Rachel Keke, the maid ready to ‘disturb Parliament’

“It’s a hurricane.” At the Chiveli La Rue (Val de Marne) school, Patricia’s eyes widened, and so did the 200 people who attended, Thursday, May 19, the general meeting to launch Rachel Keke’s legislative election campaign (without the dialect, it sticks with it). the support Hanging on the lips of this 48-year-old woman. dressed colored wax top, Black hair with purple accents adorned with pearls, she was nicknamed the French woman from Côte d’Ivoire, born in Abobo, north of Abidjan. “the fighter”. His main achievements in the field of arms: standing up to the large hotel group Accor during a 22-month strike, the longest strike in the history of the sector, and winning several rights to room maids at the Ibis Clichy – Batignolles, in the 17th arrondissement of Paris, where she still works.

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In the courtyard covered with colorful frescoes, like the great orator, candidate of the new Popular Ecological and Social Union (Nupes) of the 7th arrondissement of Val-de-Marne (Fresnes, L’Haÿ-les-Roses, Rungis, Thiais and Chevilly-Larue) reviews a scene Fake and warns: It will happen “Shake the National Assembly”. If elected in mid-June, she would become the first maid to enter the Bourbon Palace.

“You are warriors”, knocked out the candidate for high school students a little earlier in the day, during a demonstration against reduced hourly allowances at the Lycée de Fresnes. Among the students Nino, 17, spoke to in her final year: “It’s good for someone with conflict experience to come forward. Don’t use language elements.” Making herself heard is the specialty of Rachel Kiki, who has sung for many years in gospel choirs and willingly remembers her origins from the Betty ethnic group, Known for her candor..

Until his arrival in France, Although it was a secret, notes Tatiana, her younger sister. Rachel Kiki enters adulthood at the age of 12, when she loses her mother, who was seven months pregnant. After this drama don’t go back to school, “Sorrow”She takes care of her four brothers. After the coup in Côte d’Ivoire in 1999, it landed in the 18th arrondissement of Paris, and then in Villeneuve-la-Garenne (Hauts-de-Seine). Alternately, hairstylist, cashier, and home helper for seniors, Rachel Kiki then becomes a maid. For fifteen years, she has cleaned up to 40 rooms per day. She then became a nanny and now checks in up to 100 rooms a day.

On the morning of her nomination’s christening, Thursday, May 19, fatigue painted her, Rachel Kecky washing her dishes. From the balcony of his apartment that we got as part of the 1% employer, we can see a tower of about twenty floors overlooking the neighborhood. She watches her Ghanaian rice cook, a recipe she’s inherited from her father, a bus driver, and remembers her beginnings in social struggle, during a union show. Then Rachel Keke works a few hours with a monthly salary of 600 euros. “I didn’t know anything about trade unions, it immediately shocked me. On that day, I realized that you could accompany me.” She ran for union elections and won. “I realized that I, too, could protect others. These women who can’t read or write very often, are very young, and they are all stunted.”

Until this strike, the longest in the history of the hotel industry. From July 2019 to May 2021, 20 people, including 17 room workers, two housekeepers and one team member, stood up against the Accor group. We had to sit every day from 9am to 4pm. When winter comes, rain, snow and hail increase the pain caused by tendinitis “Due to an accident at work”. Demonstrators resist insults and are even sprayed with water. “I can no longer sleep”, recognize. Some colleagues are subjected to pressure and threats of dismissal. strikers They finally won their case on almost all of their claims, with the support of the CGT-HPE union: “Now I get 1,700 euros a month net compared to 1,300 euros before”Rachel Kiki rejoices. In addition to the salary increase, work rates have been reduced and lunch costs are now covered.

“I want to take my fight to a higher level. In the General Assembly everything is decided.” Candidate Nupes summarizes her goal: Make the invisible visible. Maintenance personnel, cashiers, security guards, garbage collectors, nurses, teachers… For these essential occupations, companies make extensive use of subcontractors. And for Rachel Kiki, “Outsourcing is abuse.” “Those who live in fragility must vote for the laws”Sylvie Kimisa Esper, 52, begs Rachel Kiki’s friend and co-leader to strike at the Ibis Batniolles hotel.. “At the moment the deputies don’t make the beds, they don’t wash the bathroom. Rachel, spit out the truth.”

