History: Andolan is a non-profit, membership based organization that advocates on behalf of South Asian immigrant workers. Founded in 1998 by executive director Gulnahar Alam, the collective continues to be led by members, comprised primarily of low-wage female workers. The organization addresses gaps in social services and government agencies by providing legal assistance and a membership network support system for undocumented South Asian workers from Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Andolan, meaning “movement” in various South Asian languages, mobilizes workers for coalition building to ensure South Asian communities reach self-determinacy. Cornerstone to their mission is a commitment to helping all workers realize their legal rights in order to empower working class immigrant communities. As most members are domestic workers (babysitters, housekeepers), retail and restaurant workers, these marginalized and invisible groups often face obstacles such as worker exploitation, abuse, sexual harassment and domestic violence. Andolan encourages members to take on leadership roles in organizing, to transform their struggles and experiences into practical knowledge that works towards liberating female workers from inter-dependency and oppressive systems.
Andolan operates through three types of community programming: providing support to workers, promoting legal advocacy and community campaigning. Andolan’s member network holds meetings and educational workshops to address changes and issues surrounding immigration law, health, labor and domestic issues. The member network is sensitive to the immediate and cultural needs of the community by offering constant support through referrals for medical assistance and refuge, as well as counseling and translation services. Andolan’s implementation plans involve filing lawsuits in order to heighten public awareness of the various issues domestic workers face. Lawsuits Andolan brought to public attention include cases on federal violation of state minimum wages, sexual harassment, assault, and imprisonment upon false charges. Additionally, Andolan has launched several successful campaigns to protect worker’s rights, including the Campaign against Diplomatic Immunity of UN Employees, which aimed to hold diplomats accountable for their abusive treatment towards domestic workers. Andolan has co-coordinated with CAAAV for the Campaign to Increase the Minimum Wage, which strives to increase working wages through dialogue with local and state officials. Andolan also organizes protests and demonstrations in order to receive immediate responses to specific grievances. As a founding member of Domestic Workers United, Andolan continues to collaborate with DWU to advance the movement to end worker exploitation.
Within the past decade, Andolan had several legal victories in lawsuits against abusive employers. In a landmark settlement case, Andolan’s client received the largest reparations in U.S. legal history for a domestic worker, thereby setting a precedent for other low-wage immigrant workers. Another monumental victory for Andolan is marked by the City Hall approval of a bill in 2003, which requires employers and agencies to provide a contract to workers that guarantees minimum wage and overtime pay, health insurance, regular working hours and enforcement of labor standards.
In recognition of their achievements and social impact in the community, Andolan was awarded the Union Square Social Justice Award in 2001.
Summary: Totaling 6.0 linear feet, Andolan’s records consist of client court case files, administrative, board and fiscal operations, programming and development files, grant support and publicity materials.
Measuring approximately 3.0 linear feet, the bulk of records are confidential court files that document Andolan’s litigation role in client cases from 1998 to 2006. Separate, but precursory to Andolan’s formal filing of legal cases are client intake files documenting personal background information in Hindi and Bengali. Legal cases relate to wage compensation, political asylum and domestic violence against workers and women. These files trace case progression with legal proceedings, attorney correspondences, affidavits of support, court petitions and transcripts.
The second largest volume of materials are organizational development files which cover primarily the administrative and board functions, as well as fiscal records from 2000 to 2006. Within these files are annual directors meeting minutes, agendas, organizational structure models, by-laws and article of incorporation. Of note are board evaluation records of Andolan’s progress up until 2006, supplemented by the article of members and an outlined explanation of board roles. Contained within the organizational files are directories of members and community contacts organized in binders. The organization’s development files also hold fiscal records, which document operational expenses with invoices, annual budget outlines, and tax forms.
Organizational funding files on grant applications and grassroots fundraising measure 1.0 linear feet and span between 2000 and 2008. Within these files are grant contracts, interim progress reports, budget sheet narratives, fundraising plans, grant award correspondences and letters of intent. Together, these components of the grant application files reflect organizational history and progression, as well as detailed project descriptions.
Comprising of .75 linear feet, Andolan’s project files date from 2000 to 2007, documenting global and local initiatives. Important campaign files include the Domestic Violence Project, “No One Signs Up to be a Slave,” a campaign against Human Trafficking. Files of significant Andolan international initiatives include the International Human Rights Watch (2004) and the Women’s Rights Hearing, part of the United Nations Conference against Racism, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance (2001). Documentation of more creative projects includes drafts of “We are Andolan” song for street performances, transcripts of member’s testimonies and a script for a play based on true stories of Andolan members.
Publicity materials range from the years 1999 -2005, spotlighting Andolan’s larger advocacy programs, public events and legal case milestones. Flyers, brochures and press releases document community initiatives and collaborations with other non-profit organizations such as DESI, DRUM, AALDEF, CAAAV and Domestic Workers United to create projects such as the Free Women’s Clinic and educational workshops on self-defense. Some of these materials are bi-lingual, or are in Bengali. There are also collected newspaper clippings from local and national newspapers, including India Times, New York Times with articles on founder Gulnahar Alam, Andolan’s active role in the campaign against U.N. Diplomatic Immunity and worker exploitation in the restaurant lawsuits against Malabar Palace. In addition, there are collected original clippings of Andolan’s advertisements of their services in Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Indian newspapers.
Sources: Andolan – Organizing South Asian Workers.
Aliya Hussain, “Trouble at Home: Domestic Workers Speak Out Against Exploitation and Abuse,” April 10, 2010, accessed February 13, 2012. http://www.aclu.org/blog/human-rights-womens-rights/trouble-home-domestic-workers-speak-out-against-exploitation-and.
Jessica Shattuck “October Hellraiser: Nahar Alam, Fighting for the Rights of Domestic Workers,” http://motherjones.com/politics/1998/09/october-hellraiser. September/October 1998 Issue.
Andolan: Organizing South Asian Workers: “Revaluing ‘Women’s Work:’ Ending the Exploitation and Abuse of Domestic Workers.”
Total size: 6.0 linear feet
APA-related size: 6.0 linear feet
Location: Private residence