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Asian American Studies 197A
Class Ticket Number: 121-853-200
Mondays, 4:00 – 6:50 p.m., Royce 164

Course Description

Both historically and today, grassroots labor struggles by immigrant workers are central to defining the Asian Pacific American experience. Immigrant labor struggles bring to the forefront issues of human rights, interethnic and interracial alliances, racism and gender oppression, the impact of globalization, and the ongoing efforts to expand democracy in America. However, despite the central significance of labor struggles, the curriculum in Asian American Studies has virtually no classes focusing on labor.

This class addresses this vacuum and examines Asian Pacific American labor, both historically and today. Among historical issues to be covered are the exclusion of Asian immigrant workers from mainstream labor unions, the resulting reliance of immigrant workers on community-based strategies for fighting for workplace rights, and the close connection between labor organizing and other community movements such as support for independence of former homelands from colonialism, women’s rights, and movements for human rights. Among contemporary issues to be covered are current organizing campaigns by low-income immigrants in the garment and restaurant industries, the ways these community-based labor struggles are redefining labor organizing strategies in mainstream unions, and the impact of labor struggles and immigrant worker centers on reshaping politics in Asian Pacific American communities.

This class also focuses on the key role that Asian Pacific American students can play in supporting labor struggles of low-income immigrants. This class provides students with hands-on activist training to help them confront class polarization, which increasingly is becoming a major feature of Asian Pacific American communities. Students will receive training in ways that they can use campus resources, including their academic skills, to support immigrant labor struggles.

Students in this class will assist Visual Communications — the nation’s oldest Asian Pacific Islander independent media organization — on its project to create a video documentary on Asian Pacific American grassroots labor struggles in L.A. Students will contribute research to the initial phase of this project.

This class was initiated by Rena Wong, a recent UCLA graduate who is now working as a union organizer in the San Francisco Bay Area. For Spring Quarter, she has made arrangements with faculty in Urban Planning to sponsor interested students for independent studies to work with unions and community-based worker centers.









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