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'A Day Without A Woman' Protest Calls On Female Workers To Strike


On this International Women's Day, women across the country were urged to take off from work to protest, also to limit shopping and to wear red in solidarity. Organizers dubbed it A Day Without A Woman. They said it would first and foremost highlight women's economic power. Well, many people did wear red, but the impact of the strike is less clear as NPR's Eric Westervelt reports.

ERIC WESTERVELT, BYLINE: Created in part by organizers of January's Women's March, today's strike is the first nationwide action by the group since that day when millions across the country hit the streets to protest President Donald Trump and in support of women's rights.

This morning in an Oakland, Calif. commuter train station, Tracy Neal hurried to her job in San Francisco as a preschool teacher. Neal carried a morning coffee and wore a big red scarf.

TRACY NEAL: I'm an early childhood educator, and I want to be at work today to be with my kids. But I also want to make a statement that most of my industry is women. People need to recognize that if we weren't at work, where would our kids be going?

WESTERVELT: Supporters of the Women's Strike wanted to use today to raise awareness about issues including the need for adequate paid family leave, equal pay for women and improved efforts to combat discrimination and harassment. Women make up nearly half of the U.S. workforce and continues to be paid about 80 cents for every dollar a man makes, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Thirty-three-year-old Summer Marine was waiting in Oakland to catch a bus to her job in the medical field. She says she agrees with the ideals of the strike, but she has mixed feelings about withholding her labor.

SUMMER MARINE: I understand all the commotion going on, but, at the same time, I still need to make my living. You know, if I was to take off work, I'd probably lose my job. I feel, as a minority, that if I was to skip work or whatever in the type of job I have, I'd probably lose it.

WESTERVELT: Rallies and marches are planned in several cities for later this evening. One school district in Virginia and one in North Carolina closed today after hundreds of female employees requested the day off. Nationally, 76 percent of public school teachers are women. Elsewhere, businesses closed or gave female employees time off. But it's not clear yet what kind of economic and political impact the strike had beyond symbolism.

Symbols can be powerful. In New York City, childcare provider Yesenia Sanchez took her two daughters to school on the subway. She wore a red top. Her 8-year-old daughter Sylvia was wearing red pants.

SYLVIA: Because mommy told me it's Women National Day to wear red. Is this going to go on the news?

WESTERVELT: Sanchez says the message to her daughters is, society puts women second, and we need to push to do better. Eric Westervelt, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eric Westervelt is a San Francisco-based correspondent for NPR's National Desk. He has reported on major events for the network from wars and revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa to historic wildfires and terrorist attacks in the U.S.