The Loneliness of Working Class Feminism: Women in the “Male World” of Labor Unions, Guatemala C...
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The Loneliness of Working Class Feminism: Women in the “Male World” of Labor Unions, Guatemala City, 1970s. By Deborah Levinson-Estrada. History. Trade unionism was rebuilt in the late 1950s and 60s when there was a substantial industrial growth in Guatemala.

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The Loneliness of Working Class Feminism: Women in the “Male World” of Labor Unions, Guatemala City, 1970s.

By Deborah Levinson-Estrada


History
History “Male World” of Labor Unions, Guatemala City, 1970s.

  • Trade unionism was rebuilt in the late 1950s and 60s when there was a substantial industrial growth in Guatemala.

  • By the 1970s the growth was concentrated in Guatemala City, and had become the site of labor movement that called for revolutionary change.

  • This caused a increase in violence and a decline industry as working class leaders were either dead or in exile.


Sonia oliva s story
Sonia Oliva's Story “Male World” of Labor Unions, Guatemala City, 1970s.

  • Worked in a Japanese owned company called ACRICASA- a thread factory in Guatemala City.

  • Unconventional childhood

    • Left by her mother and lived with her father.

    • She was the only women in the house, so she had to take over the women’s duties in the house.

    • Finished elementary school

    • Went to live with her aunt so she could go to high school, but her aunt refused and made her work.

    • Eventually went to live on her own.


Sonia oliva s story1
Sonia Oliva’s Story “Male World” of Labor Unions, Guatemala City, 1970s.

  • Her father was supportive of her desire to have an education, which led her to have a different reality of gender roles.

  • Her awareness of this oppression enabled her to become her own feminist historian.

  • Her leadership in the union enabled her to became the activist that the women need during this time.

    • Scaled a fence while six months pregnant when they demanded that they get paid overtime

    • Would bring her day old son to meetings instead of leaving it to the care of another family member, so that they could implement a day care in the factory.

    • Even left him their over night so that they could have the day care open during night shifts. ( to make a point)


Sonia oliva s story2
Sonia Oliva’s Story “Male World” of Labor Unions, Guatemala City, 1970s.

  • When the union leader was assassinated, Sonia and her son Pavel were kidnapped

  • Sonia was beaten, but they were ultimately only held for fifteen hours before they were released.

    • On the condition that Sonia leave the country

    • Which she did


Author s interviews
Author’s interviews “Male World” of Labor Unions, Guatemala City, 1970s.

  • The central drama to their lives where that the fathers were failures in maintaining their family, it was the mothers who were successful.

  • The women were not only domestic servants, schoolteachers, but also had modern employment with capitalistic factories.


Treatment of workers
Treatment of Workers “Male World” of Labor Unions, Guatemala City, 1970s.

  • Machines received more care and benefits than the workers of the factories.

  • Because there was no transportation to the factories, women were vulnerable walking at night to get to work.

    • A drive was organized, but was risky because they were at risk for being fired.

    • Sonia became one of the leaders of this drive which led her to become one of the executives on the union committee

    • Mainly because no one else would step up and do the job.


Treatment of workers1
Treatment of Workers “Male World” of Labor Unions, Guatemala City, 1970s.

  • Working class was seen as prideful, but dumb.

  • Intertwined with “tough, male worker”

  • Physical labor meant that they were short on mental labor, meaning they were short of brains or “stupid”.


The union
The Union “Male World” of Labor Unions, Guatemala City, 1970s.

  • It took nine months to gain legal recognition, then fifteen months to win a contract.

  • Even with the contract they still had to use pressure to get the company do abide by it.

  • Used tactics like putting up signs with the plant of services that they believed they deserved

    • Like a bus service or a wage increase.

    • Also put them on the manager’s cars

    • Their fame as persistent unionists spread.


Conclusion
Conclusion “Male World” of Labor Unions, Guatemala City, 1970s.

  • Sonia Oliva’s story changes the way we see motherhood and womanhood when it comes to the working women.

  • Even with the implementing of the unions, the companies still treated and oppressed their workers.

  • The working class labor isn’t seen as anything but a necessity, they are the low ones on the totem pole.


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