What the International Women's Day Protest Means for the Food Industry

What the International Women's Day Protest Means for the Food Industry

Susmita Baral
Mar 7, 2017

When President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning immigrants from seven Muslim-majority nations, Yemeni-American bodega owners organized a peaceful strike in New York City that closed the doors of grocery stores and bodegas throughout the city. The shutdown served as a symbolic move to show the city how pivotal the role of immigrants are, as New Yorkers were unable to hop into their neighborhood shop to grab a coffee or food essentials.

Now the organizers behind the Women's March on Washington have coordinated a similar protest for International Women's Day called A Day Without a Woman.

Taking place on March 8, the organizers of the protest acknowledge their upcoming effort is inspired by New York City's bodega shutdown, the Febuary 16 Day Without Immigrants protests around the nation, and the #GrabYourWallet initiative.

"In the same spirit of love and liberation that inspired the Women's March, we join together in making March 8th A Day Without a Woman, recognizing the enormous value that women of all backgrounds add to our socio-economic system — while receiving lower wages and experiencing greater inequities, vulnerability to discrimination, sexual harassment, and job insecurity," the website states. "We recognize that trans and gender nonconforming people face heightened levels of discrimination, social oppression and political targeting. We believe in gender justice."

How to Join the Protest

The protest calls for supporters to join in one of three ways: Wear red in solidarity, avoid shopping for one day, or for women to take the day off from working, whether it is paid or unpaid labor. Businesses can take part by shutting down or giving women employees the day off, say the organizers.

How This Strike Affects the Food Industry

By striking from work, women can send a strong message in the restaurant and food industry. Consider this: Previous data from the National Restaurant Association found that roughly 50 percent of all restaurant businesses in the nation are owned by women, 61 percent of adult women have worked in a restaurant at some point in their lives, and women-owned eateries are growing at a faster rate than restaurants as a whole.

Despite being well-represented, there's room for improvement. A report from labor advocacy group Restaurant Opportunities Center United found that women (and employees of color) are given the lowest-paying jobs in the food service industry. Even among chefs, female chefs make 28.3 percent less than their male counterparts.

But since the protest also calls for a spending freeze, the message is further amplified if enough women abstain from shopping — Forbes reports that women stimulate 70 to 80 percent of all consumer purchasing and influence about 73 percent of household spending. And, with Americans spending more on eating out than on groceries, leveraging purchasing power can have an impact.

There are some who are critical of the protest's impact, calling it a "strike for privileged protestors" and arguing that it will likely only be privileged women who can take part in stepping away from work. The organizers of the strike acknowledge that joining the strike might not be feasible for some women such as mothers.

Are you joining the strike on March 8? Let us know what you're doing in the comments.

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