APALA E-Newsletter
The APA Voice of Labor April 2009
In This Issue
Convention Call
Featured Chapter
Employee Free Choice Act Introduced
DREAM Act Propels Students Forward
Convention Call
Convention logo REMINDER: APALA Convention July 9-12, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada

As a reminder, APALA is proud to host the first national convening of Asian Pacific American workers and students, Generations United, Organizing For Change, APALA's 10th Biennial Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada from July 9-12, 2009.  To register on-line, click here, and for a convention call, click here.
This powerful alliance was launched when we invited students to join the labor movement through our Organizing Institute and has continued through our political program, Every Vote Counts, recruiting high school and college students to reach out and mobilize APA voters.  We seek to build a multi-generational coalition to usher in a new era of change starting with the Employee Free Choice Act.
Please join us as we convene this historic meeting to continue building our collective agenda.  Generations United, Organizing for Change promises to provide all participants with a renewed sense of optimism for workers and students alike. 
Featured Chapter
Liu press event
The New York City chapter of  APALA, led by President Lonway Moy, joined a pan-ethnic coalition of community and union leaders and elected officials in endorsing City Councilor John Liu in his campaign for Comptroller. Liu has also been endorsed by the Transportation Workers Union and the Working Families Party. Liu's understanding of working class issues stems from his mother's experience as a sweatshop worker.

Prior to becoming New York City's first Asian American councilmember in 2001, Liu worked as a manager at Price Waterhouse Coopers, the accounting firm. Since his election, Liu has sought good government reforms and increased transparency in his role as chair of the Transportation Committee, overseeing NYC's vast public transportation system.

If elected, Liu would be the first Asian American citywide official in New York City, which has an APA population of 800,000 people according to the 2000 Census. 

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Working families have been at the center of the major policy changes in this nation for decades, and the same is true today. Unions remain the best path to the middle class, and APALA works with our union brothers and sisters as well as leaders from the community to ensure that APA workers are heard in DC. So I am pleased to announce that one of of the areas where our labor movement is united is on the issue of immigration.
Many of us who are immigrants or the descendants of immigrants who have fought for workers rights are proud that the labor movement could speak as one voice on this vital issue. Labor has also taken a leading role in pushing for worker reforms and the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, and APALA members across the country have written and spoken to their Congressmembers to ensure that workers can have the right to organize.

Seventeen years ago, when Asian American labor activists came together to usher in APALA to the House of Labor, we did so because we believed that immigrant workers deserve justice. Today, we are still fighting for immigrant and labor rights, and we are moving closer to better federal policies, but we can only do so with your active support and participation.

Remember to renew your chapter membership and we hope to see many of you at APALA's Tenth Biennial Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada from July 9-12, 2009.
In solidarity,
Malcolm Amado Uno
Executive Director

APALA EFCA letters
Employee Free Choice Act Introduced

Asian Pacific American workers and their families - like most Americans - are struggling to keep up in today's economy.  Even a college education doesn't guarantee a good job or secure income anymore.  For decades, the right to organize in the workplace has provided workers with a stronger voice on the job and opportunities to address inequities such as language, educational, and other barriers, including discrimination.  That's why we need Congress to approve the Employee Free Choice Act. 
Union members across the country have been busy lining up meetings with members of Congress in their home districts, holding over 400 grassroots events, and calling for labor law reform in the form of the Employee Free Choice Act (HR 1409). The bill was introduced on March 10 by Representative George Miller and Senator Tom Harkin and currently has 229 co-sponsors in the House and 39 in the Senate. "The Employee Free Choice Act is critical to building an economy that works for everyone in this country again," said Rep. Miller.

APALA EFCAIn response to this development, APALA convened an educational briefing on the Employee Free Choice Act attended by over a dozen national APA organizations on March 18, 2009.  APALA thanks all of the organizations for their participation and also acknowledges Arlene Holt-Baker, Executive Vice President of the AFL-CIO, for taking the time to welcome the Asian Pacific American community into the house of labor.  Download APALA's one-page fact sheet or frequently asked questions.

