APALA E-Newsletter
The APA Voice of LaborApr 2011
In This Issue
DREAM Act Student Fighting Deportation
Members in the News
Rep. Honda Reintroduces Immigration Bills
On the Ground in Ohio
Dept of Labor Finds MD Filipino Teachers Owed $4.2M
DREAM Act Student and APALA Ally Fighting Deportation 

Prerna Lal

Prerna Lal,the 26-year-old founder of the youth-led advocacy website DREAMActivist.org, is being threatened with deportation. Born in Fiji, Prerna came to the Bay Area when she was 14 with the rest of her family, who are all documented. Prerna's grandmother is a citizen, her parents are both legal permanent residents, and even her older sibling is a citizen. She became the only undocumented family member in four generations when she became out-of-status by "aging out" before her family's petition finished processing.

A former student body president of California State University East Bay where APALA's very own Kim Geron teaches, Prerna also received her master's degree from San Francisco State University. She has volunteered at the UCLA Labor Center and has spoken with Kent Wong, serving as a courageous DREAM activist and spokesperson. However, while studying for her law school exams at George Washington University a couple weeks ago, she received a letter requesting that she report to immigration court in San Francisco for removal proceedings.   

 Why is Prerna being targeted for deportation and separation from her family, just because the government took too long to process her paperwork? She is known as a diligent student and distinguished young leader, and is a symbol of DREAMers who live in this country and strive to contribute to society. Sign her petition to demand that top immigration officials allow Prerna to stay in this country with her family. 

Members in the News: APA Voting Power


 May Chen  

APALA Board Member May Chen recently spoke at a Queens panel on the new Census numbers and what they mean for the Asian American and immigrant vote in New York City. She focused on the importance of civic engagement and empowerment.

The Asian American population in Queens increased from 391,500 residents to 598,334 in the past decade. This represents the largest percentage increase of any ethnic group (from 17.6% in 2000 to 23.1% in 2010.)

Rozita Lee


 Las Vegas Chapter President Rozita Lee testified at a hearing on the importance of ensuring that the voting power of Asian Pacific Americans is not diluted into diffuse districts during redistricting.  


Of the state's total population, some 242,916 are Asians. But the group registered the fastest growth at 116.5%, even outpacing the Hispanic population growth of 81.9%.


"A large part of Nevada 's growth is because of AAPIs who chose to move here," Lee told the panel of state legislators.

"There a lot of professionals like doctors, dentists, teachers, college professors. There are casino workers. We also take care of your children and we fix your cars. We contribute to the Nevada economy," she noted.
Rep. Honda Reintroduces Immigration Bills  

Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) reintroduced the Reuniting Families Act in the House of Representatives, which ensures that visas are allocated efficiently and reduces the waiting time for the nearly 5.8 million people in the family immigration backlog.  The bill would also eliminate discrimination in immigration law against same-sex permanent partners and their families who are seeking to reunite, as well as recognize the sacrifices of our military by exempting children of World War II Filipino veterans from numerical caps.

The Strengthen and Unite Communities with Civics Education and English Development (SUCCEED) Act would help new Americans integrate socially and economically through English language education and civics instruction.Of the nearly 55 million people in America(20% of the overall population) who speak a language other than English at home, 8.6% still speakEnglish "less than well."The SUCCEED Act aims to help new residents learn the skills to become active and contributing members of society by ensuring adequate funding and resources for literacy programsand making grants available to create and implement immigrant integration programs.

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We are only 81 days away from APALA's Biennial Convention, "Generations United: Our Jobs, Our Rights & Our Future" taking place from July 21-24, 2011 in Oakland, CA at the Marriott Center. I am happy to announce that John Chiang, California's State Controller & highest ranking Asian American state official, will be giving remarks during our convention. Also joining us at convention is Kiran Ahuja, Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. May 11 is the last day to register at the early bird rate and do not forget to book your room. There will be more than 1,000 community, labor & student activists coming together for this historic convening and we will be launching an exciting new initiative! Be there to find out what it is!


