National Call-in Day: What's Up, Willie Brown?
August 17, 2009 APALA participated in a National "What's Up, Willie" Call-in
day to urge Willie Brown to drop the case and stand for justice with NBC
Brown, the former S.F. Mayor and longtime advocate for social justice and
workers rights, is defending NBC Contractors owner, Monica Ung, accused of cheating
workers and taxpayers out of millions of dollars. Ung faces criminal and civil charges,
including 48 felony counts involving wage theft, insurance fraud and perjury.
These workers, many of them Chinese-immigrants have
fought back against exploitation and discrimination by organizing, mobilizing,
and taking collective action to demand justice.
APALA is proud to stand with these workers and urges you to support the
APALA chapter has been quite active recently, featuring
John Delloro as a keynote speaker at the May 31st "Labor of Love" event. The event also featured Rochele Dela Cruz (Hilo storyteller) and Sahngnoksu's drum group. Attendees enjoyed a traditional Vietnamese lunch prepared by the mother of an APALA member.
Additionally, members Kathy Wong and Mel Kang have given presentations on EFCA to several community organizations. Paul Lee is organizing a delegation to meet with Senator Maria Cantwell on EFCA.
At APALA's national convention, Seattle was well represented with 19 attendees. Youth participants prepared a PowerPoint on the highlights of the convention, and wrote about their experiences.
In August, the Seattle chapter was joined by Washington Community Action Network, ACLU, National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum, One
America and LELO (Legacy of Equality, Leadership and Organizing) for a
roundtable on moving immigration reform forward. Kent Wong, UCLA Labor Center's director, was a special guest and spoke on the DREAM Act and current efforts to secure its passage. Participants shared food and ideas and bought copies of Underground Undergrads: UCLA Undocumented Immigrant Students Speak Out. WA State Rep. Sharon Tomiko-Santos also discussed
immigration developments in the state legislature.
Meanwhile, San Francisco
chapter APALA members were busy building coalitions. SEIU 1021's Asian Pacific Islander Caucus (APIC) and APALA shared a booth with KAYA, a group of young Filipino professionals, at the annual Pistahan festival celebrating Filipino American
One of APALA and APIC's goals is to build relationships with
organizations such as KAYA with which we share common ideals and
visions, particularly around workers' rights issues.
APIC and APALA passed out
flyers about the Employee Free Choice Act, the Dream Act and
information about the NBC workers while KAYA gave information about
their organization. The
funds raised went toward hiring a part time worker to educate the general Asian
Pacific Islander community on the Employee Free Choice Act and scholarships to
sponsor students and young workers to the APALA National Convention in July.(Thanks to Tracy Lai and Blesilda Ocampo for the respective updates.)
UAW: Keep the Nummi Plant Open
New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI),
a partnership between Toyota and General Motors, is in danger of closing. If NUMMI shuts down, approximately 4,500 UAW
Local 2244 members and tens of thousands of supplier and support workers
NUMMI is Toyota's only unionized workforce
and routinely receives praise for efficiency, productivity and quality. This workforce represent Toyota's most
diverse amongst the U.S. based plants - with approximately 30 percent Latino,
20 percent African American and 7 percent Asian Pacific American.
Our request is simple. If vehicles are sold locally, they should be
built locally by workers earning a decent wage.
To support this campaign, please sign the NUMMI petition
The "Lion of the Senate," US Senator
Edward Kennedy, has passed away but his roar will continue to echo in our
Sometimes it is easy to
forget that US immigration
policy once restricted any one of Asian descent, regardless of country of
origin, from legally entering the US. Senator Kennedy helped unlock the door for
many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) to cross into this land of
opportunity when he helped pass the 1965 Immigration Act. Many of us, including my parents, most likely
would have never arrived on these shores.
He continued to level the playing field in hundreds of significant bipartisan bills from the Americans of Disability Act, the Civil Rights Act, to
the Ryan White Act.
US Senator Ted Kennedy has
always been a friend to AAPI communities and a warrior for all working people.
As APALA, we honor his
spirit of justice as torchbearers of the flame which burned within him. It is seen in the many APALA members
working with elected officials, building community coalitions, educating about
the need for unions, and promoting the importance of immigration reform. We see it when our Bay area Chapters take
action in the streets and hold the employers at NBC contractors accountable for
stealing the wages of their workers.
