When 20,000 Asian Americans Demanded Garment Workers’ Rights—And Won
It was an unlikely group to storm the streets of New York City’s Chinatown in the summer of 1982: Nearly 20,000 garment workers—mostly Asian American women—marched together in solidarity for better benefits. Clad in matching union caps, they carried signs in both English and Chinese, reading, “In union, there is strength,” and “Support the union contract.”
The walkout succeeded in retaining critical benefits for garment workers who toiled long work days in often harsh conditions. The strike’ success also showed that Asian American women—even those with a language barrier—could amplify their voices, take action and be heard.
“The mood was so exciting!” says May Chen, a labor organizer who worked for the hotel union at the time and was “borrowed” to help with the picket lines and logistics. “Chinatown’s hierarchy was so male-dominated, and here came the women standing together and speaking out.” CONTINUE