Fighting for Filipino workers’ rights has roots dating back to the early 20th century, at a time when women were already working outside of their homes as teachers and midwives and tobacco factory workers. Even then, women have demanded for just wages and better working conditions that continue to be impossible because of discrimination. Not only did the maestros earn more than the maestras; women were also vulnerable to gender-based violence inside and outside the workplace.
To this day, the demands of workers remain practically the same — a living wage that allows them to provide for themselves and their dependents,a working environment free from discrimination, the recognition of workers’ freedom of association along with the right to collective bargaining, and the assurance of job security that allows for financial independence and stability.
Women’s vulnerabilities have worsened during the pandemic. Healthcare workers have reported cases of discrimination as they are denied basic services and access to public transport, and about seven out of ten healthcare workers in the Philippines are women. In the home, the burden of unpaid care work is evident as women increasingly provide even greater support to family members, including maintaining sanitary conditions in the home, caring for family members, and putting themselves at risk of being infected with the virus.
Women in the formal and informal sectors also continue to face the unique challenge of balancing paid labor with unpaid housework, caring for both children and elderly in the home. The lack of regard for women’s unpaid labor impacts the way society regards women’s paid care work, especially in the social services and public health sector. This also extends to the way women are shortchanged in the labor market, as women continue to receive wages that fall short of their needs and that of their families.
As we amplify the voices and echo the demands of workers on Labor Day, may we also uplift the women whose life’s work have sustained our own. Let us affirm our support in the struggle to end exploitation and abuse and to ensure fair and just wages, as we safeguard the rights of all.