Established as a formal entity within the AFL-CIO in 1992, the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) was envisioned as an organization that would address a number of pressing needs within the A/PA community by educating laborers, promoting political education and voter registration, and training and mentoring A/PA leaders within the labor movement and greater community. The founders recognized that, in addition to traditional issues like fair wages, health care, and dignity, A/PA workers faced other challenges and workplace discrimination.
Despite the popularity of the “model minority myth”, there were still many misunderstandings about the ability of many Asian/Pacific Americans to achieve economic security and prosperity. While the median income of A/PA workers was higher than the national average, wide economic disparities existed between and within specific ethnic groups. Some experienced high rates of poverty and earned incomes that were substantially lower than the national average, as disadvantages related to immigration status, discrimination, language ability and education forced many Asian/Pacific Americans into low-paying and insecure jobs often accompanied by exploitation. APALA understood the necessity of forming labor alliances, and sought to get more A/PA workers into unions, especially, those working in garment factories and restaurants. It also sought to develop ties to international labor organizations, especially those within the Asia-Pacific Rim.
With approximately 660,000 members, a national office in Washington, D.C., and 13 chapters and pre-chapters across the country, APALA remains the first and only national organization of A/PA union members. The APALA Records contain administrative files relating to its steering committee, executive board and membership; documents related to specific political campaigns; files on conferences, conventions, and special public meetings; newsletters, VHS tape recordings, photographs, placards, posters, and signs documenting APALA’s work from it early years through 2008.
To learn more about the contents of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance Records, located at the NYU Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, view the collection’s finding aid.