Recently, CFA members attended the SEIU Asian Pacific Islander (API) Caucus Summit 2023: Building Power: Strengthening Our Future and Leading the Way. The event is a powerful gathering of API people who work in union and unionizing workplaces represented by SEIU.
Co-chair of CFA’s student intern program and CSU East Bay Professor Emeritus of political science, Kim Geron was awarded the inaugural Sensei Award for his leadership in mentoring others. Geron was voted by his peers to be the treasurer of SEIU’s API Caucus. CFA Treasurer, Bargaining Team member, APIDA Caucus Tri-Chair, and Fresno State Librarian Vang Vang was recognized for her commitment to advancing racial justice in the workplace.
“I was inspired by the solidarity and commitment of so many APIs from so many local units in SEIU to fight for what is right and just for all workers,” said Vang. “The energy was through the roof!”
Geron was part of the planning committee and explained that he wanted to mobilize SEIU API workers to “celebrate our successes in building our union power on the job and in our communities.” Geron also noted that, “We also made plans to continue to build a labor, political, and community movement where API voices and leaders are heard and respected along with other BIPOC and working people.”
At the conference 310 attendees represented seven union regions, 30 locals, 30 ethnicities, and 35 languages. Many interpreters were available supporting people mingling freely in their chosen languages.
Attendees spoke about their struggles with the employer. For example, health care workers cannot afford health insurance, and airport workers described challenges navigating labor and resource shortages. Attendees emphasized their rich cultural heritage, fight for justice for all their coworkers, and the solidarity they received as anti-Asian hatred surged.
CSU San Francisco Department Rep and Professor Valerie Soe came away feeling lifted. “It was really great to meet in person again and to hear what SEIU API activists and organizers are doing around the country. As a member of the California Faculty Association APIDA Caucus I felt inspired and invigorated afterwards and I hope we all meet again soon!”
SEIU’s API caucus aims to support the leadership of API folks to shape decision-making in the union. The caucus focuses on leadership development, strengthening the union, organizing, politics, racial and economic justice in the workplace, environmental justice, electoral mobilization and to fight for immigration and justice for API families. Attendees were particularly impressed with our contract win on cultural taxation as reported by Vang at a bargaining workshop.
Having attended her first meeting API labor union meeting CFA APIDA Caucus Tri-Chair and CSU Los Angeles Professor, Swang Ngin in reflecting on the event stated that, “I came away with the wonderful feeling that there is laughter, happiness, and a sense of solidarity among a community of interesting and dedicated people all fighting for social justice”.