SPRING QUARTER 2002
Asian Pacific American Labor Studies
Asian American Studies 197B; class ticket number: 121-856-200
Mondays, 4:00 – 6:50 p.m.
Bunche 2168

 

Asian American Studies 197B
Spring Quarter 2002

Final Community Internship Reports
Koreatown Market Workers Justice Campaign - Campus-based Work Team by Sean Na, Ye Jin, J.P. Puno, and Lyeng Ia

"No Justice, No Peace!" we screamed. Students, market workers, teachers, and community leaders came together on the day of June 7, 2002 to fight for a just cause - the Market Workers Justice Campaign. As I stood there in front of ASSI supermarket, on what was essentially the last day I would meet with my group, professor, and classmates, a sudden sense of pride came over me. Every rally and protest held against ASSI supermarket definitely has an impact on its management. They are minor battles won in a prolonged war of injustice, and I was proud to be part of it.

The Market Workers Justice Campaign group and I had come together in an internship in the beginning of this quarter and were given a list of objectives and responsibilities that seemed daunting at the time. But it is amazing what we were able to accomplish through teamwork. Given the internship with the community-based MWJC, we set out to educate fellow UCLA students while at the same time getting their support for the campaign.

One of the most useful tactics we used was the student petitions. It gave us a chance to educate other students about the exploitation of immigrant workers, and gain their individual and group support through their signatures. By putting together a general petition letter for the MWJC, we were able to educate other students of the exploitation and importance of unionization in Koreatown supermarkets. We also created a petition for Mr. Yi, a former ASSI supermarket employee who was unjustly fired. By presenting both petitions to students, we were able give supporters a broader view of the whole situation, and also a specific example and casualty of ASSI's unfairness. Getting signatures from students, however, is not the easiest thing to do - especially on a campus where students always seem to be in a rush. We stood on Bruin Walk on several occasions, made announcements in classrooms, and asked for support from friends and family. Although many students are often too busy to stop and listen, those who did actually take the time to learn what our campaign is about, they were more than willing to support.

Another tactic we used were the student group endorsements. There is already a long list of MWJC endorsers to which we added. Approaching different groups and making presentations gave us a chance to educate these groups while at the same time getting their support. The significance of getting the support of students and student groups is that we as students at UCLA are recognized in the community, and by showing our support we are setting an example for others to follow. Our opinions as students and members of the community have significance, and by showing our support and presenting this to ASSI management, reminds them of just how many people are aware of the situation and that we are fighting on the same side as the workers they are fighting against.

Another thing my group and I decided to do was to raise money for Mr. Yi. After brainstorming several ideas, we decided to have a bake sale on Bruin Walk. Although the bake sale did not raise as much money as we hoped for, we took advantage of this opportunity to educate students of Bruin Walk. As students walked by and bought a cookie, we would ask them to sign the petition and they would listen to what our campaign was about. We did, however, receive many generous donations from friends and our professor. While the amount we raised for Mr. Yi will not compensate for the loss of his job, we hope that the money we give him will make some kind of contribution to his well-being.

An individual task I was given for our campaign was to write viewpoint article for the Daily Bruin newspaper. The article’s main focus was on the importance of taking Asian American Studies classes here at UCLA, or wherever one attends school for that matter. In particular, I emphasized the importance of topics discussed in AAS classes that focus on the changing class dynamics of our time in Asian communities and how it was relevant in my life as an Asian American student. The article will not be published this quarter, but we are hoping to get it published in the fall quarter. The article will be posted on our MWJC website, where visitors can read the article, read the FAQ's section, view pictures from various events and rallies we attended, and a general briefing of what the campaign is all about.

I have learned many things in this class that cannot be offered in other classes. I remember an exercise we had in class before setting out on our internships, where we listed all our strengths and weaknesses that we would like to improve on. Working with my group on a number of different projects allowed me to demonstrate my organizational skills and dedication to an assignment. What seemed to be a daunting list of assignments in the beginning of the quarter actually helped us grow more dedicated to the campaign as we achieved our goals one by one. One thing I wanted to improve on and had mentioned in the beginning of the quarter was my ability to speak in public. On several occasions, I made announcements in lecture halls about the MWJC and our petitions. Also, I made announcements to several student groups in order to get endorsements for the campaign. Through this, I was able to practice speaking in public and eventually overcame my fear. Though this quarter has come to an end, the war in the Korean supermarket industry has not ended — and as long as the MWJC is around, I will be sure to contribute to the fight against injustice.

