Women's History Month

How Do You Ask For A Day Off Work To Demonstrate? These Protesting Women Explain

Huge protests in New York were meant to remind people what a day without women is like.

Thousands hit the streets in New York City and across the country on Wednesday to participate in A Day Without A Woman demonstrations. But first, many had to ask their bosses or teachers for the day off.

The streets were filled with women and men there to highlight the economic power women have, as well as the injustice women and gender non-conforming people experience on a day-to-day basis. During the event, which was organized by the women behind the historic march on Washington in January, A Plus spoke to women about the experience of asking for a day off.

"It was very candid, I've been very vocal all along about my decisions and fears during this political time," Jessica Fiallos, who works in sales at a big corporation, said. "It was not a surprise to my boss, he was very supportive."

While it was easy for Fiallos, she acknowledged that other women — even on International Women's Day — may not be in a position where they were able to take a day off. For her, that was all the more reason to be there.

"I needed to come and represent those people who are not able to take a day off," she said. "I had a bunch of friends that couldn't and I told them I am here for them today and I will be a voice for them."

Fiallos, left, and a friend hold up signs during the demonstration in New York City.
Fiallos, left, and a friend hold up signs during the demonstration in New York City. Photo: Isaac Saul

She wasn't the only woman to share that sentiment. Kim, who wanted to stay relatively anonymous and said she works "in organizing," acknowledged that many of her peers didn't have the means to take a day off and come out to show solidarity. And she was perfectly okay with that, especially if they were trying to avoid losing their job.

"As a woman of color, I would say if that's a threat and that's in jeopardy I get it, maybe that's not the thing you can do to push forward this movement for women," she said.  "There is something else that you can do while you maintain the little security that you have... I completely respect that and I think everyone should."

Erin Johnson, who works in graphic design for a corporate real estate company, said she used the template letter Women's March organizers sent out to ask for the day off.

"I was given the green light by my direct manager, but even if I wasn't I still would have taken the day," Johnson said. "I am also taking the day and striking because I know there are a lot of women who can't take the day and don't have that luxury or are choosing not to do it."

Johnson was there with her cousin and a friend, who joked that they were representing a few different generations of women. 

Johnson, center, poses with a friend and a cousin while listening to speakers at the A Day Without A Woman demonstration in New York City.
Johnson, center, poses with a friend and a cousin while listening to speakers at the A Day Without A Woman demonstration in New York City. Photo: Isaac Saul

While Johnson used the Women's March to ask for permission, other women simply notified their bosses that they'd be taking the day off.

"More than half my team in my unit are women and about three-quarters of them are taking the day off today," Stephanie, who works in City Planning, said. "We just kind of said we were going to take the day off for the strike. A lot of us took the day off for the Women's March on Washington, too. I know a lot of male co-workers in the office are wearing red to back up the women who are taking the day off."

If that sounds pretty easy, it's because it was. But Stephanie said she recognizes the fact her position was unique. 

"I'm in a really privileged position in that I work for a city that's really pretty liberal and for a particular city agency that is pretty liberal," Stephanie said. "I think it can be really challenging for people who can't get a paid day off or who have bosses that can be punitive about that."

Stephanie holds her sign up for a photo outside the demonstration. 
Stephanie holds her sign up for a photo outside the demonstration.  Photo: Isaac Saul

Some weren't skipping out on work, but school. Children and young girls in uniform were there marching and holding signs. 

A child holds up a "stronger together" sign on the south side of Central Park.
A child holds up a "stronger together" sign on the south side of Central Park. Photo: Isaac Saul
Fatu (right) and her friend pose for a picture on the southeast side of Central Park. 
Fatu (right) and her friend pose for a picture on the southeast side of Central Park.  Photo: Isaac Saul

One college student, Fatu, said she was coming in between classes but wasn't too worried about being late for her 2 p.m. class.

"I was inspired, but I'm more inspired right now," Fatu said. "We still need to do more, it's never enough. Sometimes for some great purpose, you have to sacrifice. I don't think a professor would really understand that. Maybe you are going to be late or miss a class but you can find a solution for that — ask a friend that went to the class or ask for a make-up."

Another group of women laughed when I asked them how asking for the day off went over with their bosses. 

"We are the bosses," they said, before declining to be interviewed. 

One woman told me she was just on her lunch break and hadn't notified work; an older man said his wife wasn't able to get the day off, so he came for her.

After listening to speakers like Palestinian activist and Brooklyn native Linda Sarsour, attendees of the march set off to demonstrate outside Trump International Hotel. There, thousands circled the hotel and the south side of Central Park, and about 100 protesters flooded into the street to block the road before New York Police Department officers showed up. They declared an "unlawful assembly" and warned the protesters to disperse or they would be arrested for disorderly conduct.

Sarsour, one of the Women's March organizers and a prominent activist, was one of about 50 women to refuse to disperse. She and approximately a dozen others were arrested. 

After her arrest, the protesters began chanting in support for a few minutes and then quietly dispersed when the NYPD left. Much like the Women's March on Washington, it was a pink-filled, peaceful demonstration that focused on representing women's issues throughout the country.

"I think being right here right now is part of the solution," Fatu told me.