We see it when our Hawaiian members push for a state version of
EFCA. We see it in New York Chapter
members like IAM leader Richard Chu who stands side by side with transportation
workers fighting against Delta airlines union-busting tactics. We see it in LA Chapter members like Judy Chu
who becomes the first Chinese American women from Southern
California in Congress. We see it in our national fight to pass the DREAM Act.
At his core, Senator Ted
Kennedy embodied the belief that our survival and prosperity depended on us
being each other's keeper and that when the least of us fall, we collapse as a
people. Our country created a public
safety net and granted workers the right to organize because as a nation we embraced this idea-"No family or individual
should face adversity alone."
Workers Rights. Civil Rights. Immigrant Rights. US Senator Ted Kennedy championed these
principles which APALA was founded and will continue to embrace in his memory.
APALA National President
White House Opens Doors to APA Community
APALA attended a meeting of the National Coalition of Asian
Pacific American (NCAPA) leaders on Tuesday, August 4, 2009 with Tina Tchen,
Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement and Kalpen Modi,
Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. APALA presented the relevance and
significance of the Employee Free Choice Act to the Asian Pacific American
community and highlighted the broad base of support within the Asian Pacific
American community for the Employee Free Choice Act.
We hope that the White House will continue to engage in ongoing and open dialogue with APA groups on the issues that are most important to our community - workers' rights, health care, immigration, and education.
Hawaii Enacts State Version of EFCA
APALA activists in Hawaii helped in passing a state version
) of the Employee Free Choice Act with more than a two-thirds majority this year after a similar bill last year was unable to overcome the Governor's veto. The bill was modeled after the federal bill, but modified to fit Hawaii labor law.
Notably, the bill includes the following provisions:
- card check for workers of companies with over $5 million in annual revenue,
first agreement language, and
up to $10,000 per violation by either the company or the labor
These increased fines will serve as a deterrent to employers who consider violating the law. And although the bill underwent multiple amendments, it retained a strong first contract arbitration clause.
Several APALA members were instrumental in the bill becoming
law. Guy Fujimura, ILWU Secretary-Treasurer and APALA board member,
testified extensively. Joan Takano, HGEA business agent and
APALA board member, also testified in support and had a guest editorial
published in the Hawaii Report. Takano declared:
Where unions are stronger, not only are wages
higher and health insurance more accessible; productivity is higher. In
states with higher union density, it is more likely that poverty will
be reduced. There will be more homeowners than renters and better
schools because there is greater public education spending per pupil.
Rep. Roy Takumi, APALA
Hawaii Chapter member, was one of the key legislators who mobilized his colleagues
to win passage of the bill.
Labor was united in supporting the bill and provided
testimony at the House and Senate hearings. Despite fierce opposition from business interests, which mounted a
full-on campaign to kill the bill, working families in Hawaii pressed
forward. Most of the employers who opposed the bill would not be
affected by passage of the bill, but didn't even realize it. One major
agricultural company, Monsanto, recruited form letter and email
testimony opposing the bill from its employees, including field
laborers. Union members countered with their own stack of letters in
The bill was one of the bills that were considered during
Special Session, and after the vote was taken in both houses, pro-EFCA
activists celebrated -- more than two-thirds of state legislators
voted for the override.
Other states have "card check" language, but union activists believe Hawaii
is the only state with a law requiring an arbitrated first agreement. The passage of this bill is quite remarkable and APALA members deserve recognition for their efforts in passing this bill. Hopefully this provides a roadmap for other states interested in passing similar legislation.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor Confirmed to Supreme Court
APALA congratulates Justice Sonia Sotomayor on her Senate confirmation (68-31) to the Supreme Court. Her historic appointment reflects a career in public service and her qualifications include serving as Editor of Yale Law Review and almost 17 years of judicial experience. Sotomayor's well-rounded experience and knowledge as a judge, prosecutor, and litigator will help in assessing cases equitably.
Justice Sotomayor has experience with labor law, and helped in bringing an end to the baseball strike of 1995, in a decision that united baseball fans and union activists. She found that the owners had
forced the strike by engaging in unlawful conduct, and she issued an
injunction that reversed the unlawful acts.
AFLCIO Vice President Arlene Holt Baker noted Sotomayor's dedication to workplace rights: "She has enforced the rights of all workers to be free of all types of
discrimination at work, to be paid the correct wages and to receive
health benefits to which they are entitled. She has recognized that
persecution for union activity can be a basis for granting asylum in
In her remarks, Sotomayor herself reflected on her journey from growing up in the Bronx to joining the nation's highest court, thanking Obama for "the most humbling honor of my life." Sotomayor replaces retired Associate Justice David Souter.