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
UCLA Labor Center - Health and Safety & NAFTA Project by Miya Yamamoto

My experience was only similar to a few other people in our class because I was not part of a team. I worked with Linda Delp of the UCLA Labor Center. I helped her organize two meetings, one featuring Marta Ojeda, director of the Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras, and one about occupational health and safety in Southern California. For both of these meetings, I did a lot of phone calling and faxing to try to get the information out to as many people as possible. I did a lot of reading and research on the issues, which varied from taking notes on a video about NAFTA, to researching on the web to calling the California Labor Federation for more information on an ergonomics bill. Mainly though, I did research on the web, both to get information for the two facts sheets I put together and to learn more about the issues so I would have a better understanding of the issues.

Initially, I thought I would be given a specific role as the student intern/helper, but I had no idea what I would be doing. It turned out that I couldn’t really help on the project that Linda was working on because it was pretty far along, and I wouldn’t bet there long enough. So we weren’t really sure what my work would be. The immediate project I helped out on was the organization of the meeting with Marta Ojeda. It was very last minute because we had only learned a few weeks prior to her visit that she would be coming. It was hard to get in contact with the people that I had contact information for. Many were union representatives, or teachers or interested parties who were always out doing something. We didn’t receive many confirmations.

I didn’t really know that much about NAFTA and NAALC, much less what was going on in Mexico. So it was very eye opening for me to read documents and articles all pertaining to these issues. It was very scary to realize that most people are worse off than I was in their awareness of what those agreements mean, and how it affects them. I realized how easy it is to be blissfully ignorant of important issues, and how important it is to pay attention to the news and read between the lines. Unless you are an alert and aware person, you won’t find out about the consequences of a huge act like Nafta because the press only cares about it passing or not. I feel like I read the newspaper and pay attention to what’s going on in the world, but maybe I should also pay more attention to what’s going on in my own country. That was an important lesson to learn, which hopefully I will remember in the future.

Something that I got out of helping to organize both meetings was a very grassroots type experience. We were getting together people who were interested in an issue and wanted to make a difference about it. From these meetings, and future meetings, a core group will form, and hopefully continue to raise awareness and start movements to make a difference. I know that another health and safety meeting is planned for next month, and that hopefully a board will be chosen to give focus and direction to promoting the issue. And that most of these people are already busy with their jobs and are adding something else on top of that. So it is encouraging to note that there are so many people willing to give more time for a cause. They are great examples of how to live your life, not to get too tied down to your immediate work that you can’t see bigger issues and work toward those as well.

The most difficult aspect of the internship for me was that I didn’t have a set agenda. At first I was going to create something about NAFTA and the Labor side agreement, so I did a lot of reading and researching on that, to complement the first meeting. But doing all that reading made me realize that there already was a lot of information already out there, and me adding to it may not help. We decided that it was just too broad of an area for me to really come up with something worth it on my own. It would have been different if I could have added something on to a bigger project that Linda was working on for the Labor Center about NAFTA, because then I could be directed and more specific.

Then I spent a lot of time calling and faxing phone lists of people that some of the organizers really wanted to come to the health and safety meeting because they had been interested before. So there wasn’t really time to develop something else, because then I was working on the getting something together on ergonomics in California. And lastly I did research for the case study that the Labor Center is putting together on the labor cases that are in discussions under the Nafta Labor Side Agreement. So my internship was more just helping out where I was needed. This makes perfect sense, but my first impression was that I would be doing something more goal-orientated.

I had a really good time working at the UCLA Labor Center. Linda, Angeles and Marisol were all really great to work with. It was a very good experience, and I definitely want to volunteer with non-profit groups in the future because labor will continue to be a huge issue in the future.







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