According to figures from the National Assembly, in a semicircle made up of only 0.4% of workers, 4% of employees and very few blacks, Rachel Keke might collide. “Do you want the French we speak at Science Po? I speak ‘banlieusard'”, sings at the general meeting. No doubt about the change, the one permeating each sentence with a smile promises us: “If you adapt to criticism, you go crazy.”

Rachel Keke speaks during the general campaign launch meeting for the legislative elections in Cheville-La Rue (Val-de-Marne), May 19, 2022. (MIREN GARAICOECHEA / FRANCEINFO)

Rachel Kiki remains natural. One day she wears long braids, the next day she wears short hair. It doesn’t matter if a member of his team is wondering “If voters are unlikely to realize it”. Without realizing it, she alerts—a mouthful noise of disapproval typical of African and West Indian cultures—when pollen bothers her so much, as if to scold her. It also doesn’t count everything you say. During a business meeting where she has to review campaign documents (tractor, ballot, profession of faith), the candidate frankly asks: “who is this ?”pointing to the face of Julien Bayot, National Secretary for Europe Ecologie-Les Verts.

And it works. “Your fight is extraordinary, I follow you on social networks”, a man is divorced outside Paul Bert School in Chevilly-Larue. At the beginning of the day, the candidate came to drag him in front of the establishment. Access to education matters to her, she lives with four of her five children. “My son could have finished as an engineer, but he couldn’t find a work and study program. As a result, he was distributing meals and didn’t want to go back to school anymore”, Rachel captures Kiki, while she is having lunch in front of her TV, connected to a news channel. The children also returned for lunch, and the confrontation with his youngest daughter began, “Who does not work enough” It can be directed in a direction that does not suit it.

However, his candidacy was never successful. Rachel Keke asserts that she was disgusted with politics after the strike. Newspaper cross (paid item)so she confirmed “In particular he doesn’t (want to) get into politics”and own ‘A little scared to recover’. The ruling She especially keeps a bitter memory of Marilyn Schiappa. The former Minister of State for Equality between Women and Men came to visit the strikers. “She said she would defend us, and in the end, she could not interfere in a privacy issue.”

Conversely, Rachel Kiki also remembers loyal allies. There were feminist groups, the NPA, and then several people from La France Insoumise, including MP Eric Coquerel, who saluted him. “Enthusiasm”. At the beginning of 2022, he invited her to join the Parliament of the People’s Union, a group made up of LFI activists and civil society figures to support Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the presidential election. A few months later, Hadi Ishanan, a volunteer activist from her constituency, called again to offer her the role of the leader of the Nupes. Although she was very surprised, she accepted. “I told them I didn’t know how to do politics. I didn’t even know if the roles of the incumbent and the alternate were the same in the union.”

“She could have presented herself in a more famous Circo, as in Seine-Saint-Denis, but she wanted to present herself where she lives.”Hadi Yasshan notes. “You did not choose the easy way, Confirms another militant from the Communist Party. This circle can swing to the right or the left, with an electorate as there is a lot of katho from the left, from the center left. In the first round of the presidential election, Jean-Luc Mélenchon received an average of 31.8% of the vote in the cities that make up the 7th arrondissement of Val-de-Marne, 10 points above the national level. In the legislative elections, Rachel Keke will face the former Minister of Sports, Roxana Marasinho, the candidate for the outgoing majority LREM.

“I’m not afraid of anything”says the person who had an idea that the cleaner “powder” A former minister is ready to smile. I expect attacks. I tell a harsh truth not everyone agrees to hear. But I am like a soldier returning from war: I have already seen the worst in my struggle, and I am not afraid of anything”, it repeats. His team confirms his help “To gossip about questions, learn about fixes”. If she becomes a deputy, she knows she won’t be Not alone. “I’ll have a team. All deputies do, right?” For the rest, Rachel Kiki is already driving her boat. When asked about the origin of the financial assistance she receives to make up for non-working days in this campaign month or about her personal situation, she assumes. “If I don’t want to answer or if I don’t have the answer, I don’t answer.”

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