Women banana workers–bananeras–are waging a powerful revolution by making gender equity central in Latin American labor organizing.
Women Transforming the Banana Unions of Latin America
By Dana Frank
“I want to learn how to defend myself from whoever tries to oppress me, whether it’s my husband, my union, or my boss.”—a bananera
Women banana workers have organized themselves and gained increasing control over their unions, their workplaces, and their lives. Highly accessible and narrative in style, Bananeras recounts the history and growth of this vital movement and shows how Latin American woman workers are shaping and broadly reimagining the possibilities of international labor solidarity.
Starting in 1985 with one union in La Lima, Honduras, and expanding domestically through the late 1990s, experienced activists successfully reached out to younger women with a message of empowerment. In a compelling example of transnational feminism at work, the bananeras crossed borders to ally with banana workers in five other banana exporting countries in Latin America, arguing all the while that empowering women at every level of their organizations makes for stronger unions, better able to confront the ever-encroaching multinational corporations.
When the bananeras of Latin America, with their male allies, explicitly integrate gender equity into their organizing work as essential to effective labor internationalism–when they refuse to separate the global struggle against trans-national corporations from the formidable efforts at home to achieve equity and respect–they inspire all of us to envision a new framework for internationalism that places women’s human rights at the center of global class politics.
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