During the Convention, we will also elect APALA's National Officers & At-Large Board Members. If you are interested in serving as an At-Large Board Member, you must be a member in good standing and submit your resume to APALA Executive Director Gregory Cendana at gcendana@apalanet.org by Friday, May 20, 2011. Feel free to contact the national office directly with any questions.


Amidst the bad news about states stripping workers of their collective bargaining rights and waging attacks on immigrant, women, student and LGBTQ communities, we are excited about the passage of the Maryland version of the DREAM Act. The bill would allow for tuition equity, qualifying undocumented students for in-state tuition. As the bill heads to Governor O'Malley's desk, who pledged to sign it, we will continue to advocate for other states to take proactive steps in addressing immigration at the state level.


After a another powerful worker rights hearing in Los Angeles earlier this month, APALA is gearing up for our next one in Washington, D.C. The worker rights hearing will take place on Saturday, May 21 at the National Education Association. Given the current attack on working people throughout the country, the hearing provides a local perspective of personal courage and strategies in the fight for worker solidarity and economic justice.


In unity,

Luisa Blue

APALA National President

On the Ground in Ohio  

Over 10,000 people rallied outside the Ohio Capitol in Columbus on April 11th, fired-up for the campaign to repeal Senate Bill 5. Ohioans have until the end of June to file about 230,000 valid signatures with the Ohio Secretary of State's office to trigger a referendum to appear on the November ballot. SB5, as it stands, strips collective bargaining rights from 350,000 public service workers in the state. Thousands of police officers, firefighters, nurses and prison guards would lose their right to negotiate over equipment relevant to their safety. Binding arbitration will be eliminated and replaced with a system that allows the employerto choose between the last, best offer made by either itself or the employee organization, thereby undermining any good faith effort to negotiate in the first place. This is just a few within a long list of anti-worker provisions in the bill.


According to Public Policy Polling, 54% of voters in Ohio say they would repeal SB5 in an election later this year while just 31% say they'd vote to let the bill stand, an indication that Ohioans have become acutely aware that repealing SB5 is not just about saving collective bargaining for public sector workers. SB5 threatens good jobs and the local businesses that service working families, many of which are operating in communities already devastated by the recession. SB5 threatens the quality of public education and the services which the state's most vulnerable and marginalized residents rely on. While claiming to balance the budget by stripping workers' rights, Governor Kasich has protected tax breaks for the wealthiest Ohioans in the bill. This much is clear-- SB5 is an attack on the middle class. Across the country, union members, community -based and civil rights organizations, students and other activists are pulling togetherto save the American Dream.


More than ever, Labor must build solidarity-- not just amongst workers. We must strengthen community partnerships. In March I joined AFSCME members and allies in the ongoing coalition-building activities with small local businesses in Ohio. Supporting businesses recognize public employee support for their shops and understand that slashing wages and benefits creates a downward spiral affecting the entire community. Currently, more than 400 small businesses across Ohio are on board, including family-owned restaurants, auto repair shops, independent bookstores and many more businesses serving a diverse number of neighborhoods and communities.


As an Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) member and chapter leader, I recognize the crucial role that constituency groups play in the current battle to protect collective bargaining rights. SB5 and other anti-union legislation which has sprung up across the nation will have serious repercussions for the Asian Pacific American (APA) community. There are about 800,000 APA workers in public sector unions and recent research revealed that APA workers and their families depend on wage and benefit protections from unions. The majority of APA workers are immigrants who look to unions as the first line of defense against unfair employment practices. Like other communities in battleground states, the APA community faces the deterioration of vital public services. As a result of an initiative spearheaded by APALA, the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, a coalition of 29 organizations representing a wide range of Asian Pacific American communities, pledged their support for public employees in an historic and unified gesture of solidarity.


With 13 chapters in 8 states, APALA has been a driving progressive force within the APA community since its founding in 1992. APALA has highlighted the stories of APA workers and APA labor leaders, educated the APA community on their rights in the workplace and solidified the support of community allies. In the face of escalating attacks against workers' rights, APALA must expand and intensify activities to connect community groups and Labor. We must ensure that the rapidly growing immigrant workforce is engaged in the Labor Movement and that Labor and the APA community recognize our shared interests.


