To my delight, 2012 has been a great year for understanding the opinions and values of the highly diverse community we call Asian Americans. Finding meaningful data on the opinions of various Asian American communities on civic life and social issues has been difficult if not nearly impossible. Two significant reports released this year changed that. The Pew Research Center and APIA Vote each conducted its own national Asian American survey, polling the largest ethnic groups within the Asian American community in their own languages.
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The Chinese Progressive Association (CPA) didn’t set out 35 years ago to do electoral work. But we fought to protect Boston Chinatown from highways, hospitals, and luxury condo developers. As that grassroots organizing led to voter engagement, CPA found that the strongest grassroots organizing needs to encompass methods of struggle at all levels of the system, and that learning to work in the electoral arena is critical to broadening the impact of community organizing.
Diep Tang spent most of last spring in San Jose, California organizing events and registering young Vietnamese voters as part of Working Partnerships USA’s Lead the Vote project.
It was hard but ultimately rewarding work, with Lead the Vote – funded by the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters – surpassing its registration goal of 3,500 new voters on high school and college campuses across the county.
Sean Maher, a navy veteran, began his career like generations of Milwaukee workers –in a metal fabrication factory. In 1998, the rapid collapse of manufacturing led him to the local Laborers Union. Large infrastructure projects, including Miller Park baseball stadium and the Oak Creek Power Plant, provided 10 years of steady employment and the opportunity to hone his skills. In 2009, as the national economy went into a deep recession, construction work in Milwaukee took a nosedive. For over a year, Sean was laid off.
What splashed into view with a flash mob a year ago and ended with 400 port truck drivers walking off the job has written a new chapter in Seattle labor history. Four years of organizing by port drivers and the Seattle Coalition for Clean and Safe Ports (CCSP) came to a head in February 2012 with the biggest port driver walkout in the nation in the past ten years.
(The following opinion piece written by Clare Crawford, executive director of the Center on Policy Initiatives, ran in the San Diego Union-Tribune on July 25, 2012.)
Four times, the city of San Diego has pitted city workers against private companies in a competition for the continued responsibility to provide an essential city service. All four times, the city workers have proved that they – as U-T San Diego put it last week – “provide taxpayers with the best bang for their buck.”
“Diversity” in California’s Santa Clara County – where Working Partnerships USA is located – is not a lightly used term.
For starters, the 1.8 million people who live there at the southern tip of San Francisco Bay would say the word in more than 100 languages and dialects. Almost 60 percent of the county’s children have at least one parent who is an immigrant. Less than 40 percent are non-Hispanic whites.
Yet in a county so diverse, the voting population is still relatively homogenous, with young people and immigrant communities identified by the county’s Registrar of Voters as comprising a smaller proportion of voters than are eligible to vote.
How can we build an economy using recycled materials? As we look to find green economy solutions that will reduce waste, can we create a new industry and jobs?
The excitement of this prospect led me to join a tour of a recycling facility last month in a major metropolitan city. I started at the tipping floor outside where dump trucks deposit tons of mixed recyclable materials. Then we walked down the side of the building where the bales of separated materials are stored until they are shipped.
Across the country, affiliates of the Partnership for Working Families are answering the question: Is any job a good job?
Our affiliates are exposing unfair policies and challenging our leaders to do better. In Seattle, Puget Sound Sage is exposing the double subsidy that the hotel and tourism industry enjoys, at the expense of taxpayer dollars and worker health and safety. In Los Angeles, LAANE is challenging the region to step up and clean up both job quality and neighborhood impact of the waste and recycling industries. In Denver, the Twin Cities and Seattle, to name a few, we are calling for racial and economic equity from transportation related investments and major transit buildouts. And in San Jose, Long Beach, Milwaukee and New Haven, we are organizing for city-wide reform of wages and job creation programs to truly meet the needs of working families.