A voice from the horizon

IssueMay 2007
Feature by Marina Sitrin, Liliana

We are all older women here [at Brukman, an occupied textile factory], almost all of us are over 40, and our only source of employment is this factory. What we know how to do is work with the machines that are inside.

Because of this whole experience I have now begun to wonder why the worker always has to keep quiet? The boss doesn't pay you, the boss owes you money, and you're the one that has to leave, to hang your head and go.

Well, we made the decision that we weren't going to be quiet anymore. They've done a lot of things to us and I believe that, well, enough already with staying quiet. No? All our lives we kept quiet.

In the past [when a factory closed], we would have left and looked for another job. I don't think that way anymore. I want to be clear about that. I want all this corruption that's carried out against us workers to stop. We, as workers, have stopped being stupid, and that's it. We're steadfast.

We couldn't go home

In reality, for us it wasn't a factory occupation. We stayed on December 18, 2001 because we didn't have enough money to get home. Where were we going to go with two pesos when the bus costs four?

Together, everyone in the factory thought about our situation, and decided to stay to see if the bosses would decide to give us a little money so we could celebrate the holidays with our families. The bosses had families, too, so they understand the desire to be together on the holidays. This wasn't an occupation at first, but it became one without us intending it.

We waited two months for the bosses to come back. We went to the unions, the Ministry of Work, all with the intention of getting the boss to come back and offer us a solution. He never came.
So we decided to work. That's how it started, and we were doing a really good job, working well. We even paid the electric bill.

The debt, the power

The boss had a deal where he could owe money to the electric company without them cutting off his power. They told us that they wouldn't only cut off our electricity, but that in order to keep the power on, we also had to pay the boss's debt of 7000 pesos.

We did it, and we paid the water bill and the gas bill---which is the most important---and that's how we worked. But what we were doing bothered them from the beginning and they came around all the time to harass us. They claimed we were destroying the machines, for example, but that didn't make sense since there was a ton of media people around us and they saw that nothing was broken.

Why would we break the machines in the first place? How would we eat? How would we pay for everything? We were working, despite the boss's lies.

So many of the unemployed workers movements have come to support us. What we've done is pretty big. We're an example of how to fight for a workplace, an inspiration for the unemployed making 150 pesos, which isn't enough for a family. What a worker needs is to work.

We aren't political. We're surrounded by politicians, but that isn't the type of politics that makes sense to the women workers of Brukman. What we want is to work, and we struggle for our work, for our livelihood. Especially women---women think more about their children. I think that women are better fighters than men, and this pushes us to continue fighting for our livelihood.

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