 

By Ye Jin

I am a part of the campus-based Market Workers Justice Campaign. There were eight students initially to start off. Due to a small number of supervision staff at KIWA, Liz decided to divide us into two separate groups: community and campus-based. Our main responsibility in the campus-based group is to assist KIWA and community group to raise awareness and educate students on UCLA campus about the current market workers campaign and various actions/activities that are happening at KIWA. Sean, J P, Lyeng, and I are the four members. Our responsibilities and goals of the quarter were as follow:

1) Generate a specific petition to reinstate Mr. Yoi back to his former job at Assi Market.
Having all students from our class to sign the petition form and then present it to the
management the day of community/student action in front of the market.
2) Create a more general petition with details on the purpose of the Market Workers Justice Campaign and introduce students to the various issues (unfair labor practice, exploitation of immigrant workers, workers harassment, etc.) at the market. Collect UCLA student signatures to support the workers’ struggle and their need to organize into a union. Our initial goal was set at collecting up to 1,000 signatures.
3) Create a UCLA student website which describes the whole campaign and provides
easy access pertaining to the campaign progress, action, and education for those who
are interested in finding out more information.
4) Collect endorsements from various UCLA student-groups to support the campaign.
5) Fundraising for Mr. Yi and help him to support his family. Our initial goal was: $200.
6) Write a Daily Bruin viewpoint article to stress the importance of UCLA students’
involvement in the Market Workers Justice Campaign.

Our actual accomplishments at the end of the quarter:

1) Sean had written the specific petition of rehiring Mr. Yoi. All the students in the class
had signed the form. This petition was given to James (community –based group), and
he will later present it to the management at Assi
2) I was responsible for writing the general petition form detailing the issues of the
campaign. Sean, Lyeng, J P and I have all went to either our own classes or Asian
American and Chicano Studies classes for presentations and collection of signatures.
We have also asked for petition signatures on bruinwalk from each individual student.
Unfortunately, we didn’t surpass our initial goal. We had only obtained approximately
500 signatures. All the petition signatures were turned in to Liz last Friday at the
action. These petitions will later be presented to Assi management during the summer
by UCLA students
3) J P did an excellent job in creating the website.
http://www.marketworkerscampaign.com/ contains history about the campaign, current
campaign status, photos of various actions and protests, FAQ, links to other sites, all
the campaign student endorsement groups, and other press articles in regards to the
campaign.
4) The four of us had collected of total nine student-group endorsements. J P got it
from The United Students Against Sweatshops, Lyeng got it from the Environmental
Coalition, Sean got it from UCLA Thai Smakom, Association of Chinese American,
Amnesty of International at UCLA, Nikkei Student Union, I have got it from
Taiwanese American Union, Chinese Student Association, and with the help from
James, we also got it from Korean American Student Association.
5) We did two bake sales on bruin walk. The first sale consisted of selling cookies,
chocolate bars, and muffins. We made $35. At the second bake sell, Lyeng baked all
the cookies for us. However, students were seen hesitant in approaching our tables. At
both bake sales, there was another competing student group doing the exact same
thing. Therefore, the second time, Lyeng and I had to approach students directly inside
of Ackerman Union for donations. Since most students were reluctant in giving money
in the first place, we only asked for twenty-five cents per each cookie. We made $7 at
the second donation. But thanks to Professor Omatsu ($50 donation), students from
class ($50 from bake sale), and the rest of money donated from our own team members.
We managed to raise $163.00, but failed our initial goal of two hundred dollars. The
money was given to Liz, and James will be responsible for handing the money over to
Mr. Yi.
6) Sean had submitted the article to the Daily Bruin. However, the article has not been
published so far.

