APALA E-Newsletter
The APA Voice of LaborMar 2011
In This Issue
Washington Hospital Center Nurses Strike for Safer Staffing
Oakland Hearing Uplifts APA Workers'' Rights
APALA Speaks at APRI Conference
Washington Hospital Center Nurses
Strike for Safer Staffing 

WHC nurses' kids

Nurses at Washington Hospital Center went on a one day strike after a year of contentious and unresolved contract negotiations over benefits and health and safety issues. A crowd of 2000 supporters, including family members of nurses, turned out  for a boisterous rally and picket that left no doubt as to the nurses' strength and solidarity. A diverse range of unions including UFCW, TWU, and the Painters came out to the support the 1600 nurses at the hospital who are represented by the National Nurses Union.  


Rajini Raj, a nurse in the cardiology department, spoke at the rally: "The reason I am on strike is that I want to ensure there is better staffing at the hospital so that patients get the best care possible. As a nurse in the cardiology department, if I get two patients with a heart attack at the same time, I should not have to choose which patient I should save. But there are times throughout the hospital when nurses have to make just those kind of choices."


Despite MedStar's healthy profits of over $140 million, Washington Hospital Center has not invested in safe staffing levels. Jessie Ruehl, a nurse in the ER, spoke of poor burse staffing ratios and high turnover at the hospital. "This problem is rampant at Washington Hospital Center.  WHC cannot keep pace with the nurses leaving. 1,300 nurses have left since 2005." 


Even though the nurses only went on strike for one day, MedStar (the hospital's parent company) locked the nurses out for the rest of the week at a cost of $5 million dollars. You can also watch video coverage of the strike here.

Member Profile: Clyde Kumatsu

Clyde Kusatsu 

Clyde Kusatsu is a U.S. actor, Screen Actors Guild member and National Board alternate, and Board Member for APALA. Kusatsu was born and raised in Honolulu, where he began acting in summer stock. After studying theatre at Northwestern, he started to make his mark on the small screen in the mid-1970s.  


Some of Kumatsu's more memorable roles include Reverend Chong on several episodes of All in the Family. Kusatsu also worked with the Asian American theatre group East West Players in Los Angeles and on the film adaptation of Farewell to Manzanar (1976), about Japanese American internment during World War II.  


Kusatsu played Vice Admiral Nakamura in Star Trek: The Next Generation. He starred in the A.B.C. series All American Girl (1994-1995), the first East Asian familiar sitcom in the U.S. He appeared as a high school English teacher in American Pie (1999) and as Mr. Lee in Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay (2008). He currently plays the recurring role of Dr. Dennis Okamura on the The Young and the Restless.  

Know Your Rights  

 The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice has an office dedicated to ensuring that employers are not discriminating against work-authorized individuals based on their national origin or immigration status.  It is unlawful to fire or refuse to hire certain workers because of where they are from or because they are not U.S. citizens.The law also protects workers where employers discriminate against them by asking for too many work- authorization documents or by rejecting valid documents. 

Some of the ways that an employer may discriminate based on citizenship or national origin is if they ask for a green card, reject valid work authorization, ask certain workers for work authorization before offering them jobs, or fire certain workers after asking for work authorization.


If someone you know has been discriminated against based on national origin, call the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC) at the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice at 1-800-255-7688. You do not have to provide your name, and telephone interpreters are available in many languages.  It is unlawful to intimidate, threaten, or retaliate against anyone for contacting the Hotline, assisting in any way in an investigation, or filing a charge with OSC.  For more information, call the Hotline or visit here.   

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As battles continue to be waged in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and across the country, it is clear that the attacks are not only on labor but also on immigrant, women, student and LGBTQ communities. The need to foster stronger community and labor partnerships is evident and APALA is proud to be at the forefront of these efforts for the Asian Pacific American community. We worked to get more than 50 organizations to sign on to a letter of support for public workers, ensured opinion editorials were placed in ethnic newspapers including the Asian Pages in Michigan and are co-sponsoring many April 4th-We Are One solidarity actions across the country! Learn more about the Day of Action at www.we-r-1.org

It is also my pleasure to announce that we have confirmed SEIU President Mary Kay Henry and AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler to speak at our 2011 Biennial Convention, Generations United: Our Jobs, Our Rights & Our Future, which will take place July 21-24, 2011. Join more than 1,000 student, community and labor activists as we convene in Oakland, CA to address worker solidarity, immigrant rights and the fight for good jobs. Convention continues to serve as a catalyst for social justice and is life changing to all those who attend. You do not want to miss this historic gathering, so register now while you can still get the Early Bird rate!

Congratulations to our Alameda Chapter for a very successful worker rights hearing last month. Highlights and more details are given in this newsletter. Our next hearing
will be on Saturday, April 9, 2011 at 2pm at the Japanese American National Museum. Please join APALA's Los Angeles Chapter, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Chair Representative Judy Chu, and CA Assemblymembers Warren Furutani & Mike Eng as they hear  the stories and testimonies of Asian Pacific American workers and their struggles to organize.

We are only as strong as we are because of the grassroots support you continue to provide. If you have not already, please become an  APALA member today!

Si Se Puede! Kaya Natin! Yes, we can!


