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But what do we need to do this? Just because we have not faced racism, does that mean we cannot offer solidarity to those that suffer from it? Just because our children are not being murdered by an occupying military (domestic or external), does that mean that we cannot offer solidarity to those whose children are being murdered and that are suffering? Just because your children have food in their bellies and nice clothes, does that mean that you cannot offer solidarity to those women whose children do not? Solidarity is more than support; it is horizontal, not vertical and is based upon recognition of difference and respect.
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Some of our oppression, specifically economic, political and social inequality, must certainly be addressed now. We also must struggle against the patriarchal ideology that dominates our lives and keeps us constrained, oppressed, objectified, unequal and dependent. Basic human rights, such as control over our reproduction and our bodies must certainly be addressed now and this has to benefit all women, irrespective of their ability to pay, and thus safely access health care and medicine for free. We cannot wait for the revolution for women to have control over their reproduction. We cannot wait for the revolution for women for assistance in social reproduction responsibilities to allow for a deeper and more fulfilling life, we cannot wait for the revolution to actually earn the same pay for the same job or a job which is comparable. We cannot wait for the revolution to worry about where our children are whilst we are working and whether their lives are in danger or what they will come to in a racist society.
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Moreover, if we do wait for the revolution (out of fears of splitting the class, yes, I swear that some members of the left argue this), there will not have been a challenge to patriarchy and that means that people raised and steeped in a patriarchal culture where women’s oppression is part and parcel of the situation and have not challenged it, will now be creating the future which we all have fought so hard. Maybe it is me, but we cannot be so naïve to think that suddenly people indoctrinated in a patriarchal culture will just simply be able to step out of it. We need to stand together and fight (with our male allies), educate ourselves and each other.

That means that we need to find a way to actually work together, recognising our differences and listening and actually taking on board those different histories and experiences that we have and try to find a commonality of oppression that we share. On those things which we can unite, we must unite as we are facing an attack of such proportions that everything we have fought for and won, can be eroded. From this we can actually build a better future for all.
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Bell Hooks (2000) Feminist Theory: from Margin to Center, second edition, Pluto Press: London

Alexandra Kollantai (1909) The Social Basis of the Women’s Question, in Alexandra Kollantai, Selected Writings (1977), W. W. Norton and Company: NY

By the way, go see Pride … I included an original picture of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners in the piece. By all accounts, it will make you laugh and cry and feel wonderful at the same time.

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: IWD in Cardiff, Wales – a talk on Austerity and Women by NY Brit Expat

2:44 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

This year, I was invited to speak at an international women’s day event by the sisters of the Cardiff Feminist Network as part of a series of actions which included a Take Back the Night march, a pro-choice rally and then an event in a park in which there was poetry and various speakers addressing a number of topics including feminism, violence against women, the oppression of Palestinian women, and my talk on the impact of austerity on women in Britain. There was food, a wonderful audience of committed feminists taking place in a public park where in effect since there was no license or permission, the group had taken use of public land to have a celebration of International Women’s Day. My talk was kindly taped by a friend and comrade, Nick Hughes, who then posted it on facebook and on then youtube.

The talk was long, not because it was planned that way; but one person who was supposed to speak was late and the food was not ready to be served. So, since I carry around so much information with me when I am planning to speak, I was able to talk for almost a half hour.

So today’s anti-capitalist meetup will actually be like a meetup. That is, we will have a speaker (me), my talk (minus the spontaneous bad jokes and righteous anger) will be here to read. Then we can actually have a discussion on the topic, since the speaker is right here. This was supposed to go up on the 16th of March, but was preempted by the deaths of Bob Crow and Tony Benn which needed to be commemorated. The issues addressed in my piece, unfortunately, are still extremely relevant.

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To set the stage, here is the stage. Behind me is the Cardiff National Museum, the event took place in Gorsedd Gardens which lies to the left of the main lawn in front of the City Hall.

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Since the Conservative-Liberal Democratic coalition came into power in Britain, there has been a vicious attack on both the public sector and the social welfare state that is being justified as a response to the “high deficit.”

Austerity is being introduced for two interrelated reasons.

1) First, the low profitability and resulting stagnation following the economic crisis of 2008 has led employers to squeeze wage incomes in order to keep profits up. This is part of a long-term strategy to undermine workers’ incomes and working conditions in the face of continuing profitability problems outside of the financial sector that led to the shift of industry and manufacturing to emerging and peripheral economies;

2) Second, in the long-term, there is a move toward the privatisation of what are seen as potentially profitable parts of the public sector. This is not only being done to open up new areas of profitability for capital; it is also to undermine the last bastion of unionisation in the advanced capitalist world.

Privatization of these services means their being subject to profitability criteria so that in the future they will only be available only to those who can pay. This will affect both the supply of services to the working class and poor, as well as their demand to access them. Given generally lower incomes, services formerly obtained for free will not be demanded any more once they are privatised and thus may not be as profitable as anticipated. In the case of childcare and caring for the sick and elderly, this work will inevitably fall on working class women as part of caring for extended families for which they are still predominately responsible.

The impact of austerity in Britain, both in terms of the assault on the state sector and the attack on the social welfare state, has clearly substantially affected the working class. An ideological offensive based on the distinction between “the deserving and the undeserving poor” has been used as a stick to beat the unemployed in Britain, especially people with disabilities. Insistence that unemployment is voluntary is then linked to a criterion of less(er) eligibility whereby those getting benefits must receive lower incomes than those working to “incentivise people into work.” With general incomes falling, the logic of the argument is that government social welfare benefits must fall as well.

The direct ideological assaults against women as “undeserving” have been limited to the “welfare mother” arguments (e.g., having children to receive housing and child benefits). Only rarely has it been suggested that women are to blame for male unemployment. Generally, the depredations of women are more subtle and tied into women’s traditional roles in the labour market and in the process of social reproduction.

There are several reasons why austerity affects women so strongly:

1) Job losses in the public sector where women’s labour is predominant. 65% of public sector workers are women and almost a quarter of working women are in public sector jobs in Britain. Of the 6,798,000 people who viewed themselves as public sector workers in the second quarter of 2012, 4,439,000 were women and 2,359,000 were men.
It has been recently estimated by Jerome de Henau of the Women’s Budget Group that between the periods of March 2010 – December 2013, job loss in the public sector was at the ratio of 60:40 for men to women. This was not due to selective firing, rather it was due to which parts of the public sector were cut back.

However, men also accounted for 60% of total employment increase over the same period; Women’s unemployment increased by 5% while men’s decreased by 15%. Both have decreased since Dec 2011 but it has been faster for men (14% vs 9%) But both are still 50% higher than pre-crisis levels (41% for men). Although male unemployment is higher (incl. long-term) women are catching up. Share of long term unemployment shot up by 46% for women aged 18-24 (17% for men) and by 28% for women aged 50+ (18% for men), while the latter has decreased since 2011, it kept increasing for women;

2) Second, is the fact that women are more dependent on the social welfare state to top up their incomes;

3) And, third, the British state has historically failed to provide completely for social reproduction, especially in childcare and care for the sick and infirm, disabled people and the elderly.

