by Ronnie Estoque
On Friday, hundreds of Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) members gathering in Seattle for their convention rally will be joining Embassy Suites hotel workers in Pioneer Square at 4:30 p.m. in support of an updated labor contract.
Eunice How has been the APALA Seattle chapter president for seven years and is a community and political organizer at UNITE HERE! Local 8, which is the union that represents the Embassy Suites hotel workers.
“The [worker] contract expired in May 31 of this year, and we’re waiting on dates to start bargaining,” How said. “We need wages that allow us to live in the City of Seattle and take care of our families, and we also want respect.”
APALA was founded in 1992 and is the “first and only national organization of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) workers, most of whom are union members, and our allies advancing worker, immigrant and civil rights.” The organization also receives support from the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). It will be the first time the APALA has gathered in Seattle for a convention.
“The Pacific Northwest was a gateway to Asia and the Pacific, so [Asian and Pacific Island] workers have had a long history here, working first in railroads and salmon canneries, but now they still contribute a lot to society in terms of working in health care and the service sector,” How said.
According to How, another big focus of the protest on Friday will be advocacy for the Living Hotels ordinance, which would set specific development standards for new hotels to reduce their environmental impacts.
“We are partnering with 350 Seattle, Sierra Club Washington, King County Labor Council (also known as MLK labor), and Climate Solutions, as organizations that want a sustainable tourism economy,” How said. “And we’re asking the City Councilors to pass a Living Hotels ordinance.”
The labor movement has been out in full force both locally and nationally over the past couple of years as the pandemic has galvanized workers across various industries. Last November, the Emerald reported on local grocery store workers represented by UFCW 3000 protesting the Kroger-Albertsons merger. Led by Christian Smalls, the recently formed Amazon Labor Union aims to unionize the workforce behind Amazon distribution warehouses.
“I am proud to be a housekeeper, and I’m proud to be Filipina worker,” said Liza Cruz from the Embassy Suites in an Aug. 1 press release. “We deserve wages and a contract that can support us and our families in Seattle.”
“I think [the current labor movement moment is] unprecedented and very exciting,” How said. “I know that workers are rising up around the country, fighting for what we deserve and what we need for our families to thrive. It’s a moment that everyone should join as you struggle for a better future.”
This article is published under a Seattle Human Services Department grant, “Resilience Amidst Hate,” in response to anti-Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander violence.
Ronnie Estoque is a South Seattle-based freelance photographer and videographer. You can keep up with his work by checking out his website.
📸 Featured Image: May Day 2019 rally in support of immigrant and workers rights. (Photo: Eunice How)
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