The past four years, women, men, and families have joined forces to participate in the Women’s March in Santa Ana in conjunction with marches in most major cities across the country. In 2017, we were compelled to join together to defend hard-won rights that were being threatened. Each year we stand shoulder-to-shoulder to fight against a persistent gender pay gap, the discrimination women face in the workplace, and against sexual harassment on the job. These are basic rights everyone should be able to enjoy in any job. Many of these rights continue to be threatened and so we continue to participate and bring awareness.
Since the Women’s March began in January 2017, we have seen some profound changes across the country. One of the most obvious is in the make-up of Congress. Before 2017, there were never more than 84 women serving in Congress out of 435 House members. Now, we have 126 female representatives in Congress, with an additional 25 women Senators. The “MeToo movement” is challenging the power and privilege of men in the movie, media and other industries. You can connect these organizational dots to the energy created by the Women’s March.
OCEA members and their families are part of the middle class in Orange County.
One of the things I have learned standing shoulder-to-shoulder with my union brothers and sisters at the Orange County Employees Association is that when we come together as one, we have a much stronger voice. We strengthen and empower each other, bringing hope that together, social and economic justice is more than an ideal found on an old parchment. It is a living, breathing way of life that can be shared by all. It enriches us to see how our diversities unite us toward a common good. The passion and drive we share in our mass protests puts those in power on notice that the status quo is over. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “[f]reedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
Another change I have witnessed since women began marching are the concerted efforts to transform passion into political and social action. After the first, massive Women’s March, women began flooding Congress with postcards protesting threats to healthcare. The march energized a new generation of women seeking political office at every level. Many women have told me the Women’s March was their first time participating in a political demonstration. Since 2017, many more women have volunteered for voter registration drives and political campaigns. The Women’s March became a force for demanding better political representation and social justice.
There is so much more work we need to do in this new decade and a great way to get started is on the streets of Downtown Santa Ana on January 18 with thousands of friends. Bring your families, bring a neighbor, and let your voices be heard!
Lezlee Neebe is the President of Orange County Employees Association in Santa Ana
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