With incomes falling in the advanced capitalist world as part of the general economic policy since the late 1970s, women face greater threats than men. Women receive lower incomes, lower pensions (due to historically lower incomes), and face the increasing reluctance of the state to support women in the workplace through the provision of childcare and after-school programs or by shouldering caregiver responsibilities for the elderly and disabled people. As the general pattern of work tends more towards increasing underemployment and part-time labour, we are already facing competition from men for part-time jobs we have traditionally held while at the same time benefits decline.

Women face increasing economic insecurity without sufficient state assistance to ensure that our children and families have a decent standard of living provided by our employment. No longer able to depend upon the fact that our low-paid labour is of sufficient value to capitalists, as men also face increasing precariousness in their employment, and in the absence of a strong labour movement and of left-wing movements, men will soon be playing the same role as women, that of an easily intimidated, and therefore, underpaid workforce.

Women’s Labour Market

Women have always worked under capitalism, but our working lives are affected by the primacy of our role in social reproduction. Women’s job choices are also constrained by segregated labour markets and they are trapped in jobs undervalued in the capitalist economic system. This is compounded by the discontinuity of our working lives due to social reproduction responsibilities — childbirth and nursing, child raising, domestic chores, care for the elderly — so that even if we get on an unsegregated job ladder, advancement is difficult due to time taken off to perform carer responsibilities.

While traditional women’s labour is necessary to the society to the society as a whole, its remuneration (that is, our wages) is low in the capitalist economic system as the work is seen as unskilled or low-skilled especially as it relates to social reproduction. This is probably because so much of it is still provided as unpaid labour in the home. Even tasks requiring professional skills, such as nursing and teaching are undervalued as “women’s work.”

Britain’s modern public sector developed after the Second World War and was largely staffed and to a great extent built upon the labour of women workers and immigrants from the British Empire’s former colonies who were overwhelmingly people of colour. The socialization of some traditional women’s work (e.g., education, nursing, social work, caring, cleaning) led to higher representation of female than male workers in the public sector. Women additionally found employment in administration and clerical work in both public and private sectors. The privatisation of potentially more profitable parts of the public sector will have an enormous impact on women as workers due to the wage gap between public and private sector. That is, women’s wages in the public sector from supervisory to unskilled labour are higher due to unionisation and collective bargaining possibilities.

Following the crash of 2008, men initially experienced more layoffs and had higher unemployment rates due to the decline in construction, manufacturing, and finance. Since the introduction of austerity, it is women that have been facing rising unemployment. Part of this is due to cuts in jobs, part of it is due to cuts in child-care benefits which force women out of the work-force as they cannot get the hours and cannot afford child-care and partly it is due to rising male participation in the part-time job sector.

Women’s labour is heavily based in part-time work which is lower-paid due to fewer hours, (even if the wages are equal to those of full-timers). In some cases, women voluntarily decide to work part-time so that they can care for their families, often preferring the flexibility that it allows them. What is happening is that women are unable to work full-time because of a lack of child-care and other caregiver services. We also see women relegated to the part-time sector due to the decrease in full-time employment possibilities, that is, they face a situation of involuntary underemployment (see:, page 3).

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From 2002-2011, we can see that the disproportionality of women working part-time has been consistent. There are some increases in men working part-time especially following the crisis in 2008, but not displacing women’s predominance in part-time work. So, in 2002, only 10% of men (1,493,000) that were working worked part-time (full-time, 13,604,000). This has risen to 13% (2,074,000) compared to 13,565,000 men working full time in 2012. In comparison, in 2002: 56% of women workers worked full-time (7,203,000) while 44% (5,620,000) worked part-time. In 2012, 7,668,000 women worked full-time (57%) while 43% (5,865,000) worked part-time. Of the total part-time workers in 2012: 73.9% were women.

David Cameron’s Conservative Party government has not created full-time jobs with good wages and decent working conditions. The vast amount of “increased employment” has been in low-paid jobs in retail, jobs that are often temporary and part-time. The International Labor Organization (ILO) definition of employment where to be considered as employed meant that you were in paid employment or self-employment either for one week or one day — it seems as though unemployment is falling (because more work temporarily or are in part-time jobs or have zero hours contracts); but that does not mean that the jobs that are being created are jobs that can keep people out of poverty.

According to the Jerome de Henau of the women’s budget group, if we examining changes in conditions of employment (2010-2013) we find:

• “Self-employment increased faster for women than men (16% vs 9%); women now account for 31% of self-employed, compared to 27% in 2008. (50% of women and 21% of men among them are part-time)
• Men took up many more part-time jobs than women but women’s share of part-time employment is still very high at 74%
• Same for involuntary PT employment (which has more than doubled since 2008 for men and doubled for women but women still 56% of all involuntary part-timers)
• Temporary employment also increased by about 10% for both men and women (with women’s share of temporary employment at 52%). ”

There has been a significant and deliberate destruction of wages, incomes, and conditions of work to maintain profitability of the private sector. The result has been an increase in the working poor who have suffered benefit cuts, though their incomes have not risen. Insultingly, Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary for Work and Pensions, recently blamed the working poor for not earning enough and threatened to cut their benefits even further; as though they set their wage levels and choose to not earn a decent income.

Patterns of underemployment show that it is those working part-time who are most affected. Rising underemployment, more precarious jobs, and zero-hours contracts – contracts with no guaranteed hours where workers are on-call waiting to hear from their erstwhile employers whether they are needed that day – are the result of policies in which the rights of working people, job conditions and wages have been undermined.

The impact of women’s responsibility for social reproduction is evident looking at economic inactivity in January-March 2013. Out of a total of 9,003,000 people who are economically inactive, 2,282,000 people cite household and caring responsibilities as the reason for economic inactivity (25%), 220,000 of them are men, while 2,063,000 are women (90%). Of the 2,299,000 of the “economically inactive” that want to work, 630,000 (27%) say that they are looking after home and family, of those 76,000 are men as compared to 556,000 women (88% are women).

Impact of Cuts to Pensions and Benefits

A) Pensions

In the June 2010 Budget, the Government switched from using the Retail Price Index (RPI) to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to calculate increases in benefits and state pensions (including public sector worker’s pensions). According to the government’s own estimates, this move resulted in savings of £1.2 billion in 2011/12 and this will increase each year to £5.8 billion by 2014/15.The primary differences between the RPI and the CPI is that the former includes housing costs such as mortgage repayments and council tax and is an arithmetic mean, the latter is geometric and will always be lower; this means that increases in benefits and pensions will certainly be at a lower level as the CPI is lower than the RPI. This re-pegging of benefits accounted for the largest cut in government expenditure with real inflation climbing by 25% rather than the 17% increase judged by the CPI.

Increases in retirement age for women are being gradually phased in. Instead of being able to retire earlier than men, their retirement age is being increased from 60 to 66 by 2020. Combined with pay freezes, increased contribution to pension schemes, and the re-pegging of pensions (and for that matter, state welfare benefit increases) to the CPI, this means that public sector workers are working longer and harder, due to job cutbacks, for less pay, and for a pension that is actually going to be worth less.
Women live longer than men and have lower incomes (both in terms of pay for the same jobs and the fact that “women’s work” pays less). Consequently, their pension contributions and hence their pensions will be lower. Women who can retire will be living longer on lower pensions. Married women may get their husband’s higher pensions upon their deaths, but that does nothing for single women or single mothers. This means that more women will be living longer in poverty.

