The Role of Government Agencies in Gaining
Equal Rights for Women by DARE
The basis of womens s oppression is rooted in the economic system, which revolves totally around profit. Profit itself is based on ownership of private property, such as land, a factory, or a bank. Although many people may work in a factory, for example, the overall wealth or profit from what is produced doesnt go to the workers as a whole, but to those few individuals who are the owners. It is here that the owning class derives their power, which they use to control Government policy and the nature of our society in general. Working people, on the other hand, derive their power from the fact that they are the real producers; the shoes we wear, the food we eat, are all products of the labor of working people.
The owners make a lot of money but theyre always greedy for more profits, and they need to keep women, along with minorities, as a cheap labor force. They take advantage of our sex, the fact that we bear children are responsible for them, and use it as an excuse to keep us down.
For example, the case of Donna S. at Stewart-Warner wasnt just an isolated incident of running into a nasty foreman. Women at S-W are consistently in the lowest labor grades with the lowest pay, and even where they do the same work an men are paid less. This is very profitable for S-W, and they try to maintain divisions between men and women. In order to keep women from stepping out of line, the company is constantly harassing them, such as firing Donna when she is a only 2 months pregnant.
Donna as an individual represents the situation of women in general at S-W. In the short-run we mist try to help her in any way we can (such as with her legal case), but in the long-run we will only accomplish our goals when the situation of all women at SW has changed. This means we must rely on the power of working men and women organized themselves to fight for widespread change.
In Donnas case (and this is true of many other women as well) we see that we can use her case as a tool in fighting sex discrimination at S-W. We can use these Government agencies to our advantage in several ways:
But what happens after Donna files her case? It will probably take 2-3 years to go through the courts, and she needs a job now. Even if she is eventually reinstated, the position of women overall at S-W will not have changed much, because the profit system, which is the fundamental reason for womens oppression, still survives. The best that Government agencies can do is put a Band-Aid over the big errors of the system.
Government agencies are supposed to be balanced between the big bosses, who base their profits on discrimination against women and minorities, and working people, who are constantly fighting to improve their working conditions. These agencies were created in the early 60s, during the rising tide of militance shown by black people in the Civil Rights Movement. The Government wan forced to meet demands for justice and equality under the law. However, these agencies really serve the bosses by taking the most vocal leaders out of the workplace and into the courtroom, last year about 5000 angry women filed sex discrimination cases. These are 5000 potential leaders of a working womens movement who, using their collective strength in conjunction with their co-workers, could gain mach more than they could fighting individual battles with their employers.
In short, Government agencies are a safety valve which we can many times use to our advantage, but which we should in no way use as a substitute for large numbers of women being organized at the workplace to take up their own struggles.