Grassroots organization La Poderosa is collecting signatures for a bill that guarantees salaries for community cooks that work in soup kitchens, who are overwhelmingly women.
“The media do not speak about us, they do not show us, but we do not want a symbolic recognition, we want an economic recognition, we want a salary,” Deputy Natalia Zaracho said in a press conference held in front of the Congress the organization made to address the project.
La Poderosa calculates that the bill would benefit some 77,000 people, 80% of which are women and dissident gender identities. Today, the organization will participate in marches for the International Working Women’s Day all over the country, collecting signatures for the project. They need 500,000 in order to present the bill as a “popular initiative”.
The bill demands a minimum salary for community cooks (AR$69,500, US$347 at the official exchange rate), together with health insurance and paid vacations. Cooks currently do not receive any compensation for their work at soup kitchens and are usually paid when working for other types of social programs.
“Soup kitchens have been in our neighborhoods for more than thirty years so we can have a meal a day,” La Poderosa member María Claudia Albornoz at the press conference. La Poderosa does community work in more than one hundred impoverished neighborhoods across Argentina, but the bill aims for salaries for soup kitchen workers from all organizations. The speakers also remembered Ramona Medina, a La Poderosa cook that died of COVID-19 during the early stages of the pandemic and who never stopped working despite having no running water in her house. Some of the cooks were in the audience during the event and one of them, Nelly Vargas, was the first one to sign the petition for the bill.
Albornoz was joined by Union of Popular Economy Workers (UTEP) Head Dina Sánchez, who pointed out that in a country where “50% of children are born poor,” most of those children eat in soup kitchens.
“Society still thinks that care work and cooking is something feminidades should do,” Susana Zaccaro, a Córdoba member of La Poderosa, told the Herald. Feminidades is the collective name given to cisgender women, transgender women and other femme identities in Argentina. “That has to change.”
Zaccaro thinks that Congress discussing the bill to turn it into law would bust the “popular myth” that people in impoverished neighborhoods do not work.
“It is a job that demands six or eight hours a day. The government owes us some 650 tons of food, so it is not just cooking – it also involves thinking about the economy, looking for sales and donations,” said Zaccaro.
The bill, she said, was written by the cooks themselves.
“I hope this Law for the Recognition of Community Cooks is the protagonist of today,” said City Legislator Ofelia Fernández at the press conference, referring to the International Women’s Day. “Sooner rather than later, feminism has to understand that, if being a woman is hard, being a poor woman is harder, being a migrant poor woman is harder, and being a trans, migrant poor woman is even harder.”
“We do not want to manage this crisis, we do not want to manage this poverty,” said Zaracho. “We want to transform reality.”