Women skip work, take part in rallies on ‘A Day Without a Woman’

By Alexandra Zavis, Christina Boyle and Laura King - Los Angeles Times

Women took a day off work, refrained from shopping and attended rallies across the country Wednesday in a show of economic strength and to bring attention to discrimination they face in the workplace and beyond.

Dubbed “A Day Without a Woman,” the scattered actions were the first attempt by organizers of the demonstrations that brought millions of women into the streets in Washington and around the world in January to pull off another major protest in defense of rights that many believe are imperiled under the Trump administration.

Although the full impact of Wednesday’s strike was not immediately clear, a number of schools and businesses said they would either close or give female employees the day off. Organizers urged women who could not afford to skip work to wear the color red, signifying “revolutionary love and sacrifice.”

The day of action was timed to coincide with International Women’s Day, a United Nations-designated day marked with strikes and rallies around the world. Organizers also drew inspiration from last month’s “Day Without Immigrants,” which shut down restaurants and grocery stores in major cities such as New York and Los Angeles at a time when President Donald Trump is taking aim at illegal immigration.

School districts including Alexandria City Public Schools in Virginia, Prince George’s County Public Schools in Maryland and Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools in North Carolina canceled classes Wednesday because of the number of staffers who requested time off.

In Prince George’s County, the closures sent many parents scrambling for last-minute child care. Some showed up at school unawares with kids to drop off.

“I am lucky, my boy is big and could be alone, because I needed to get to work,” said Alex Martins, a taxi driver who is the sole guardian of his 17-year-old nephew, a senior at Dr. Henry A. Wise Jr. High School in Upper Marlboro, Md. “For people with little ones, it was a bad surprise.”

District officials in Alexandria tried to alleviate child care problems by opening city recreation centers to kids getting an unexpected day off. On an unseasonably warm day, students at Patrick Henry Elementary School chased each other, slid down playground slides and played basketball under staff members’ watchful eyes, while the classrooms sat empty.

The decision to close schools was “based solely on our ability to provide sufficient staff to cover all our classrooms, and the impact of high staff absenteeism on student safety and delivery of instruction,” the Alexandria superintendent, Alvin L. Crawley, said in a statement posted on the district’s website. “It is not based on a political stance or position.”

The municipal court in Providence, R.I., was also closed due to insufficient staff, and city officials warned that residents might experience delays in the delivery of non-emergency services.

In Washington, marchers gathered in a downtown plaza to protest the restoration of a policy requiring that overseas family-planning groups refrain from performing or promoting abortions as a condition for receiving U.S. aid. The color red was much in evidence: hoodies, sweaters, scarves, T-shirts.

“We’re very worried about women’s health care, but also about all kinds of other rights and progress being rolled back,” said Michele Cordoba, a marketer from Sherman Oaks who came to Washington on business and stayed for the march.

“We have to make out voices heard!” said her 72-year-old mother, who accompanied her daughter to the protest.

More rallies were planned in Washington, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Los Angeles and elsewhere across the country.

In Ireland, thousands marched through the capital, Dublin, to protest the country’s restrictive abortion laws, bringing traffic to a standstill. In Spain, women gathered in a Madrid square to protest a culture of “machismo.”

Women in Poland staged marches across the nation to demand protection from gender-based violence. They were joined in Warsaw by the American actress Jessica Chastain, who was dressed all in black in solidarity with the marchers.

In Germany, the airline Lufthansa had six all-female crews flying from several cities to the capital, Berlin.

The government in Iceland said it would introduce legislation in parliament this month requiring employers with more than 25 employees to prove that they offer equal pay for equal work, regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexuality or nationality.

Staff writers Zavis and King reported from Los Angeles and from Washington, respectively. Special correspondent Boyle reported from London. Staff writer Alene Tchekmedyian contributed from Los Angeles.

© 2017 Los Angeles Times

By Alexandra Zavis, Christina Boyle and Laura King

Los Angeles Times