B) Dependence upon the social welfare state

Given their predominance in part-time and temporary labour and their lower incomes than those in full-time work, the destruction of the universal social welfare system has far greater impact on women who are inevitably more dependent upon social welfare benefits to cover living expenses. Single parent households are predominately female (92%) and they are feeling the impacts of the cuts far harder.

According to the Fawcett Society

“Single mothers will be hardest hit by the government’s programme of benefit cuts and tax rises. It estimates they will lose an average 8.5% of their income after tax by 2015. The gender equality charity said this compared with 7.5% for single fathers, 6.5% for couples with children and 2.5% for couples without children.”

Moreover, the government has been floating the idea, this absurd Malthusian idea, of limits to those on benefits who have more than two children, meaning that those with three or more children will obtain lower levels of benefits.

According to the BBC,

“Of the 7.8 million families receiving child benefit, 1.2 million have more than two children. Of the 5.2 million families receiving child tax credits, about 926,000 of them have more than two children (”

According to the Fawcett Society, a British non-governmental organization that women’s equality and rights at home, at work and in public life:

“[…], on average, one-fifth of women’s income is made up of welfare payments and tax credits compared to one-tenth for men. Put another way, benefits make up twice as much of women’s income than men’s (”

The government’s cap on benefits at £500 (US$810) per week for households composed of couples and lone parent households (for single childless adult households, benefits will be capped at £350 (US$567) per week).

There has also been a further benefit cap of one percent introduced (so that benefits cannot increase by more than one percent each year 0 which is lower than the rate of inflation, even that calculated under the CPI; this is justified by arguing that the real wages of employed people are falling and that people on benefits should not get an increase in income greater than those that are working.

While the government claims that it is “helping people into work” that clearly does not include women as they cut the childcare portion of working tax credits from 80% to 70% in the 2010 budget. This particularly affects single working mother households as they are 60 percent of the recipients of the childcare element. The government has increased the number of working hours needed to qualify from 16-24 hours per week; finding eight additional hours where there is general rising underemployment is not easy.

To clear the poorest from the centre of London, government housing benefits are being capped at a maximum of £400 (US$637) per week for a four-bedroom property. Insufficient amounts of social housing mean long waiting lists; this is especially so for large families. 5 bedroom homes are no longer available for those on housing benefit. Elimination of rent controls in private housing under Thatcher and the rise of “buy to let” have led to the skyrocketing of rents in London. With housing benefits capped, there is a danger that people will take money from their other benefits to cover their housing.

Forcing the poor out of the centre of London will lead to the overcrowding of schools in accessible areas and will undermine existing support that families rely upon. Fifty percent of those receiving housing benefits are single women (often single parents) and there are one million more women than men claiming housing benefits ( Additionally, the bedroom tax (an over-occupancy charge for extra bedrooms) for those in social housing is hitting people with disabilities and single mothers disproportionally, as they are primarily the people that live in social housing (

Incomes for working people in Britain are being undermined. The fact that there is rising use of food banks and that agencies report that mothers are foregoing eating to feed their children indicate a serious erosion of standards of living. For the first time since WWII, the British Red Cross is planning on distributing food in Britain arising from the impact of the cuts and rising demand for food banks.

So, how do we address the problem?

From mainstream parties, at best, we hear the call for flexible working hours, we hear about tax credits for child care (which assumes that you make enough money to pay tax) and subsidised child care for those earning lower wages.

It is always assumed that addressing child care provision is the way to address this issue. Somehow, women’s general caring responsibilities, of our children, our sick family members, disabled people that are family members, our extended families, our parents, our spouses, are not addressed.

If we want to address job segregation, get women into the labour force, address unpaid labour at home, the wage-gap between men and women, we need more! We need socialisation of care … we need all care to be covered; we need job creation in the traditional areas of women’s caring responsibilities. This will free women to enter the labour market rather than provide unpaid labour at home.

This needs to be done in the public sector and/or with start-up funds from the public sector to set up cooperatives under workers’ control. In the public sector, with unions and the ability to bargain collectively, we can start to close the gap between provision of use values (what society needs) and exchange values (what capitalists will pay) to provide for the needs of society rather than line the pockets of the ruling class. These jobs will no longer leave women’s labour in a segregated market; men will do them as well. It is a transformative step in addressing the reasons for women’s inequality; actually ending inequality in wages, job segregation, and unpaid labour at home and hence in undermining the power of patriarchy that has kept us as second-class citizens.

The Struggle Continues 41 years after Roe and Doe

3:44 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

by NY Brit Expat

We are coming up to the 41st anniversary of Roe vs Wade and Doe vs Bolton. A couple of days ago, I received an email from the Center for Reproductive Rights entitled “Victory in North Carolina” saying that a federal judge (Catherine Eagles) struck down the North Carolina law forcing physicians to give an intravaginal ultrasound and discuss it with patients seeking an abortion (see for further discussion). This was seen as a victory. In the most obvious and narrow definition of the word, i.e., the defeat of the bill, it was a victory. However, the fact that we are facing increasing attacks on the ability of accessing a constitutional right 41 years after its being granted cannot be seen as a victory. It is demonstrable proof that patriarchy is still extremely powerful and has no intention of giving up the fight to control women’s bodies.

Essentially, we are fighting a defensive struggle against an ideological perspective of divide and rule called patriarchy which can bring religion, power, and money to maintain male hegemony in the societies in which we live. That does not mean that all men are our enemies, we have many male allies in this struggle; but we need to recognise that this ideological perspective still exists and is not going to go quietly into the night. It also means that in order to address women’s liberation truly, we cannot concentrate on issues, but rather the general issue that is at stake.

Abortion rights must be addressed in the context of the general struggle for women’s liberation containing both the oppression of race and gender and class exploitation. That is the struggle that affects the majority of women worldwide. This is not to say that everyone must address every issue, but we must always keep the general picture in mind when we struggle on separate issues. Struggling to maintain Roe v Wade is necessary, but it is insufficient given the Hyde Amendment. Struggling for reproductive rights without recognising the general oppression of women means that that the issues that affect the majority of women remain in place. Non-recognition of the different histories of women of colour due to colonialism and racism means again that the voices of all women will be ignored.

 photo 06d4b989-43b3-4e29-8488-f86133776bd3_zps9957364e.jpgAccess to abortion remains a contentious issue and women all around the world are still struggling to get or to maintain this access. However, this struggle is only part of a larger issue which relates to the ability of women to determine if, when, and how many children they want to have. The issue is one not only about abortion but our reproductive rights in general and, essentially, control over our bodies. This is an issue that remains a fundamental part of patriarchal control over women and relates to control over property and inheritance over property and quite obviously to our roles in the societies in which we live.

Roe, Doe, Hyde, Casey and Gonzalez

Many people have heard of the Roe vs Wade decision by the US Supreme Court in 1973. Few outside the US understand that the impact of that decision, together with another case the same year, Doe vs Bolton, was to give a negative right to abortion; i.e., you legally have the right, but the state does not have to facilitate your access.

