Women Educate Each
Other, Across Borders
U.S. and Canadian participants in the
FATs national womens training. District 1 Pres. Connie Spinozzi is second from
left; Education Dir. Carol Lambiase is second from right.
When women from UE and the Canadian Auto Workers joined the women
assembled near Mexico City on Nov. 28 for a week-long womens leadership training
conducted by the Authentic Labor Front (FAT), the clash of cultures was not only along
A diverse group of women from the FATs trade union, cooperative and
peasant sectors participated in a series of intensive workshops designed to liberate,
motivate and train women for leadership in Mexico's male-dominated society. Young and old,
urban and rural, the Mexican participants reacted differently to the FATs
"They were tuned in politically and intelligent," observed District
One Pres. Connie Spinozzi, who represented UE along with Education Dir. Carol
The training examined that what we think of as "gender" traits
are often determined by social conditioning, not physiology; a workshop on self-esteem
challenged women to overcome submissiveness and feelings of inferiority.
Spinozzi, a former factory worker who has held a number of union offices,
thought of her own experiences in developing as a UE leader while attending the workshops
on gender, self-esteem and leadership. "I really sat there and started thinking about
all those things, and how they applied to me," she commented.
Another workshop looked at the human rights enshrined in the United
Nations Declaration of Universal Rights from a female perspective. Lectures and
workshops also dealt with the economic neo-liberalism exemplified by NAFTA and the
structure and goals of the FAT. The guests from the U.S. and Canada participated in a
All of these workshops, said Spinozzi, were designed to help the women
confront the barriers of male supremacy they encounter from birth and become more
effective union members.
The UE pair learned that Mexican women (and workers) have a number of
legal rights, but only on paper. For example, Lambiase pointed out, a womans right
to choose whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term is recognized by the Constitution of
1910 but there are no clinics. Spinozzi and Lambiase described how the Family and
Medical Leave Act in the United States has helped union members and explained how
so-called welfare reform punished poor women.
The Mexican women were curious about UEs political action; Spinozzi
spoke in detail about postcards, phone-banks and petitions, marches and rallies.
In particular, the Mexican women were interested in the jobs performed by
UE women, particularly the female members of Local 155 described by Spinozzi, who operate
machines, drive fork lifts and work at computers, among other tasks. There were also
questions to the UE pair about experiences in collective bargaining.
Lambiase conveyed UEs experiences in fighting job discrimination,
combating sexist bosses and confronting sexual harassment in the workplace a
presentation which the FAT members found valuable. Spinozzi came away from the workshops
with ideas of how to help her co-workers in the U.S. overcome psychological barriers to