Learning about Invisible Labor

The Campamento Contra La Junta (CCLJ) has been standing for 55 days. It was an idea conceived by women and is predominantly maintained by women. It is an honor to be part of this space that has nurtured so many people including myself, intellectually and personally. There are people that came to the camp with no understanding of what colonialism was, yet they did come with their experience living in it. With the sharing of stories, deep discussion and even some group study the campistas have been teaching each other. The CCLJ has the potential to be an educational space with a diverse curriculum with courses like kitchen management, agriculture, civil disobedience, linguistics, feminist theory, history, street theater, first aid and economic theory.

The talent in the camp does not just come from intelligentsias or academics but from erudite workers and motivated youth. Many campistas have some academic background but are still represent part of the working poor. There are people as young as eight that participate in the community meetings and propose ideas that help improve the camp.

There is a lot of mutual care, child care cooking and cleaning that gets overlooked by media and outsiders. Care is a form of labor that is underappreciated, gendered and racialized. Care work such as home care, child care, and pet care elderly care tends to pay low wages and provided by women of color. Care work in the CCLJ takes the form of, cooking, cleaning, massages, child care and taking time to listen to each other vent.

Some folks get the impression that care work is motivated by a selfless sense of duty and not by money. This line of thinking is used to manipulate and exploit workers that provide these kind of services. We could include parents, guardians and community members that provide any kind of care at any moment as part of this labor force.

We should also acknowledge stay at home parents or family members that maintain the home and care for the household. Although they may be considered unemployed they are working. In the US as well as in Boriken there is no protection for these laborers. There is no sick pay, workers compensation, syndicates, labor laws that protect the home maker or the family caregiver. This is unjust and negligent on our part as a society. It impacts poor women of color the most.

If you are a poor parent you may have to take a job and work as many hours possible. Then you must find child care which can cost at least $300 a month. That is more than one full work week after taxes earning minimum wage. Say you are a mother in a hetero normative patriarchal relationship, you potbelly have to get home and care for the children and the home itself on your day off if you are not having to spend the day running errands. There is no compensation for this labor. Women mostly are overexploited and it is usually through care work.

The sharing of care work is powerful and an act of resistance. Sometimes in movements it also become underappreciated, gendered and racialized. Some people may give little priority to this work, having meetings and actions without making sure the folks that are contributing this kind of labor can also participate in activities. This recreates the same systems of capitalist, patriarchal and racist system of oppression a movement could be fighting against.  

It is important that we talk about of capitalists, patriarchal, and white supremacist forms are connected. Madeline Lawrence from the Marilynn Buck Abolitionist Collective, described it as a braid and these things are intertwined. These strands will get discussed but usually not more than two at a time. We cannot neglect to look at oppression from all these hangs. Each strand is made up of even smaller strands (transphobia, classism, colorism, etc.) and unless we cut all way through the rope we will all be hanging in the same place.

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