APALA E-Newsletter
The APA Voice of Labor Jan 2009
In This Issue
Featured Chapter
Future for the Asian American Labor Movement is Bright
APALA Applauds Nomination of Rep. Hilda Solis to Head Labor Department
Featured Chapter
Las Vegas chapter members worked overtime reaching out to the 22,000 APA voters in the area.  APALA members engaged in voter registration, early voter turnout, voter education through town hall forums and election protection, in conjunction with the One Nevada and APIA Vote coalitions.

According to Gloria T. Caoile, APALA's Political Director, "We engaged people, got the early vote message out, and increased awareness.  First time voters told us they really appreciated the personal touch of a thank you letter for registering to vote."

The Las Vegas team was able to track who had already voted and focus their energies on turning out infrequent voters, increasing the immigrant vote.  The coalition was able to generate a range of mainstream and ethnic media, including coverage in the BBC, the Chinese Daily News and the Las Vegas Asian Journal.  The Las Vegas Chapter also played a leadership role in implementing the first election protection and exit poll program in Nevada with the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF).
Kudos to the Las Vegas members for all of their hard work in empowering the Asian Pacific American community!

SCHIP Expansion Passes House

APALA is pleased that the House just passed H.R. 2 to reform SCHIP, a federal program that provides health insurance to children whose families cannot afford it. The bill passed with bipartisan support, 289-139.

We salute the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus for taking a lead role in waiving the five-year waiting period for Medicaid and SCHIP imposed on pregnant women and children legally residing in the US.

We look forward to the Senate and President Obama ensuring that health care coverage for immigrant children and pregnant women remains a key provision of SCHIP expansion. For a history of how President Bush blocked SCHIP extension and expansion, read the AFL-CIO Now blog

Honoring International Human Rights Day by Backing EFCA  

APALA joined the international human rights movement in celebrating December 10, the anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This year, APALA urged allies and worker advocates to support passage of the Employee Free Choice Act. 

     The law would provide workers with a fair and direct path to form unions through majority sign-up, allow for mediation and arbitration if an employer and union are not able to establish first contract and strengthen penalties against employers that violate labor laws.

    "International Human Rights Day allows us to reflect on the fundamental right for workers to form and join a union," said Maria Somma, APALA National President.  "Wages are dropping, health care costs are rising, pensions are disappearing, and we are in danger of losing our middle class.  Passage of the Employee Free Choice Act represents the single best tool to create an economy that works for all."

Quick Links
Join Our Mailing List
As you bring in the New Year, we encourage you to continue your support of the Asian Pacific American Labor Movement by renewing your APALA membership!  Your membership allows APALA to continue to fight for worker, immigrant and civil rights, mobilize Asian Pacific American (APA) voters and train a new generation of APA organizers.  Additionally, by supporting APALA, your membership will entitle you to attend APALA's 10th Biennial Convention, scheduled from July 9-12, 2008 at Bally's in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The New Year is also an appropriate time to reflect on APALA's successes last year as we map out our goals for 2009.  APALA continues to create pipelines for APAs who are interested in joining the labor movement through our Organizing Institute.  APALA, in partnership with APIAVote and several local APA community-based organizations, implemented Every Vote Counts. Though this proven voter outreach program, members successfully targeted over 100,000 APA voters in seven swing states across the country to ensure that APA voters played an instrumental role in determining the 44th President of the United States.
APALA congratulates President Barack Obama on this historic election and applauds the administration for their efforts to reach out to the APA community on transition issues.  Please click on this link for a brief video clip documenting some of their efforts.  Looking ahead, APALA plans to take a leadership role to educate the APA community on the benefits of the Employee Free Choice Act.  We are optimistic about working with the administration and hope that President Obama maintains his commitment to support the Employee Free Choice Act to ensure that all workers have the freedom to form a union. 
To achieve these goals, we need continued engagement and activism from our members and chapters.  Together, we can continue the fight to improve the lives of all workers and families.
In solidarity,
Malcolm Amado Uno
Executive Director
Maf Misbah Uddin
Future for the Asian American Labor Movement is Bright
A brief interview of APALA Executive Board Member Maf Misbah Uddin, President of AFSCME local 1407 and Treasurer of District Council 37 and the highest ranking Bangladeshi American in labor.

On becoming involved with the labor movement:

I started working in 1988 for the City of New York, which had sponsored me for immigration as a pension actuary. Colleagues started telling me about the union, and I started going to meetings. Initially, they couldn't understand my questions.

I began to mobilize. Back then, there weren't many Asians in the union. But if you were talking about issues, they were union issues, not Asian ones, so people started listening. In '92 I ran for an Executive Board position, and I went to everybody, whoever that could understand me. Sometimes I would bring a notebook so that I could make them understand.

I won that election, and I was the only one who looked like me.

In 1997, I ran against an incumbent for a citywide delegate position within the union, and I got elected. So that gave me the idea that I could do a citywide election.

In 2000, I ran with a slate of 16 people, and only 3 of them didn't win. I became president of my local. In 2004, I ran with my slate again and this time we took 19 VP positions, plus I became the custodian of DC 37's budget.

By 2001, I had become active with APALA and I ran for APALA's Executive Board from the floor in 2005 and won. I think within AFSCME, I hold the highest position for any Asian American.

On opportunities for Asian Americans in unions:

Nobody is going to give it to us. We have to make sure we have recognition by becoming aggressively involved in the labor movememnt. We have a huge population from Asia, even in a few states we can make a difference. And the union leadership is recognizing it.

These opportunities were not given to us; we must claim them, and exert our power and ability to lead.

The future for the Asian American labor movement is bright . . . We must lead others who are behind us and we must push those who are in front of us. We must present ourselves not as a problem but as the solution.

I think APALA is a bright platform to bring us to be where we want to be.  With 15 million APAs, there is a space here, and I think there is take to take it.

On the economic downturn:

As working class people, we opposed from the beginning the $3 Trillion tax credit that only benefited 1% of America.

You can read Maf's extended biography on the APALA site.
APALA Applauds Nomination of Rep. Hilda Solis to Head Labor Department

APALA applauds President Obama's selection of Congresswoman Hilda Solis as the next Secretary of Labor and encourages the U.S. Senate to confirm this appointment.  APALA is optimistic that Congresswoman Solis will re-instill the original intent of the Department of Labor to defend workers' basic rights in our nation's workplaces.
Hilda SolisCongresswoman Solis has a personal connection and appreciation for the plight of working families.  Her father, an immigrant from Mexico, was a steward for the Teamsters, and her mother, originally from Nicaragua, worked on an assembly line.  This upbringing has translated into tangible results in Congress that we hope will transfer to the Department of Labor.
First elected in 2000 to represent California's 32nd Congressional District, where Asian Pacific Americans comprise close to 20 percent of the population, Solis' voting record reflects her commitment to working families.  During the 110th Congress, Solis voted with APALA's position on every piece of legislation in the 2008 Congressional Voter Guide.  Specifically, her support of the Employee Free Choice Act, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the DREAM Act reinforce the hope that Solis will reform the Department of Labor to guarantee workers' rights to safe and healthy working condition and ensure freedom from employment discrimination.