APALA E-Newsletter
The APA Voice of Labor February 2009
In This Issue
Featured Chapter
A New Administration Brings Change
New Bills Protect Families and the Middle Class
Featured Chapter
The Los Angeles Chapter of APALA rallied with over 400 Californians for the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act on February 5th.  Union activists, community members, and students held a press conference at the Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance (KIWA) to show their unity and support for the Employee Free Choice Act, and then joined the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor's 10 mile march for the Employee Free Choice Act.
Judy Chu, Vice Chair of the California Board of Equalization, stated, "The Employee Free Choice Act will help working Asian Pacific Americans secure the American Dream.  The Employee Free Choice Act will enable us to build an economy that works for everyone."
The Employee Free Choice Act will allow workers to choose whether and how they want to form a union.  "The Employee Free Choice Act levels the playing field for all employees, so they can advocate for better conditions and opportunities in the workplace" says Raahi Reddy, President of the Los Angeles Chapter of APALA.
Featured Member Accomplishment
Snake Dance book cover
APALA is pleased to showcase a new book co-written by Michael Liu with stalwart members and chapter leaders Kim Geron (Alameda chapter President and CSU East Bay associate professor) and Tracy Lai (Seattle chapter President and tenured historian at Seattle Central Community College) on Asian American activism. The Snake Dance of Asian American Activism covers a broad span of the Asian American Movement and asserts that the movement, which fought for equality, immigrant and workers' rights, succeeded in launching APAs into the mainstream of American civic life.

Voices like that of Karl Yoneda, who helped to found the Internationlal Longshore Workers Union, enrich Liu, Geron, and Lai's commentary:

There are many heroes whose records are unsung and unknown. We can enrich ourselves from the past in order to create the kind of society all of us are hoping and striving for. Asian immigrants contributed greatly in enriching the US mine, railroad, farm, sawmill, fishing, cannery, sugar and pineapple industries. We, their descendants, have every right to have a say in its destiny.

Asian American union members and activists have played and continue to play a leading role in the Asian American, union, and broader progressive movements. We thank Geron and Lai for their contributions to our shared Asian American history.

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Although it's still the dead of winter, the nation's capital is heating up with all the changes that a new administration brings. We have lots of good news to share in this newsletter, from long-time APALA members taking on new leadership roles to signature working families' bills such as Lily Ledbetter and SCHIP becoming law.
All of these positive changes seem to resonate especially as we celebrate Black History Month and recognize the role that African American have played in the civil rights, worker rights, and human rights movements. And just last month America inaugurated our first African American president.  We have come so far, and I want to share some recent victories in addition to the gains covered in the rest of the newsletter:
In 2008, the ranks of union members rose by 428,000, increasing their share of the workforce to 12.4% of all workers.  I am encouraged by this increase in union membership and APALA stands in solidarity with all workers who seek to join unions.
Filipino veterans who fought alongside American fighters in World War II gained recognition and compensation in the recent stimulus package. APALA applauds passage of this provision and of Filipino veterans' continued quest for justice.
We have been busy working with our union and community partners to ensure equality for working families and Asian Pacific Americans, protecting immigrant rights, and seeking civil rights for all.  Don't forget to renew your chapter membership and become a member in good standing in this lunar new year. Happy Year of the Ox!
In solidarity,
Malcolm Amado Uno
Executive Director

A New Administration Brings Change 
The new Obama administration brought with it sweeping changes for working families, including signing bills to help the middle class, ushering in worker-friendly appointees and reversing Bush's regressive rule changes.

We congratulate our new Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, a longtime fighter for immigrant workers, but her appointment by President Obama is just one sign of the changing times. He also appointed a new chair of the National Labor Relations Board, which oversees elections for union representation and investigates unfair labor practices. Wilma Liebman, the incoming NLRB chair, has a strong history of safeguarding workers' rights, and we look forward to her leadership.

In addition, the President unveiled a new initiative chaired by Vice President Biden - the White House Task Force on Middle Class Working Families - dedicated to raising standards for the middle class and lifting up the poor.

Union leaders were welcomed into the White House to witness the signing of executive orders and rule changes that reversed the previous administration's anti-worker policies:
  • Requiring federal service contractors to offer jobs to current workers when contracts change.
  • Reversing a Bush order requiring federal contractors to post notice that workers can limit financial support of unions serving as their exclusive bargaining representatives.
  • Preventing federal contractors from being reimbursed for expenses used to deter workers deciding whether to form a union and engage in collective bargaining.
  • Repealing a ban on project labor agreements (PLAs) on federal and federally funded construction.
Project labor agreements establish higher standards for wages and health and safety rules on large construction projects.
These common-sense policies also benefit communities, employers and workers by ensuring on-time completion of projects.

Obama's actions signal a break with regressive Bush policies, and a return to valuing workers. We look forward to his continued support of workers' rights.
New Bills Protect Families and the Middle Class 
APALA salutes Congress and President Obama in passing and signing the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP.)Asian Am mom and child

The Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, enacted on January 29, will help ensure fairness and equality at the workplace. It reverses the flawed Supreme Court decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company which ruled that women who had suffered unequal pay would have to file suit within 180 days of the violation, even though many workers only discover workplace discrimination years later. This welcome reversal comes as women, people of color, older Americans and people with disabilities continue to face pay discrimination in the workplace -- even in 2007, the US Census found that the average woman makes 77 cents for every dollar that a man makes.

On February 4, 2009, Obama signed into law an expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program which allows children from low-income families who would otherwise not have health insurance to be covered by the state. Congress also agreed to remove a five year waiting period for legal immigrant children and pregnant women to be eligible for SCHIP, to be implemented by the states. This removes a barrier to health care access for legal immigrant children, who tend to be uninsured at higher rates than US-born kids. According to NAKASEC, 1 in 4 Korean Americans under the age of 18 lacks health coverage.

Currently 25 states including the District of Columbia already cover either legal immigrant children or pregnant women, so the passage of the Immigrant Children's Health Insurance Act simply  ensures that Asian Pacific American women and children don't have to wait five years for health care.

Congress had passed SCHIP expansion twice under President Bush, who had vetoed it both times, despite broad public support for providing children's health care. This time, it was passed with broad bipartisan support in the House and Senate.

The passage of these bills at such an early stage holds great promise for further victories for working families down the line!