In unity,

Luisa Blue

APALA National President

Oakland hearing
Oakland Hearing Uplifts APA Workers' Rights  

The Oakland APA Worker Rights Hearing at the Asian Cultural Center was a success with over 200 participants in the room, including a special guest, and so many speakers and workers that the panel stretched across the width of the room. The event was kicked off by Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, a former APALA member and SEIU organizer, who acknowledged the pivotal role that APALA has played in bringing together labor unions and community groups.  


Many low wage workers shared their experiences of being mistreated by employers. Truck driver Adbul Khan works 60-70 hours a week but makes $25,000 a year which is less than minimum wage. He and other drivers are seeking to form a union and be recognized as employees, not "independent contractors" so that they can have a voice. He stated, "The trucking companies avoid paying unemployment, workers compensation and Social Security taxes.  We have no retirement security and no health benefits.  It's dangerous work.  But we are not protected by health and safety laws.  And if we get hurt, we're out of luck."     


Restaurant worker Wen Lan Rong testified that she injured her hands on the job, and now she has difficultly even opening a water bottle. On top of that, she said that she earned only $1,600 a month working twelve hours a day, six days a week. "We don't have minimum wage, breaks or other benefits, " she said in Cantonese. "Many Filipino and Latino workers are facing the same situations." Throughout the workers' brave testimonies, audience members were visibly moved. One non-Asian construction worker described the hearing afterwards as "like going to church."


The distinguished panel of speakers included Alameda District Attorney Nancy O' Malley, who spoke about the office's efforts to prosecute NBC Contractors owner for criminal charges, and the interpretation and outreach that the office had done to limited English proficient workers.  Alameda Supervisor Wilma Chan proclaimed that no workers should fear wage theft by their employers, even if they don't speak English: "Whether you are unionized or not, if your basic labor rights are being violated by any employer in Alameda County, you should let us know," Chan said to the crowd. "If there's an employer that has a history of doing that in the county, we'll go after them." Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, the Chair of the Labor and Education Committee, talked about his legislation to protect immigrants from being exploited by  employers and linked the Bay area workers' struggles to the fight that Wisconsin public workers face. Bill Tamayo of the EEOC also emphasized that legal remedies exist for workers who face discrimination.  


APALA thanks the Alameda Labor Council for cosponsoring the event as well as the many workers, speakers, unions and supporters including Filipino Advocates for Justice, SEIU, Teamsters, IBEW, Chinese Progressive Alliance, and UNITE HERE who were involved in making the event a success. 

APALA Speaks at APRI Conference


The A. Philip Randolph Institute hosted its Midwest Regional Conference on March 18-20, 2011 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Dearborn, Michigan.  The theme of the conference was "Building the Bridge to 2011."  The Goal of the conference was to develop new ideas and strategies to organize new APRI Chapters and to reenergize old ones.   For the opening session, the keynote speaker was Jimmy Settles, Vice President, UAW-Ford Department.  


The APALA Michigan Chapter participated in the Labor Constituency Panel discussion.  The panelists included  Clayola Brown, Presdent, National APRI, Gloria Moya, Board Member, National LCLAA, Millie Hall, President, CLUW, Detroit Chapter, Ying Gee, President, APALA, Michigan Chapter, Cynthia Paul, President, Pride-at-Work, Michigan Chapter, and Frank Woods, President, CBTU, Detroit Chapter.  Ying Gee, representing APALA-Michigan, provided an overview of the National APALA's programs and chapter activities and also provided a brief history of Asian Pacific American workers struggles with the labor movement.  


All of the panelists agreed that despite the efforts of legislators in Ohio, Wisconsin and Michigan to turn back the clock on human and civil rights in this country.  The AFL-CIO constituency groups stand in solidarity with all of the unions and workers to preserve the right of all workers to bargain collectively and to restore the American middle class and strengthen the protections of all workers on the job.   

States Support In-State Tuition for Undocumented Students

With the failure of the federal DREAM Act during the last session of Congress, undocumented students across the country are looking to their state governments for alternative support, including access to an affordable higher education.  On Tuesday, March 29, the Oregon State Senate passed the Tuition Equity Bill, which would allow children of undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition at Oregon universities.  The bill specifies several qualifications for students to receive in-state tuition rates: school attendance for five years in the US, three years attendance and graduation from an Oregon high school, admission to a state university, and actively working towards US citizenship or permanent residence.  Three Republicans joined fifteen Senate Democrats to pass the bill with a vote of 18-11.  However, the bill now faces a tougher road ahead as it proceeds to the Oregon House of Representatives, which is split evenly with thirty Democrats and thirty Republicans.    


Several other states plan on passing similar legislation.  The Connecticut General Assembly's higher education committee recently heard testimonies from students, lawyers, and community leaders expressing support for in-state tuition for undocumented students.  Maryland's State Senate voted 27-20 to approve their in-state tuition bill, which is expected to pass the Democratic-majority House of Delegates.  In other states such as Kansas, however, lawmakers are attempting to actually repeal legislation that grants in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants.  Such legislation would inhibit students from attaining an affordable education, thus decreasing the trained workforce that can bring back economic growth to the state.   


In the end, we must come together to realize that this is not just can immigration issue, but rather an opportunity to educate our youth in order to contribute to society at large.  APALA applauds the states that support undocumented students who are only trying to receive a college education with the hopes of achieving a better life for themselves and their families.