Roe vs Wade affirmed that a women’s right to an abortion is not absolute. Beyond the first trimester of pregnancy the state had more interests with considerations relating to maternal life and to viability of the foetus. Roe was a weak decision and has been steadily undermined since 1973.

The Hyde Amendment was passed by the US Congress in 1976. This Amendment is specifically targeted at poor women by making clear that federal funding will only be available for abortion services in very restricted circumstances – otherwise women have to pay:

The Hyde amendment prevents direct federal funding for abortion except in three specific cases: 1) the life of the mother; 2) rape; and 3) incest. Otherwise the decision is left to the states as to whether Medicaid funds can be used to cover abortions for poor women. This means there is wide variation between states. Abortion access must be formally permitted and available, but funding is dependent upon state laws themselves.

The Hyde Amendment inspired the passage of other provisions extending the ban on funding of abortions to a number of other federal health care programs. Consequently, except in the cases of rape, incest and the life of the mother, those federal government employees who need abortions must pay for them “out-of-pocket” rather than them being funded as part of general health care. Abortion services are not provided for U.S. military personnel (finally reversed in 2013 due to Jeanne Shaheen’s amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act and their families, Peace Corps volunteers, Indian Health Service clients, or federal prisoners unless their case falls under the purview of the Hyde Amendment’s exceptions.

The Hyde Amendment is not a permanent piece of legislation; but is passed as a rider to annual Federal appropriation bills specifically tied to Health and Human services affecting disbursement of Medicaid to the states.

Further restrictions to Roe were placed in 1992 in the Planned Parenthood vs Casey decision where a Pennsylvania law was examined by the Supreme Court. The provisions under consideration were:

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Anticapitalist Meetup: “Separate but Equal” Shuts Down Women’s Health Care by TPau

3:40 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

This week has a certain nostalgia for me. I am working the last four shifts in my home, Humboldt County. Nestled between pristine redwoods and dramatic cliffs overlooking the west coast of California, I want to stay here, but cannot. I am feeling the full force of the United States health care crisis. In the four years I have worked here eight of ten obstetricians in the southern half of the county have left, and now I find I am one of them.

Two obstetricians, far apart geographically and serving two different hospitals, are all that is left to serve an area once supporting 10 obstetricians. Both doctors are men over 60, who have a tough future ahead of them. Without outside help there is no way they can see all the patients that will need them. They have to remain within 30 minutes of the hospital and can be told to come to work any time of the day or night. They can never have a moment off, a full night’s sleep, a drink of alcohol to ring in the New Year. Watching a full length movie, or having a nice dinner with the spouse without interruption is a thing of the past. Neither of the remaining doctors can get sick or injured. This is really asking them to be super human and there is no cavalry on their horizon. In fact, if Catholic Health Systems is successful at closing one of the two hospitals, only one physician will remain.

As a young person, I wanted to take my medical skills to a disadvantaged third world nation. Looks like I got my wish—right here in the US. How did we get here?

Humboldt County illustrates many of the ills, both old and new, this broken system imposes on the citizens, and particularly the women, of the US. To really see the complexity, you have to look at all the levels putting pressure on this shattered system.


If you were listening to American propaganda news casts last week, you heard the Affordable Health Care Act (ACA) or “Obamacare” shut down thousands of private health insurance plans and that President Obama lied when he made the campaign promise, “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.”

The standard set by the ACA was so low any real health insurance plan could have stumbled over it dead drunk and in the dark. So why are some of the plans failing?

For decades, the health care system in America has been plagued with “Junk Insurance.” These are plans that call themselves insurance, but if someone on the plan actually got sick, the insurance would not cover anything. Companies get away with this, because all health insurance contracts read like real estate derivative scams; they are so complicated, no one can understand them. It is not legally fraud. The customer signs a contract that does actually say they won’t get coverage for their heart attack, stroke, appendicitis, car accident, etc. It says it in fine print, in ways no one is intended to decipher.

People enrolled in these plans pay monthly premiums that are slightly less than real insurance, believing they have a great deal. Sales people, who “explain” the plan to them, give them that impression. But should they actually become ill or have an accident, they quickly find their premiums were wasted. They have been duped into believing they actually bought something. The truth is, those people would have been better off uninsured than paying premiums for years for no real benefit.

Even if you had real insurance you are a victim of this sort of scam. As junk insurance became more profitable, legitimate insurance companies found they could cover fewer and fewer benefits for the same price. It has created a race to the benefit bottom.

So the Affordable Care Act got rid of all those types of insurance, right? Wrong. The ACA apparently was never meant to stop scam insurance. Those plans were still operating even before the President caved in to media pressure and allowed new fraudulent insurance plans to continue. You might even be enrolled in one right now. Turns out I am.

When my adult daughter, who is getting a graduate degree and still on my insurance, hedged at going to the doctor for a check up this year, I proudly told her that she need not worry. The Affordable Care Act guaranteed that as of August 1, she could go for her annual, get her birth control and her immunizations for free.

15 Covered Preventive Services for Adults
1. Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm one-time screening for men of specified ages who have ever smoked
2. Alcohol Misuse screening and counseling
3. Aspirin use for men and women of certain ages
4. Blood Pressure screening for all adults
5. Cholesterol screening for adults of certain ages or at higher risk
6. Colorectal Cancer screening for adults over 50
7. Depression screening for adults
8. Type 2 Diabetes screening for adults with high blood pressure
9. Diet counseling for adults at higher risk for chronic disease
10. HIV screening for all adults at higher risk
11. Immunization vaccines for adults–doses, recommended ages, and recommended populations vary:
Hepatitis A
Hepatitis B
Herpes Zoster
Human Papillomavirus
Influenza (Flu Shot)
Measles, Mumps, Rubella
Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis
Learn more about immunizations and see the latest vaccine schedules.
12. Obesity screening and counseling for all adults
13. Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) prevention counseling for adults at higher risk
14. Tobacco Use screening for all adults and cessation interventions for tobacco users
15. Syphilis screening for all adults at higher risk

22 Covered Preventive Services for Women, Including Pregnant Women
The eight new prevention-related health services marked with an asterisk ( * ) must be covered with no cost-sharing in plan years starting on or after August 1, 2012.
1. Anemia screening on a routine basis for pregnant women
2. Bacteriuria urinary tract or other infection screening for pregnant women
3. BRCA counseling about genetic testing for women at higher risk
4. Breast Cancer Mammography screenings every 1 to 2 years for women over 40
5. Breast Cancer Chemoprevention counseling for women at higher risk
6. Breastfeeding comprehensive support and counseling from trained providers, as well as access to breastfeeding supplies, for pregnant and nursing women*
7. Cervical Cancer screening for sexually active women
8. Chlamydia Infection screening for younger women and other women at higher risk
9. Contraception: Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling, not including abortifacient drugs*
10. Domestic and interpersonal violence screening and counseling for all women*
11. Folic Acid supplements for women who may become pregnant
12. Gestational diabetes screening for women 24 to 28 weeks pregnant and those at high risk of developing gestational diabetes*
13. Gonorrhea screening for all women at higher risk
14. Hepatitis B screening for pregnant women at their first prenatal visit
15. Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) screening and counseling for sexually active women*
16. Human Papillomavirus (HPV) DNA Test: high risk HPV DNA testing every three years for women with normal cytology results who are 30 or older*
17. Osteoporosis screening for women over age 60 depending on risk factors
18. Rh Incompatibility screening for all pregnant women and follow-up testing for women at higher risk
19. Tobacco Use screening and interventions for all women, and expanded counseling for pregnant tobacco users
20. Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) counseling for sexually active women*
21. Syphilis screening for all pregnant women or other women at increased risk
22. Well-woman visits to obtain recommended preventive services*
Learn more about Affordable Care Act Rules on Expanding Access to Preventive Services for Women.
(Effective August 1, 2012)

