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Women Educate Each
Other, Across Borders

PITTSBURGH

At the FAT's national women's training ...

U.S. and Canadian participants in the FAT’s national women’s 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 women’s leadership training conducted by the Authentic Labor Front (FAT), the clash of cultures was not only along international boundaries.

A diverse group of women from the FAT’s 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 FAT’s challenging curriculum.

"They were tuned in politically and intelligent," observed District One Pres. Connie Spinozzi, who represented UE along with Education Dir. Carol Lambiase.

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 trinational panel.

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 woman’s 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 UE’s 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 UE’s 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 leadership development.

UE News - 02/99


Home -> UE News -> 1999 Archives -> Article

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