After seven weeks of internship, we have accomplished most of our goals, and each of us in the team has benefited from participating in such internship. We have improved our public speaking skills by making campaign presentations in front of classes, talking to students on bruinwalk, and making contact with various student-groups. Moreover, we have become more comfortable in taking initiative through making direct contact and approach students when collecting the petition signatures. We have also learned to do bake sales on campus. Personally, it was the first time that I have ever participated in actions and protests. Although I was nervous at first, it turned out to be the best experience ever. I learned more about labor issues regarding immigrant workers and I also witnessed joining effort of the community members and students of fighting for the same cause. Most importantly, I have walked out of the safe haven of UCLA campus and become involved in the community life.

 

By John-Paul Puno

This Spring, a handful of students had the opportunity to intern for Korean Immigrant Workers Advocates, or KIWA for short. Interns from UCLA were first interviewed and divided into two groups, one group that would be working directly at the KIWA office in Koreatown, and the other group working more closely with projects on the UCLA campus. There were a total of four students chosen to work in the on-campus group, Jenny, Sean, Lyeng, and myself, and each of us were responsible for a different task. The current campaign that KIWA focused on is the Market Workers Justice Campaign, which supports the formation of a union of workers from a Korean owned supermarket. The supermarket they work for, Assi Market, is a large and highly popular Korean supermarket, which owns their own line of food products and grosses a comparable amount to a Ralph’s Supermarket store. Unfortunately, many workers of Assi Market have been verbally abused by managers, have little job security, little benefits, low pay (compared to union members of other supermarkets), and in some cases have been fired for being pro-union. For these reasons alone, it was important to establish a union.

The main objectives of our group was to develop a petition supporting the Market Workers Justice Campaign, obtain student group endorsements, let students know what was going on at Assi Market, and hopefully get students to attend some of the protests outside of Assi Market. We divided the tasks among us by delineating which students groups we were going to ask endorsements from, and each intern was responsible for getting an endorsement from several groups. Furthermore, all of the on-campus based interns would try to garner as many signatures as possible, which would eventually be presented to the owner of Assi Market. The on-campus based interns also provided support for the interns at the KIWA office. We helped the other interns distribute flyers about an upcoming protest and we also served as security for the event.

In addition to the main objectives of the group, we also had other projects to help the campaign. For example, all on-campus based interns helped developed a website (www.marketworkerscampaign.com) to inform the public of the Market Workers Justice Campaign and keep them updated on what was going on. The website also included the history of the campaign, photos, as well as a page of the endorsements we garnered. Another project we worked on was a Viewpoint article to be submitted to the Daily Bruin. Sean worked on an insightful article that is also posted on our website. All of the on-campus based interns also took part in fundraising for Mr. Yi, a pro-union worker who was recently fired from Assi Market. The fundraising took the form of a bakesale and Lyeng baked some homemade cookies that were very popular. Jenny and Sean also went to the March 1st rally and took some great photos for the website. Overall, the group had many goals to reach and we all worked together in reaching those goals. The things we accomplished was a petition with about 600 signatures, obtained about a dozen student group endorsements, raised money for Mr. Yi, developed a website about the campaign, and informed hundreds of students about the campaign.

Personally, there were a lot of things I learned from this experience and a lot of skills that I got to work on. First of all, I learned that a lot of hard work goes into a campaign such as the Market Workers Justice Campaign. I realized that it takes the hard work of many individuals coming together and working as a collective unit. Planning became a very important aspect in this internship since the quarter is only 10 weeks long and we wanted to accomplish as much as we can in that short time span. I also got hands on experience on what it takes to put on a successful campaign and it was the first time I have ever been involved in a protest. I also learned how unions work and some of the politics and practices behind running large businesses.

I also got the chance to develop some of my personal skills. One of the skills I really got to work on is my public speaking skills, since I talked to dozens and dozens of people on an individual basis. I also made announcements to several classes once of which had about three hundred students. I also had to be prepared for any questions that they may ask, which required me to think on my feet, a skill I wanted to work on. Finally, I got to work on my leadership skills through inputting ideas to the group and being a leader at the protests through being a security person and directing traffic.

In summation, the internship at KIWA was a very positive and enlightening experience that raised my consciousness about worker injustices and the positive dynamics of interethnic relations. I am very grateful and lucky to be a part of this internship, and hopefully I played a role in helping this campaign reach its goals. I look forward to continuing to be a part of this campaign and hopefully be more involved in other community projects.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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