26 Covered Preventive Services for Children
1. Alcohol and Drug Use assessments for adolescents
2. Autism screening for children at 18 and 24 months
3. Behavioral assessments for children of all ages
Ages: 0 to 11 months, 1 to 4 years, 5 to 10 years, 11 to 14 years, 15 to 17 years.
4. Blood Pressure screening for children
Ages: 0 to 11 months, 1 to 4 years, 5 to 10 years, 11 to 14 years, 15 to 17 years.
5. Cervical Dysplasia screening for sexually active females
6. Congenital Hypothyroidism screening for newborns
7. Depression screening for adolescents
8. Developmental screening for children under age 3, and surveillance throughout childhood
9. Dyslipidemia screening for children at higher risk of lipid disorders
Ages: 1 to 4 years, 5 to 10 years, 11 to 14 years, 15 to 17 years.
10. Fluoride Chemoprevention supplements for children without fluoride in their water source
11. Gonorrhea preventive medication for the eyes of all newborns
12. Hearing screening for all newborns
13. Height, Weight and Body Mass Index measurements for children
Ages: 0 to 11 months, 1 to 4 years, 5 to 10 years, 11 to 14 years, 15 to 17 years.
14. Hematocrit or Hemoglobin screening for children
15. Hemoglobinopathies or sickle cell screening for newborns
16. HIV screening for adolescents at higher risk
17. Immunization vaccines for children from birth to age 18 —doses, recommended ages, and recommended populations vary:
Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis
Haemophilus influenzae type b
Hepatitis A
Hepatitis B
Human Papillomavirus
Inactivated Poliovirus
Influenza (Flu Shot)
Measles, Mumps, Rubella
Learn more about immunizations and see the latest vaccine schedules.
18. Iron supplements for children ages 6 to 12 months at risk for anemia
19. Lead screening for children at risk of exposure
20. Medical History for all children throughout development
Ages: 0 to 11 months, 1 to 4 years, 5 to 10 years, 11 to 14 years, 15 to 17 years.
21. Obesity screening and counseling
22. Oral Health risk assessment for young children
Ages: 0 to 11 months, 1 to 4 years, 5 to 10 years.
23. Phenylketonuria (PKU) screening for this genetic disorder in newborns
24. Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) prevention counseling and screening for adolescents at higher risk
25. Tuberculin testing for children at higher risk of tuberculosis
Ages: 0 to 11 months, 1 to 4 years, 5 to 10 years, 11 to 14 years, 15 to 17 years.
26. Vision screening for all children

Health and Human Service

I was flabbergasted when she was actually charged for all those things in October of this year—long before the media ganged up on the President. I called Aetna, my insurance carrier, sure there had been some error. I was told it was no error, and if I had questions, I should contact the state. Since my employer is in South Carolina, I had to contact the insurance board for that state. Here is my conversation with the board:

Rosa Rivers
Senior Insurance Regulatory Analyst
Consumer Service Division

You requested clarification on the ACA law in regards to contraceptive and immunizations. A grandfathered health plan isn’t required to comply with some of the consumer protections of the Affordable Care Act that apply to other health plans that are not grandfathered.  If you have health coverage from a plan that existed on March 23, 2010 — and that has covered at least one person continuously from that day forward — your plan may be considered a “grandfathered” plan.

If your plan is a grandfathered plan it is not required to provide certain recommended preventive services at no additional charge to you.  This would include charges for contraceptives.  This would be the only reason the company is not paying for contraceptives.

The above also applies, but also the ACA requires coverage on vaccines recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) prior to September 2009 with no co-payments or other cost-sharing requirements when those services are delivered by an in-network provider.  The immunization vaccine you listed in your email is not on the recommended list. [Note from author: This is an inaccurate statement. HPV vaccine is covered. See the lists above.]

Rosa Rivers

TP: When can I expect the health care plan to cover contraception if it is “grandfathered?”

Rosa: There is no specific end date for grandfathered status.   When a company significantly alters its a health plan it can cause the plan to lose its grandfathered status.  Companies must send out notices advising if the plan is grandfathered or has lose its grandfathered status.

In other words, insurance that didn’t really insure anything, could seek “grandfather status” and completely ignore the ACA rules, as long as the insurance was created before the ACA went into effect August 1, the policy didn’t change too much after that, and they had at least 1 person enrolled.

So Obama went to extremes to honor his promise that you could keep your insurance, even to the point of giving insurers a way to keep junk insurance going indefinitely. Due to the grandfather clause, the ACA didn’t really guarantee Americans they would actually get anything out of their insurance. But, it did demand that its citizens enroll in something calling itself “health insurance” by the end of the year, delivering thousands of paying customers to the insurance companies and guaranteeing tax subsidies to these companies.

Even these concessions were not enough. People on these plans do eventually become ill, and realize they have been duped and drop the insurance. Or they complain to their employer that the insurance is worthless. So these plans must periodically shut down, change their names and enroll (fool) a new crop of customers. They needed to create “new” junk insurance plans every year. What the insurance companies are complaining about is that junk insurance plans created after August 1, or who did not go through the grandfathering process, will not be allowed to continue after January 1.

The real lie here is being perpetrated by Aetna, Blue Cross and Goldman Sachs (yep, they are in this too) and a host of other insurers who lead people to believe their premiums are going to cover a future health care crisis, which they will clearly never do. In fact, they are the ones who have been lying about their products for decades.
What these companies are peddling does not deserve to be called “health insurance” at all. They are the ones that should be held to account here, not the President. These plans don’t deserve to be “grandfathered,” rescued by the President or Congress, or supported by the Clintons. These plans deserve to die.

So what does this mean to the people of Humboldt county and thousands of other rural communities across the U.S? ACA will still support under insurance and high deductible insurance. That means people are sicker when they finally seek help, and they are still at risk for medical bankruptcy. In bankruptcy, or just nonpayment, it is the hospitals, labs and health care providers who foot the bill because they have already provided the service and won’t get paid.

Woman’s health care is hit the hardest by this betrayal. Supposedly, one of the hard won benefits of the ACA was the end of “separate but equal” health care for women. Women and men get charged the same or women get charged more for their health care, but cannot find health care that supports contraception and obstetric services. The grandfather clause, Obama’ s cave in to religious groups on birth control and abortion, and now his reversal on scam insurance means women will still face a barrage of insurance that does not cover their medical needs. Women will have to come out of pocket for these needs. That means more nonpayment for these services for doctors and hospitals and more pressure to decrease these services.

Finally, there is Medicare. Medicare reimburses gynecologic procedures at a rate of about 1/3 what is paid for similar skill level and time as other services, reinforcing the “separate but equal” health care system for women in this country. Those inequities fly below the radar and no one is even offering to fix that.