Get involved and write your Senator demanding their support for APA workers to have the freedom to form a union and gain a voice at work.  APALA is in full support of EFCA and members have written letters and made calls to their representatives to encourage them to vote for these necessary and long-overdue labor law reforms. (Photos from Marlan Maralit.)
DREAM Act Propels Students Forward 
IDEAS DREAMAs part of Immigrant Awareness Month, APALA would be remiss in not writing about the exciting movement on the DREAM Act, which would allow immigrant students to pay in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities. APALA members on college campuses have been very involved with efforts to push the DREAM Act, as there are an estimated 1.5 million undocumented APA immigrants.

Senator Dick Durbin (IL) reintroduced the federal bill on March 25, which would allow qualified undocumented students who have graduated from high school or have a GED the opportunity to pay in-state tuition rates, attend college and to gain a path to legal permanent resident status after six years. In order to have the conditional permanent status removed, immigrant students must have clean records, two years of enrollment at a community college or university or two years of military service.

Just recently the College Board, a consortium of over 5000 colleges and universities, unanimously agreed to endorse the federal bill - a key element of support for the DREAM Act.

In the states, a number of governors have stepped forward to publicly support in-state tuition in New Jersey, Maryland and Colorado, although a bill stopped short of passing in Colorado. A recent push in Oregon for in-state tuition garnered a supportive editorial from the state's largest paper. Oregon's bill is similar to other state DREAM Acts in requiring a three year residency in the state with plans to become a lawful resident or citizen to qualify for the program. And even North Carolina, which is one of only two states to prevent access to higher education for all undocumented students, is revisiting its policy as a new report shows that the state's educational system could gain some badly needed revenues by allowing qualified undocumented students to matriculate.

The DREAM Act has a wide range of supporters, from the students themselves to the business community, which is interested in ensuring a well-educated workforce, to educators such as APALA Founding President Kent Wong. Wong, who currently directs the UCLA Labor Studies Center, edited Underground Undergrads which featured the stories of undocumented students at UCLA like Tam Tran, who is now a grad student at Brown University after being able to earn a college degree thanks to California's in-state tuition rates for undocumented students:

"It's the idea of what it means to be an American," Tran said. "Are you American if you were born here, but spent your entire life outside of the country? Are you more of an American if you have a Ph.D. in American culture?"

For tens of thousands of Asian American students who would be eligible for in-state rates as well as a path to citizenship, the federal DREAM Act fulfills the promise of equal opportunity. At the state level, in-state tuition allows students who desperately want to give back to their communities the opportunity to do so.

(Photo from UCLA IDEAS.)
Administration Nominates Worker-Friendly Appointees

The Obama administration has made numerous  laudable nominations and appointments in the past month. Notably, recent worker-friendly nominations include two labor attorneys, a labor activist, a former union president and a NYS Labor Commissioner who has given immigrant workers the tools to protect themselves against unscrupulous employers. APALA congratulates the following individuals:

  • May Beth Maxwell, Executive Director of American Rights at Work, was named Senior Adviser at the Department of Labor.
  • Craig Becker, associate general counsel for SEIU and the AFLCIO, was nominated to the National Labor Relations Board.
  • Mark Pearce, a longtime labor attorney was previously on the NY State Industrial Board of Appeals, a labor-law oversight body.
  • Linda Puchala, a former president of the Association of Flight Attendants union, was nominated to the National Mediation Board.
  • Current NYS Labor Commissioner M. Patricia Smith was nominated as solicitor for the US Department of Labor. Under Smith's leadership, the NYS DoL has given immigrant workers the tools to combat exploitative employers and to fight back against wage and hour violations.
APALA applauds the nominations of these advocates who are devoted to justice for the working class. These worker-friendly nominations signifies this administration's commitment to change.