The foundations for the creation of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) were laid in 1990 when a number of Asian/Pacific American (A/P/A) labor activists presented the AFL-CIO with a proposal to better address the continued underrepresentation of A/P/A workers in the labor movement by forming a national A/P/A labor organization. These activists sought to get more A/P/A workers into unions, especially those working in industries such as garment factories and restaurants. The APALA founders also recognized that, in addition to traditional workers’ rights issues like fair wages and health care, A/P/A workers face workplace discrimination and challenges related to immigration status, language ability, and education which force many Asian and Pacific Islander Americans into low-paying and insecure jobs.
In 1991, the Executive Council of the AFL-CIO formed a steering committee consisting of representatives from the three regional AP/A labor groups, representatives from Hawai’i’s AFL-CIO, and the seven founding unions to explore the rationales and practicalities of forming a national A/P/A labor organization. APALA became a formal entity at the National Founding Convention in 1992.
With approximately 660,000 members, a national office in Washington, DC, and over twenty chapters and pre-chapters across the country, APALA remains the first and only national organization of A/P/A union members. The APALA Records contain administrative files related to its steering committee, executive board, and membership; documents related to specific political campaigns; files on conferences, conventions, and special public meetings; and newsletters, VHS tape recordings, photographs, placards, posters, and signs documenting APALA’s work from its early years to the present.
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.