Medicaid (state insurance for the poor) pays doctors very poorly in general. In California, it reimburses Gynecology less than it costs to provide the care. It pays a barely adequate amount for Obstetrics. Most obstetric patients have Medicaid because they are young and have not had time to establish themselves financially. Commercial insurance, conversely, pays well for gynecology and poorly or not at all for obstetrics.

In California, the playing field for doctors is uneven. The more established doctors in town are getting three times as much for every Medicaid patient, due to previous programs the state offered to rural doctors that new doctors cannot enter. When I came to Humboldt, I had to compete with these more established practices while getting lower rates for everything I did with Medicaid patients (about half of my practice). I did this by joining a large group. But when all the other doctors in the group moved or retired, I found myself having to pay all the overhead on my own. One of the ways I survived was to stop seeing obstetrics and Medicaid patients. This shifted my patients to gynecology with commercial insurance—the highest reimbursement profile. It allowed me to continue practicing for six months and gave my staff time to find work elsewhere. But it also decreased the physicians seeing obstetrics in town by one.

Multiple times the state has voted to open Medicaid to all the state citizens. This may have leveled the playing field and increased the reimbursement to doctors and hospitals because Medicaid would have had more funding. Right now, Medicaid in most states covers more than most insurance and could be provided to a state’s citizens for less than commercial insurance. Unfortunately, the law the people voted for was vetoed by the Governor each time.


Santa Rosa, Ukiah, and Crescent City, cities in other counties surrounding Humboldt, are also recruiting for obstetrics for similar reasons. At least in our area, the crisis is wide spread. Santa Rosa can afford to pay more and clearly offers bigger practices and more city. It is likely to divert candidates from the smaller hospitals.

Humboldt and the surrounding counties are finding it very difficult to recruit, because reimbursement is so poor. With 50% Medicaid, a new physician may not be able to meet overhead demands. They could make more on Medicaid if they joined an existing practice with their special reimbursement rates, but the two surviving practices in Humboldt both have issues. Catholic Health Systems is considering closing the obstetrics ward in the southern half of the county, where one of the practices is based. The other practice is headed by a person who has a history of multiple partnership rifts. Catholic Health Systems could recruit into their own clinics, which also have a higher reimbursement, but this would mean the new doctor could not prescribe ANY birth control, further limiting birth control availability within the county. They have already interviewed a candidate for a position in that clinic.

Catholic Health Systems made a bid for Crescent City hospital. Crescent City is suffering its own lack of obstetric services. If the Catholics did buy Crescent City’s hospital, that would stop sterilizations in all hospitals along the Northern Coast of California except for the one small hospital in the north end of Humboldt that remains secular. Doctors from other cities along the coast would have to leave their practice area to do sterilizations on their patients in Northern Humboldt. Something they cannot do without partners to cover their practices in their absence.

Then there is a question about what the Catholics would do with Crescent City’s labor and delivery unit. Would it close that obstetric unit as it threatens to do with the labor and delivery unit at the southern end of Humboldt County? How far is too far to drive in labor?

This situation could be helped by a county-run health system. After all, the Health Department is county run. It’s not such a stretch to expand the Health Department’s responsibilities to meet the health needs of all the inhabitants of a county if they can not be met by commercial and private industry. I tried to set up a county run health care system in Arizona eight years ago and then network the various counties to provide care throughout the state. This is how universal health care in Europe first got started in the early 1900’s. Unfortunately, I discovered there is a federal law preventing counties from doing just that, because it would compete with commercial insurance. The federal law has never been tested and in the age of ACA, might be outdated. I would love to see a movement to organize single payer health care, county by county, in this country and right now, that might be the best solution.


As I mentioned earlier, Medicaid is the biggest payer of obstetric services in the rural sector. Although it pays physicians adequately for obstetric care, it pays hospitals poorly. Hospitals can only break even on obstetrics if they do very large volume or are in an affluent area where Medicaid is not such an issue. All the rural hospitals I have served lose money on obstetrics and that makes it the lowest service on the totem pole. Obstetrics is the last to get new equipment, always runs lean on staffing and is the last for recruitment. Right now, the staffing in Humboldt’s obstetrics wards is so sparse, the nurses are calling around to beg other nurses to come in and work, every time I am on call. The last time I was on the ward, a nurse actually broke into tears on the phone to one of her colleagues begging her to come in and help.

If this was any other type of business, the solution would be to close the department that wasn’t making any money and consolidate the work into another department. And Catholic Health Systems is considering doing just that. They are trying to close the obstetrics ward in the southern half of the county and force women to drive the extra 20 miles to the middle of the county. Unlike other nations, there are no rules or laws to prevent Catholic Health System from closing a ward and limiting access.

In fact, because our health care is own by private for profit interests, closing obstetrics at BOTH hospitals and letting obstetrics patients find their own solution outside of the hospital system is not out of the question. Only strong public objection and the communities withdraw of charitable contributions has stopped Catholic Health Systems from closing the southern obstetrics ward so far.

Health Care Provider:

My case illustrates the difficulties of making a living at this profession. I am not the first doctor to be driven out by financial difficulties. It is also not the first time for me to leave an area due to the financial collapse of a group. This is a recurring story in all of rural America for Obstetricians. My troubles started back in Arizona when my group adopted Electronic Med Records (EMR).

One of the first elements of the ACA to go into effect was the requirement for doctors and hospitals to use EMR. Technology that is marketed naturally, has to be convenient and useful so people will buy it. If the government forces you to buy something, there is no pressure on the manufacturer to make it work for the user whether it is a computer program or a health insurance plan.

The ACA asked doctors to invest in technology that was unproven, expensive, and takes about 2 to 5 times as long per patient as pen and paper. It is the poster child for inappropriate technology. Additionally, it is prone to errors and has a terrible safety profile. Orders are incorrect more often than pen and paper, they end up on the wrong patients, and labs get missed due to the difficult to read screens.

My former group in Arizona went under due to EMR and the expense and slow down in seeing patients that came from the conversion. The company that sold the program to us went out of business and so we invested in a $250,000 program that became junk after the company folded, taking our patient records with it into oblivion. It was a disaster we never quite recovered from and eventually I took the new job in Humboldt, only to find the older physicians in the practice unwilling to commit finances to EMR. One by one they retired, rather than invest in the available systems, or take the decrease in compensation Medicare and Medicaid threatened if we did not convert, leaving me without partners to share costs.

If EMR does not make health care cheaper or more safe, one might wonder why the government was so hot to trot to convert all the US to these untried software programs. One of the main requirements of the EMR programs is that they are able to provide the government with statistical information. That, in and of itself, is not concerning and might actually be useful to track types of care that decreases disease over large populations. But remember, this is a government that colluded with corporations to collect huge volumes of information on everyday people illegally. And then lied to Congress about it. A few months ago, I became much more concerned about the data collection EMR is performing.

Women of Humboldt County:

This all filters down to women in Humboldt and the rest of rural America. Routine care is likely to be delivered by a less specialized provider—Midwives and Family Medicine physicians. The remaining obstetricians in Humboldt have both hired multiple midwives to assist them. This is probably alright, as these providers are qualified to give routine care and they do spend more time with patients. Patients requiring a more specialized level of care are going to have little or no choice about who provides the care and their visit will be crammed into a schedule that is already too full.

