May was chosen as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The majority of workers were Chinese immigrants, 1,200 of whom died doing the dangerous work carving a path through the desert and the rugged granite walls of the Sierra Nevada and Rocky mountains from 1865-1869.
Asian/Pacific Islander (API) workers found their voice through the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA). The organization, founded in 1992, has been instrumental in bringing together API workers in all sectors of the workforce to create a powerful grassroots movement that fights for worker and civil rights –not only for Asian Americans but for all working families.
APALA is the only national Asian American and Pacific Islander union membership organization.
Since its founding, APALA has played a unique role in addressing the workplace issues of the 660,000 AAPI union members and as a bridge between the broader labor movement and the AAPI community. Backed with strong support of the AFL-CIO, APALA has more than 20 chapters and pre-chapters, and a national office in Washington, D.C.
In the same year APALA was founded, former President George H.W. Bush signed a bill passed by Congress extending Asian Pacific American Heritage week into a month-long celebration. Asian Pacific American Heritage Month was officially signed into law. But this wouldn't have happened without the leadership of Reps. Norman Mineta of California, Frank Horton of New York, Senators Daniel Inouye, and Spark Matsunaga of Hawaii who in 1977 pushed for the recognition of Asian Pacific Americans' contributions to the country.
To make sure that legislation passed by Congress reflects the concerns and needs of the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus was founded in 1994. The members of the Caucus are very involved and proud of the Heritage Month celebration and several of them are very involved and supportive of federal employees' issues.
AFGE members are invited to celebrate the rich history and recognize Asian Americans’ contributions to the labor movement at an APALA-sponsored community reception in Washington, D.C. and New York. Besides enjoying delicious Asian appetizers, you will hear from amazing Asian Pacific American activists who are passionate about their work empowering the communities that were silenced and misunderstood.