Trudeau’s “feminism” leaves out working women
The current strike by 155,000 federal government workers is one of the largest strikes in Canadian history. But it’s also one of the most important in the current conditions, as the struggle by PSAC will set a pattern for similar fights throughout the public sector – including at the provincial and municipal levels – and will echo into the private sector.
In particular, the PSAC strike shines a light on the situation of working women in capitalist society. Around 60 percent of the union’s members are women, and in one of largest groups currently on strike – Programs and Administrative Services – that number is over 70 percent.
Justin Trudeau has long proclaimed his “feminist” politics and has famously declared that the government must approach policies using a “feminist lens.” Clearly, when it comes to tens of thousands of working women, his lens is obscured by political opportunism and capitalism’s drive to maintain women as a huge underpaid subset within the working class.
The union has bargained for two years with the federal government, which has refused to offer a wage increase in line with the cost of living. This is the same government which is ponying up billions upon billions to pay for new fighter jets and naval ships, as well as massive subsidies to huge corporations like VW.
The message from Trudeau and Co. is clear – public sector workers should be happy to live with declining real wages while billions of dollars are shifted from working people to corporate bank accounts and the military. And the government’s message to working women is no less stark – get used to being underpaid, because we’d rather use the money for wars and private profit.
The government’s approach to PSAC is a perfect echo of its overall approach to economic development. As Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem has repeatedly insisted, the government’s strategy for fighting inflation is to maintain below-cost-of-living wage increases (meaning a real wage decrease), cut pensions and increase unemployment.
This economic strategy is completely in the service of the large corporations, whose profits are skyrocketing while (and because) working people’s living standards tumble. And this is the backdrop for working-class struggles across the country, which have become crystalized in the current PSAC strike.
Working people throughout Canada face a choice – get pushed into a life with lower wages and higher prices while corporate profits and government subsidies for private business soar, or fight to win real wage gains, stronger pensions with livable incomes, and income equality for women, Indigenous and racialized workers.
All workers, whether public or private sector, have a clear interest in seeing the federal public sector workers win this strike and gain a decent wage increase. All workers and unions need to be strongly supporting PSAC, including by cross picketing and protesting the government’s economic policies.
The People’s Voice Editorial Board encourages all readers to actively support this strike. Visit workerscantwait.ca to locate a picket line near you.
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