Birth control remains an issue. The only place offering sterilization is one small hospital in the north end of the county. Even though some of the doctors have privileges to do sterilizations in the north, the doctors who are left might not have coverage for their practice in order to get away and do their sterilizations in the North.

It also puts into question quality issues. Recently, lactation (breast feeding) counseling and home health visits for new mothers have been cut and I think other very good programs will also be cut soon. The nurses and physicians who are left are not enough. They are being run ragged. Patients who need a critical level of care will soon face a doctor and a nurse who are much more stressed and less supported than previously.

Patients in the South end of the county could be facing the closure of their obstetrics ward and a longer drive in labor, or in an emergency, putting them at increased risk. I think it is a matter of time until disaster happens.

And for all that chaos, I would stay if I could. I like it here. I like the people and the family of bears that live in my neighborhood. I love the calm of the redwoods and the moodiness of the ocean. But, financially, I’m beaten. I have been working 2-3 jobs to recover. Next year, I am moving to Washington State, and starting over . . . again.

Differences Matter – Wage and Wealth Gap for Single Mothers of Color

2:40 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

The following is a guest diary by Diana Zavala. An educator, political activist and single mother of two, this is the second guest diary that Diana has written for us. Diana presented this piece as part of the panel at Left Forum 2013 organised by Geminijen.

Three years ago I found myself closing the chapter on my marriage. I did this against the advice of my friends who tried persuading me to stay for the children, for the sake of security and until I finished my studies. I had spent 10 years in an unsatisfying marriage and the thought of one more day for the sake of something/somebody else just was not acceptable. I left the marriage and while the emotional release was satisfying; but being independent and having to be responsible for my family was a reality I don’t think I fully grasped.

I decided there had to be a way that women in my situation could qualify for public assistance. Here I was a student, with two kids, huge rent bill, no health insurance, but these circumstances were only temporary I thought, and with a little assistance I would be able to overcome them and get myself back on my feet. I thought ‘hey, I’m not the quintessential “welfare queen” so demonized by society’, I’m someone who needs help and can become independent with some assistance. I discovered it wasn’t the case, that women who were in my predicament had no safety nets available for them to bounce back. I didn’t qualify for anything because I had too much money from child support which was just enough to cover the rent. The Welfare office recommended I become homeless in order to apply for Section 8 housing and I didn’t qualify for Food Stamps, nor did I qualify for Medicaid.

Here it was, I had been a high school teacher before getting married, I left teaching to care for my son while my husband’s career progressed and so did his income and retirement. I had no money and no savings and was being advised to become homeless so I could qualify for housing assistance and food stamps, so I could provide for my children.

I had walked into the office feeling like a strong feminist who had left her marriage choosing independence from a husband and who could make it on her own. I was college educated, employable, and young enough to have energy to fight and overcome. I came out of the office understanding that my situation was no different from other women who leave, that while I had education and language, my status as a single mother did not differ much from that of my mother’s when she immigrated from Honduras after she divorced my father.

Resulting from our divorces, both my mother and I took pay cuts and lost the ability to save and create personal and family wealth that we could pass on to our children.
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My mother’s decision to leave Honduras and come to New York where two of her siblings lived was the same as all the women who have enough and break free. She also walked in feeling privileged, she was college educated, documented, and had family here waiting to support her. She hoped this country would open itself to her and with effort, she could become independent and self-sufficient. For my mother, the reality she encountered served as a wake-up call that the odds were against her. She had trouble securing employment and for some time worked as a factory worker in NJ. She described that experience as having to wake up early to wait at a corner for a van to pick her and other immigrant factory workers in Queens to take them to Jersey. The conditions were unpleasant and workers were mistreated. The factory didn’t offer benefits and job security was zero. She was eventually laid off and she found work as a domestic cleaning rich people’s houses and babysitting their children. Meanwhile she couldn’t afford to pay for babysitters for us. My mother was poor even though she had a job as a domestic; we had no savings. By no means were we living large, but the system uses single mothers to blame them for poverty and stigmatizes them with labels that carry gender and racial connotations to make them seem like social pariahs draining society’s resources.

It’s important to acknowledge the reality that the status of ‘single,’ accompanied by motherhood, creates a whole other picture when discussing the relationship of women’s wage and wealth in comparison to our male counterparts.

While our society makes us believe that we’ve come a long way and that women are equal to men, the inequity that exists for single mothers is not representative of that picture. The disparity in wages and wealth for single mothers is most striking when we consider the role of race and ethnicity, language, immigration, education, and social capital as indicators of advantage. Recent census data indicate that Black women earn 69.5 percent of what men make, and Latina women earn 60.5 percent compared to white male counterparts. (see: Single mothers make less than men, less than married women, and less than women who don’t have children.

The gender wealth gap, however, is another measure of gender inequality, not just their income, that is key to ensuring economic security and enables families to build better futures. The gender wealth gap which, measures the total wealth or net worth a woman has accumulated over time, shows that women have, on average, only 6% to 36% of the wealth owned by men and that the gap is growing. (See: “Shortchanged: Women and the wealth gap” by Alison Perlberg on Monday, April 4, 2011)

When using the wealth gap, black and Latina women, have negative wealth. That is, on average, they have no wealth and are in debt. The wealth gap for single women, of all races, especially those who have never been married or single women with children is similar. Meanwhile white middle class married women still have 67% wealth accumulation, compared to all men. (Lifting as We Climb: Women of Color, Wealth, and America’s Future, 2008)

Awareness and effort to address the racial and ethnic wealth inequities based on structural factors is important if women, especially single mothers of color, are to be self-sufficient in a capitalist society. Historically, and even today, both women and people of color have been “red-lined”– that is denied the right to buy a house, the major method of wealth accumulation in middle class families. Additionally, what used to be considered the “golden ticket” to financial independence that our Feminist sisters believed in, education, is no longer serving our society the same way and it’s leaving women of color and single mothers behind.

This is compounded by the absence of social safety nets that afford women the ability to market themselves in the public sphere and earn better wages, and balance the responsibilities of the domestic sphere.

