It’s International Women’s Day, and this year in Pittsburgh that means two things: strikes and solidarity.
Both the International Women’s Strike, and the Women’s March on Washington-organized “A Day Without a Woman,” encourage women to abstain from working and performing feminized labor like childcare. Organizers of Pittsburgh’s Women’s Strike are doing that, too, and will hold a 4 p.m. rally at the City-County Building, while Carnegie Mellon faculty and students are planning to walk out.
In an email, Richard Scheines, dean of CMU’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, asked supervisors to “please allow individuals to participate in this event.”
“Students should make up work or exams, and staff should use PTO time off [sic], but we are a community devoted to equal rights for women, and this is an opportunity to show it,” he wrote.
Here’s what going on around Pittsburgh. Are you striking today? Doing something else? Email us.
Handmade signs for the women's strike in Pittsburgh.Jasmine Goldband / The Incline
There are dozens of women-owned businesses in Lawrenceville, and many are participating in some way.
At least seven will be closed, according to the Lawrenceville Corporation:
- 52nd Street Market
- Allegheny Wine Mixer
- Caffe d’Amore
- The Butterwood Bake Consortium
Jamie Patten said she talked about closing her bar, Allegheny Wine Mixer, with the staff and decided it was “the strongest statement we could make.”
“It does represent a good chunk of money,” she said, but it’s something she “really wanted to do” personally. “I wanted it to be more of a protest action, something that was a little stronger.”
Businesses in the neighborhood are expected to post signs designed by Maralynn Jacoby of Bear Left Bear that declare “Another Lawrenceville Woman-Owned Business” and “Women At Work.”
“People are going to be surprised and hopefully supportive and impressed when they see” the signs, Patten said.
Megan Lindsey, co-owner of Franktuary, isn’t planning to strike, but her restaurants will post signs that detail how integral women are to the business. She’s also encouraging employees to wear a red ribbon.
Una Biologicals will likewise stay open, according to owner Jessica Graves, so that her “woman-owned business [may] bring attention to how many small women-owned businesses there are in Lawrenceville.”
Graves will also donate 10 percent of today’s proceeds to Planned Parenthood, and her staff will wear red in solidarity. More than a dozen other businesses in the neighborhood will also make donations to organizations including the Women and Girls Foundation.
“So many of us can’t afford to not go to work,” Graves explained of not closing today. “I wanted other women to know that’s OK. I have to go to work too. It doesn’t make me less of a feminist or less involved with doing what’s right for my family and my community and my politics.”
Allegheny Wine Mixer’s Patten said she first talked to other businesses around her about their plans for the day. She then reached out to dozens of other businesses by email and got a “gigantic response.”
“Everybody was excited and wanted to participate,” she said.
Dora Walmsley, co-owner of 52nd Street Market, called it a “beautiful moment of solidarity among female entrepreneurs.”
Both Graves and Walmsley said the female business owners in the neighborhood support one another, whether that be through relationship building or just listening when someone’s having a slow month.
“You’re not in it alone,” Walmsley said.
Outside of Lawrenceville, TechShop Pittsburgh in Larimer is offering two weeks of free membership between Wednesday and Saturday to mark International Women’s Day.
Scratch Food and Beverage in Troy Hill is giving its female employees the day off and is hosting a special $20 cocktail event with Farm to Table Pittsburgh. All proceeds and tips will be donated to Planned Parenthood, the Post-Gazette reported.
As least one elected official in Allegheny County is encouraging women to participate in the strike.
State Rep. Jake Wheatley, who represents part of Pittsburgh, said in a press release that the women who work for his office may take the day off with pay.
“Women make invaluable contributions in the workplace, yet they continue to lag behind their male peers in terms of pay and promotion,” Wheatley said in a statement. “Giving my female employees the day off is one way to add more voices to the growing chorus that’s demanding policy changes to help women achieve parity, in the workplace and elsewhere.”
A spokeswoman for Mayor Bill Peduto said the opportunity to take the day off to strike hasn’t been “requested of him” by staff. She added that he’s “extremely supportive of women’s rights,” including equal pay.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald’s spokeswoman said staff may use personal days for any reason.
It’s not clear how many women in Pittsburgh plan to participate.
Up and down the East Coast, including in the D.C. suburb Alexandria, Va., school districts have cancelled classes because so many teachers called off.
Lindsey M. Williams, communications and political director for the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, said the union has “not heard if our teachers are striking.” But the federation is encouraging its members to do one or more of the following:
- “Wear red in solidarity
- Refrain from shopping – Women are responsible for 70 to 80 percent of purchases made in the US. If you need something on March 8, get it the day before or get it from businesses owned by women or minorities.
- Attend the rally in Pittsburgh at the City-County Building from 4:00-6:00pm
- Spread the word with positivity and support via social media
- Make a donation to a woman’s organization or a female candidate who shares your values
- Call your elected officials at the state and federal level and tell them to support polices that support women and families such as paid family leave.”