The making of Indonesian women worker activists

Andriyani, Nori (1996) The making of Indonesian women worker activists. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

This study is an effort to combine activism and academic work. This study is not only aimed for academic purposes, but also for practical utilization by labor activists in their work to improve workers' conditions. My research focuses on the increasing evidence of industrial women workers' militancy in contemporary Indonesia. This issue is significant because, first, Indonesian women workers are able to manifest their political voice despite pressure on the labor movement by the ruling powers. Second, the increasing militancy of contemporary Indonesian women workers represents the voice of the lower class women, which has not been represented by the women's organizations dominated by middle class women. -- The research utilized a case study method. The information was gained from a group of women workers in Alpena factory (pseudonym) in Jakarta. The study aims to find out how women workers manifest their resistance, and to understand the process whereby they become activists. Through the case study of Alpena women workers, it is found that resistance is manifested through acts that range from everyday forms of resistance to open and organized collective action. The everyday forms of resistance are acts that are unorganized, informal, individually initiated, and not evidently challenging authority; for example gossiping about the management's oppressive policies, talking back to supervisors or taking a long time in the toilet. -- Everyday forms of resistance can lead to open and organized collective action, such as a strike. The everyday forms of resistance function as a glue that keeps the workers' spirit of resistance up and provides experience in learning to resist. This finding is in keeping with long standing feminist efforts to redefine politics, which traditionally have been seen as limited to the realm of formal organizations, such as trade unions, political parties, and governments. The old definition ignores many of women's most important political acts. -- This research is also a critique of Manning's Neoclassical economic argument that the increasing workers' protest actions in Indonesia are not yet significant enough to enable am organized labor movement. Manning argues that Indonesia is still in a situation of a labor surplus economy. This study also posits a critique of the Marxist labor activists' perspective that Indonesian workers are not political because the present resistance is only about economic demands and not about the overturning of the dominant capitalist structure and the hegemonic ruling powers. The main critique of both the Neoclassical economic position and the Marxist perspective is that they ignore the significance of grassroots politics and concentrate too much on formal levels of political movement, in this case the trade unions, the government, and political parties. -- The second finding is that there is an interrelated process that leads women workers to become activists. In the case of Alpena, there were many oppressive issues at work that angered the women: issues that relate to working conditions, such as minimum wage violation or insufficient health benefits, and issues that relate to respected values, such as the degrading treatment of workers by management or unkept promises by management. Outside the factory, there is oppression by the state that society, particularly the working class community, feels and reacts to. For women workers, there are also patriarchal values that some experience as oppressive. These factors interrelate with each other and generate the conditions that enable women workers to become activists. -- In sum, this study provides support for the argument that Indonesian women workers today play an important role in labor politics because they have become a group that are able to manifest their resistance. In other words a politically conscious group of working class young women activists is in the making in contemporary Indonesia. By showing the importance of women workers in the rise of working class' resistance in contemporary Indonesia, it is hoped that this study can help to improve women's position within the independent labor movement and help to eradicate patriarchal obstacles within the movement.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/792
Item ID: 792
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves [176-182]
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Gender Studies
Date: 1996
Date Type: Submission
Geographic Location: Indonesia
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Women in the labor movement--Indonesia; Women employees--Indonesia; Human rights workers--Indonesia

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