The United States has recently promoted healthcare, education, and care for the elderly and children as an individual’s responsibility in order to maintain traditional social roles. These social roles continue to glorify the definition of marriage, when in reality half of all households are not married, and half of all marriages end in divorce. Since single mothers are often the custodial and residential parents, they have less disposable income to improve their quality of life and be able to invest in order to go up the wealth ladder. Part of the reason why it’s difficult for single mothers, especially for mothers of color, is because wealth is available through fringe benefits given to employees in addition to their salary, when single mothers can’t stay later and work longer hours, they forfeit the benefits of a bonus and or extra pay for their labor. As a result, single mothers of color make up the profile of poverty in America. In 2010 African American and Latina single mothers had poverty rates of 47.1 percent and 50.3 percent, significantly higher than the national average (

A recent NYT article (April 28, 2013) describing the impact of the current economic crisis among the races concluded that “ the growth in the wealth divide is going to be very hard to close and there is no positive feeling about the racial inequality resolving itself with the recovery (”

What does this all mean for the future of our children? Education is no longer the cure for poverty if we can’t confidently believe it opens up jobs and upward mobility.
In my education activism both in El Salvador and with Change The Stakes, I’ve seen the way education reform models that have long been implemented by the IMF in third-world countries, are now being put in place at the local schools. The capitalist and privatization model is taking place and going full force in the current school system. Our schools are being turned into testing labor camps for private businesses. With the lie that schools are not serving students of color and that there is an ‘achievement gap’ the reformers are destroying education by robbing students from a meaningful and rich education, disrupting communities by closing and co-locating schools, severing the teacher-student-parent ties and breaking up the teachers union; causing as much disruption so that there are no safety nets.
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In communities of color with high levels of poverty, where the likelihood of a student being raised by a single mother is high, that is where the impact is most disastrous.
Federal policy such as No Child Left Behind, and Obama’s Race To The Top have placed public education under siege and they represent yet another attack on women. Education used to be considered a woman’s domain as part of social reproduction: to introduce early literacy and morality at home. With the language of ‘accountability’ mothers are no longer responsible for educating their children. Taking education away from women and charging the schools with not educating all students has made the agenda of ‘accountability’ take full steam. Believing that schools are nurturing places, students’ second homes and teachers as second parents is a thing of the past. Communities are encouraged to believe that teachers, who are predominantly women, can’t be trusted to teach. Therefore, they don’t deserve a strong union that protects their job and protects their ability to not only have a competitive wage, but also retirement safety (a pension) and the ability to save and create wealth. Children are being over-tested and critical thinking has been replaced with incessant test prep and rote-learning aligned with the Common Core. Students are being trained to be compliant and follow rules, find single answers, and be measured by test scores. The future of schools and the future of students is questionable and so is the future of women and the ability of future single mothers to close the wage and wealth gap.

“To educate is to Free”—José Martí

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Undermining Our Past & Our Future aka Austerity is an Attack on Women by NY Brit Expat

2:40 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

This piece is a summary of a paper that I presented at the Left Forum in a panel organised by Geminijen. If you want to see a copy of the longer paper (which is being edited for English and clarity), send me a personal message here with your email and I will send it to you. Fran Luck who is the producer of the radio series “Joy of Resistance: Largest Minority” on WBAI was in the audience and asked us to appear on her show. If you would like to listen to Geminijen, Diana Zevala (who has written for the ACM on education), Barbara Garson and me, please click here:

While in no way denying the impact of the introduction of austerity upon the working class, the disabled and the poor as a whole, there is no question that the impact of austerity on women is far greater. This is due to the job losses in the state sector where women’s labour is predominant, our historically lower wages due to the undervaluation of traditional women’s labour in a capitalist labour market leading to greater dependence upon the social welfare state, and our overwhelming responsibility for reproduction of the working class and how that impacts on our working lives. The failure of the state to provide completely for social reproduction especially in childcare and care for the infirm and disabled has resulted in women having: 1) discontinuous working lives; 2) and the predominance of our labour in part-time employment.

With incomes falling in the advanced capitalist world as part of general economic policy, women face greater threats than men due to our responsibility as primary caretakers of children, the disabled and the elderly. Women are facing lower incomes, lower pensions, and an increasing reluctance for the state to support women in the workplace through provision of child-care and after-school programmes and shouldering carer responsibilities for the elderly and infirm. Given the transformations in general employment possibilities towards increasingly underemployed and part-time labour, we will begin to face competition from men for the jobs we have normally held while benefits are increasingly run down.
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We face increasing economic insecurity without sufficient state assistance to ensure that our children and families can have a decent standard of living provided through employment. Women can no longer depend upon the fact that our labour is of sufficient value to capitalists as men also face increasing precariousness in their employment, and in the absence of a strong labour movement or left-wing movements, can serve the same role of an easily intimidated low-paid work force.

The destruction of the public sector enabling the weakening of the last bastion of trade union organisation to force through even lower wages and a reduction in social subsistence levels of wages along with a further deterioration in working conditions on the basis of non-competition with emerging and peripheral economies is nothing less than a race to the bottom and women will be the first, but not the last, victims of neoliberal economics in the advanced capitalist world.

This piece will be divided into 3 parts. The first is composed of some general statements on austerity. The second part will discuss the women’s labour market in Britain and the impact of austerity. The third part addresses the attack on the universal social welfare state in Britain and its impact upon women.

Part I: What is “Austerity” and why is it being introduced?

What is called austerity is not a new series of economic policies; these policies were introduced by the World Bank in Latin America and Africa and are now being introduced in the advanced capitalist world either voluntarily by governments in (for example, in Britain) or forced through by the Troika of the EU, European Central Bank, and IMF in Greece, Ireland, Spain, and Portugal, for example.

The term austerity is misleading implying that across classes the whole country is facing cutbacks and lower levels of incomes. That is false. Overwhelmingly, the burden of austerity falls on the working class and the poor; and of these, women and those with disabilities are impacted the most.

Austerity is not shared equally by all classes. A cursory look at Figure 1 below, demonstrates quite clearly that those that have been hit hardest are the two lowest incomes deciles which relate to those whose incomes derives completely from benefits (poorest) and the working poor (second lowest decile).
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(Source:, P 52)
The formal excuse or justification for the introduction of austerity in Britain has been to cut the Deficit /GDP. While it is dubious economic policy to cut budget deficits in the middle of an economic crisis (as a grotesque understatement) and while there is no historical evidence that this is an effective way of stimulating the economy or economic growth, this is the neoliberal perspective that is justifying cutting the budget deficit. Instead of increasing government revenue through financial transaction taxes, increased taxation of corporations or higher personal incomes, this is done through cutting the state sector and by cutting expenditures. Increasing wealth and income differentials in a period of economic crisis is dubious and will definitely lead to increased financial and economic instability.

Its introduction is part of a longer term attempt to recover profitability in the advanced capitalist world. While the financial sector recovered very quickly from the crash due to the bail-outs and the resulting centralisation of capital eliminating redundant capital, the same cannot be said of other sectors in the economy.
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Its introduction is part of a longer term attempt to recover profitability in the advanced capitalist world. While the financial sector recovered very quickly from the crash due to the bail-outs and the resulting centralisation of capital eliminating redundant capital, the same cannot be said of other sectors in the economy.

Using the crisis as a justification for increasing income and wealth inequality, governments believe that it will enable economic growth; in other words, politicians and the IMF, EU and ECB are trapped in a delusional supply-side and monetarist economic policy mentality.

Essentially, the purpose of austerity is twofold and the reasons are interrelated:
1) Using the excuse of competition and economic stagnation, given low profitability outside of the financial sector, the economic crisis is being used to squeeze wage incomes to keep profits up. This is part of a longer term attack on workers’ incomes that began in the late 1970s and its purpose is to undermine workers’ incomes and working conditions in the advanced capitalist world due to continuing profitability problems outside of the financial sector which is what led to the shift of industry and manufacturing to emerging and peripheral capitalist economies;
2) Secondly, the privatisation of potentially profitable areas of the public sector is being introduced. Its purpose is to open up new areas of profitability for capital and also to undermine the trade unions in the public sector in the last bastion of unionisation in the advanced capitalist world.

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