The national “Day Without a Woman” strike on Wednesday meant fewer women in Washington-area workplaces, the closure of some schools and a rally downtown to bring attention to the role women play in the workforce. A second rally in front of the White House will highlight a U.S. policy that critics say will harm women abroad.
The multifaceted day of protest, which coincides with International Women’s Day, started with the organizers of the post-Inauguration Day women’s marches that drew millions around the world. Organizers are now calling for women and their allies to come together for a “one-day demonstration of economic solidarity.”
Women who can’t join the strike were urged to participate by wearing red — a color that symbolizes “revolutionary love and sacrifice,” organizers aid — and spending money at small and women-owned businesses.
It is unclear how many women skipped their jobs for the day, but at least nine D.C. charter schools, along with public schools in Prince George’s County and Alexandria City were closed because of staff requests for time off.
“The decision is 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. It is not based on a political stance or position,” Alexandria schools Superintendent Alvin L. Crawley said in a statement.
Some restaurants were shrinking their menus Wednesday while others announced specials to coincide with the day.
Pizzeria Paradiso is offering a limited menu at its three locations in Washington and Virginia. The restaurant’s chef and owner, Ruth Gresser, said she was going on strike and is offering paid leave for female employees at Pizzeria Paradiso and Veloce, which she also owns, to do the same. She will donate half of her profits to two women’s organizations, My Sister’s Place and the National Organization for Women.
“By cutting our menu in half, we symbolically reinforce the impact of a day without approximately half of the world’s population,” Gresser wrote in a menu that she will display Wednesday. “I ask you, my customers and my community, to support me and equal rights for women with this symbolic restraint and limitation.”
Labor organizers are planning a “Women Workers Rising” rally Wednesday outside the U.S. Department of Labor to spotlight female workers’ rights, including pay equity, a livable wage and protections against workplace violence. Organizers include advocacy groups and organizations representing the women-dominated professions of restaurant workers, nursing, teaching and domestic workers.
“We will be there to really get people to understand that is our building,” said Eve Ensler, a feminist activist and one of the event organizers. “It’s the workers’ building, and we are there to fight for workers’ rights.”
Wednesday’s strike follows the “Day Without Immigrants” protest in February, when scores of restaurants across the region closed to highlight immigrants’ economic importance to a presidential administration that has taken a hard-line stance on immigration policies.
Another “Day Without a Woman” rally is planned Wednesday at Freedom Plaza, where more than three dozen groups are joining to protest the “Mexico City policy,” known as the “global gag rule” by critics, which states that foreign nonprofits providing abortions will forfeit aid from the U.S. government. President Trump reinstated the Reagan-era rule on one of his first days as president.
Serra Sippel, president of the Center for Health and Gender Equity — one of the groups organizing the rally — said the groups planned the event to coincide with International Women’s Day but also to stand in solidarity with the “Day Without a Woman” strike. The “Protest to Stop the Gag” will start at 11 a.m. and end with a rally at the White House.
“One of Trump’s first actions was an attack on girls and women across the seas in some of the poorest countries,” Sippel said. “This is a showing of women in the U.S. that we are not going to stand for it and we are going to fight back.”
In the Maryland state legislature, female politicians won’t be going on strike, but many are expected to wear red.
Maryland Del. Aruna Miller (D-Montgomery), who heads the state’s legislative women’s caucus, is encouraging members of the 64-person coalition to attend Wednesday’s legislative session wearing red in a show of solidarity. The women’s caucus plans to meet Wednesday morning to celebrate the day and honor one of the state legislature’s longest-serving female members, Del. Sheila E. Hixson (D-Montgomery), who has been a member of the State House since 1976.
Miller said she didn’t think it would be effective if the elected officials joined the strike.
“Women being here and voting is critical for our empowerment,” she said.
Josh Hicks contributed to this report.
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