In recent weeks, APALA members have been galvanized, joining actions in Alameda, Detroit, New York, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento. APALA members have even traveled to Wisconsin to stand with workers. However, the current political landscape has heightened the urgency for growth and capacity building. Expanding current chapters and building new chapters in all 50 states is the only way we can effectively equip APA workers and their families with the knowledge and training to protect their basic human right to organize in challenging political environments. Together we can build a stronger movement for every community, every family and every worker.  


Submitted by Jenny Ho, APALA DC Chapter leader. 

Dept. of Labor Finds Filipino Teachers in Maryland Owed $4.2M   


Filipino teachers and NEA members in Prince George's County who were recruited during a shortage of math and science teachers recently received the news that the Department of Laborfound that they were owed $4.2 million in back wages and recruiting fees, that by law, should have been covered by their employer.


School officials say they were put in an impossible situation after the federal No Child Left Behind Act required school systems to put "highly qualified" teachers in every classroom, including instructors in hard-to-fill subject areas such as math and science, and had to recruit teachers from abroad 2002 and 2007 to fill the gap.


PG County hired 1,000 foreign teachers (primarily from the Philippines) through the H-1B visa program, which  allows employers to hire skilled immigrant workers to work temporarily in the U.S., but it requires they be paid the same wages and benefits as those paid to U.S. workers doing the same jobs. By having the teachers pay the recruiters fees, it amounted to inequal compensation. In addition, the Department of Labor fined the school district $1.7 million because school officials "refused to acknowledge" the problem with the back wages and to negotiate a settlement.


Now the school district says that they cannot continue to employ these teachers in light of the DOL ruling. AFT President Randi Weingarten condemned the school district of Prince George's County for "illegally and unfairly exploiting workers who came from other countries to teach in American schools."


"We are the victims,'' said Millet de Vera Panga, an elementary school teacher and board representative of the Pilipino Educators Network, which advocates for Filipino teachers in the county.

"But we recognize that our school system is facing big budget problems right now, and we really hope that we can arrive at a decision beneficial to all."


The DOL ruling has encouraged Filipino teachers in Baltimore who were recruited under the same circumstances who are pushing for justice in their case as well. This is not the first instance of

immigrant teachers being treated unfairly - Filipino teachers in Louisiana were living in squalid conditions and forced into indentured servitude. At the First National Asian Pacific American Worker Rights Hearing that APALA organized in 2009, a teacher from Houston testified about similar conditions. To hear directly from Millet, one of the PG County teachers, come to the DC/Maryland/Virginia APA Worker Rights Hearing on May 21 from 10:30-12:30 at the NEA.

LA workersLos Angeles Workers
Speak Truth to Power
On April 9, APALA Los Angeles members organized an Asian Pacific American Worker Rights Hearing that successfully portrayed working conditions across industries.

U.S. Congresswoman Judy Chu returned from Washington, D.C. Saturday to attend the hearing. She said that APALA is "on the front lines of protecting workers' rights to organize and advocating for safe and healthy workplaces, improved benefits, and a voice at work."

Other elected officials and labor leaders included Assemblymen Mike Eng and Warren Furutani as well as SEIU ULTCW President Laphonza Butler, UCLA Labor Center Director Kent Wong, and SEIU 521 Chief of Staff Raahi Reddy. Jan Tokumaru and Lucia Lin of the LA Chapter were critical to the success of the event, which was held at the beautiful Japanese American National Museum. The hearing was covered extensively in Fuse TV and ethnic press, including in Xinhua News, the Philippine Times, Indian Times, and Chinese Radio International.

Workers pictured above: Jennifer Tse (AFSCME UNAC), Boots De Chavez (Pilipino Workers Center), Ben Leonen (UNITE HERE Local 11) Ty Nguyen (CA Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative), Julie Chow (SEIU ULTCW), Surya Prasai (South Asian Network), and Oakland Bautista (ROC-LA).