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Asian American Studies 197A
Winter Quarter 2002

Raymond Ramirez, "Immigrant Workers and 'Shared Leadership'" Hyun Ja Pak, "What UCLA Students Can Learn from Immigrant Workers"

Reflection Journal 2

Immigrant Workers and "Shared Leadership"
By Raymond Ramirez

Based on my research for the history of the Oxnard Sugar Beet Strike of 1903, I have learned something about shared leadership. That is, I have come to see those who participated in the strikes as leaders in their own rights to a decent living. Whether the actual strikers knew it or not, they were setting a precedent that showed that a multiracial labor coalition could be done and could be successful. What I saw as more important, I think, was the fact that by going on strike, these seemingly ordinary people put a lot of their interests (like making a living) on the line for something that they believed in. I believe that in itself is leadership at its best. I had always known that leadership often involved taking risks. But I just had to admire those who put their own neck on the line to fight for something that they actually believed in. While I had already known this before doing research on the Oxnard strike, I had not really reflected on how much fortitude that takes until now.

While I have not yet had the chance to interview individuals, given that my topic is mostly research-based, I have come to understand the concept of shared leadership better through research of the Oxnard Sugar Beet Strike. For example, while the Japanese Mexican Labor Association (JMLA) was led by people such as individuals such as union president Baba Kozaburo, J.M. Lizarras (secretary of the Mexican branch), and Y. Yamaguchi (secretary of the Japanese branch), the concept of shared leadership can be seen in the strike. For instance, during their strike, 1,200 workers (90% of the beet workforce in the county) took the initiative to fight for a better wage. A huge part of leadership, I feel, is based on initiative. General members of the JMLA, for example, took leadership roles by increasing the militancy of the strike after an anti-JMLA individual was proclaimed "not guilty" in a biased trial for killing a striking member of the JMLA. Furthermore, JMLA members helped draw strikebreakers to their side, thus increasing their strength and countering union tactics. These actions led to negotiations in which the JMLA won major concessions. Incidents such as these show how ordinary people can do plenty to advance interests, such as labor, by taking the initiative to do something about their situation. Indeed, I believe that the strike would have been highly unsuccessful if the leaders were looking to negotiate without backing from their constituency. Thus, strength is in numbers, and numbers can only come from the leadership initiative of grassroots people.

I believe that the leadership approach of the JMLA contrasts very much with that of current UCLA students. From my observation, many students unknowingly take to the concept of "top-down" leadership. A good example of this is the setup of many classrooms at UCLA. Many of these classrooms have seats that are bolted to the floors. This type of setup discourages group interaction and instead encourages instructor-dominated lectures ("top-down approach). Moreover, students are not given the chance to polish their leadership skills through group discussion. It is through these discussions that students can get an idea of how to work together in a group, and how to handle issues such as intergroup conflict, etc. However, most students do not know — or do not care — that their classrooms are structured in this way. As a result, they end up accepting the "top-down approach".

I believe that the shared leadership concept applies to me in several ways,. For instance, I believe that the shared concept of leadership applies to me in that I perform a steady amount of time into community service. For instance, I work with an after-school tutoring program. I feel that through this type of work, I am able to exercise my share of "shared leadership".

I also believe that what we can learn from the leadership style of the JMLA is that everyone is a leader in the community. Thus, we should take advantage of this by siding with movements that seek to correct social inequalities. Students can also learn that leadership does not necessarily mean that of a "top-down" approach. Rather, it could mean anybody who takes initiative do something positive for others.
In terms of the group project, I feel that I am contributing based on a shared leadership approach by doing my share of the work and trying to make sure, as do the other group members, that our group as a whole is progressing properly. Getting our assignments done is especially important since we will be working much closer together in the upcoming weeks, since we are filming a video. Coordination and early preparation are going to be needed, so it is important for us to make sure we are all on the same page, and we are able to do this by checking up on each other’s work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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