DRIVING OUT OPPRESSION
In October 2010, a fleet of over 40 limo drivers was hired to drive Saudi Arabian Prince Abdul-Rahman and his family while he visited the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. The fleet’s three female drivers were fired on their second day of work after the Prince said he didn’t want to be driven by women.
At the time of his visit to Rochester, Prince Abdul-Rahman was Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Minister of Defense. He, former King Fahd, Crown Prince Salam, and their four brothers are some of the most powerful men in Saudi Arabia.
The three female drivers Prince Abdul-Rahman fired, Gretchen Cooper, Barb Herold, and Lisa Boutelle, were amazed that in the year 2010 in Minnesota they had been fired for being female. They decided to call Gender Justice, and we helped them file a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
While we fight for women drivers in Rochester, we want to recognize and honor that Rochester, Minnesota, and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, are connected. That’s why Gender Justice held a drive-in protest in solidarity with the 2011 #Women2Drive campaign to lift the ban on driving for women in Saudi Arabia.
Two years later Barb and Gretchen met #Women2Drive activist Manal al-Sharif when she was visiting the U.S. from Saudi Arabia. The connection between the women from Rochester and the Saudi activist was immediately clear when we showed Manal a picture from our drive-in protest in the Star Tribune. Manal recognized it instantly from having seen it everywhere at home in Saudi Arabia:
“I love the picture of Gretchen with her daughter, Naima. It was crazy, that picture! Saudis would
hang it all over. Everyone was asking, who is this girl?”
In 2012 the EEOC investigators granted Gender Justice the right to sue Prince Abdul-Rahman and the hiring agencies he used.
We’re excited about the possibility of having a conversation about female drivers with a Saudi Prince, but it takes a lot of work to serve a summons to a person with bodyguards who lives in Saudi Arabia. Gender Justice is currently waiting to hear from the court whether the prince was properly served before continuing with the suit.
You can help people like Gretchen, Barb and Lisa by donating today.