Unite Here, a union for service workers, has filed charges against the management of Hyatt Hotels for turning heat lamps on hotel housekeepers picketing the Chicago Hyatt for safer jobs in July in near 100 degree temperatures. Nearly all hotel housekeepers are women and most are women of color and immigrants. After downsizing, they face even more health and safety risks from increasing workloads involving lifting 100-pound mattresses and cleaning with toxic chemicals. They have the highest injury rate of all service workers, and most report work-related pain that can become physical disabilities. They also report a pattern of sexual harassment from male guests.
In Birmingham, England, about 500 people attended UK Feminista’s two-day “2011 Summer School” in August, which trained new feminist activists in campaigning and direct action. UK Feminista is a new organization created in response to a “massive resurgence” in feminism and designed to link “ordinary people” with existing feminist groups.
Ultraconservative members of the U.S. Congress have introduced legislation to reinstate the “Global Gag Rule.” Previously enacted as an executive order by Republican Presidents and rescinded by Democratic ones, it would cause foreign health organizations that inform their patients about abortion to lose U.S. funding. In the past, this policy caused thousands of deaths from illegal abortions and prevented women from receiving contraception and healthcare. The House has also proposed a 39% cut to Obama’s funding request for international family planning and reproductive health services as well as an end to U.S. support for the UN Population Fund.
Between 1929 and 1974, the state of North Carolina forcibly sterilized over 7,600 victims, most of whom were young, poor, Black, and female. In June, Elaine Riddick, who has fought the legal system for reparations for 40 years, testified before the Governor’s Task Force to Determine the Method of Compensation for Victims of North Carolina’s Eugenics Board about her own unconsenting sterilization at the age of 14. The taskforce, formed by Gov. Beverly Perdue in 2009, estimates that there are over 2,000 victims still living.
On Aug. 31 Survivors of Institutional Abuse (SIA) will hold its first press conference at the Center for Inquiry-West in Los Angeles to call attention to damage suffered by survivors of fundamentalist facilities for troubled teens. These cult-like facilities, also including so-called “ex-gay therapy” programs, inflict severe psychological abuse and often physical and sexual abuse. Legislation against them has been defeated in Congress in spite of the deaths that have occurred. An SIA conference for survivors is planned for February 2012.