The Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), AFL-CIO, had its executive meeting in Seattle this week, and Tichakorn Hill, a representative from the AFGE national office, proudly represents AFGE as a board member. APALA – the first and only national organization of Asian Pacific American (APA) union members – has played a unique role in addressing the workplace issues of the 660,000 APA union members and as the bridge between the broader labor movement and the APA community. Backed with strong support of the AFL-CIO, APALA has 18 chapters and pre-chapters and a national office in Washington, D.C.
The three-day meeting started out with a leadership development seminar in which the life and work of little-known yet influential APA pioneers were discussed. The board reflected on 22 years of advancing worker and civil rights and set priorities for coming years, including the need to turn out the APA vote for 2016 elections.
The board also had an opportunity to meet with Seattle Deputy Mayor Hyeok Kim, labor leaders in the area, and hotel and construction workers whose inspiring stories serve as a reminder that the labor movement plays an important role in workers’ lives. The deputy mayor shared the story of her mother who moved from South Korea to the U.S. and how her struggle was very similar to those of APA workers in this country. Washington State Senator-Elect Pramila Jayapal stopped by to address the board and praised APALA for playing a key role in the APA community.
Being a small organization with an even smaller budget, APALA strategically partners with labor unions to make sure the economy works for everyone, including APA workers. APALA is well-known for its partnership with youth groups, giving them an opportunity to be part of the labor movement and a platform to affect change in their communities. APALA works with and supports community leaders across the country to push for state and local legislation that make communities a better place for everyone.
In California, for example, an APALA-backed measure, Proposition 47, was adopted in the November election. Prop 47 reclassifies simple drug and non-violent theft crimes that involve less than $950 from felonies to misdemeanors. This is a huge prison reform victory for Californians as the measure is estimated to save $1 billion over five years and redirects the savings toward schools and other vital community services such as mental health. California spends $60,000 a year for each prisoner, more than they pay for beginning teachers.
APALA board members recognized the need to expose the private prison industry with ties to Wall Street and their push to imprison more people with a longer period of time. APALA also plays a key role in exposing wage theft especially in Chinatowns in many cities.
AFGE is proud to be part of APALA. The two organizations have plans to work together to build membership of APA workers in both organizations.