UCLA Labor Center

Immigrant Working Families are Sewing Resilience in the Fast Fashion Industry of L.A.

About Sewing Resilience 

Sewing Resilience is a short film by Artivists Wil Prada and Pea Nuñez about the life of Santa Puac, a mother of three, garment worker, and worker-leader in the movement to end exploitation in the garment industry of Los Angeles, the capital of U.S. garment production. For Puac, organizing for justice is always a family affair because her children are her motivation on her quest to fight for justice. Sewing Resilience premiered, in late 2019, at the UCLA Labor Center as part of the Working Families in Focus photography and film exhibit directed by Los Angeles artists of color to capture the lives of janitors, garment and domestic workers, and their children at their unions or worker centers. Working Families in Focus is an initiative of the Parent Worker Project and was also curated by Wil Prada, UCLA alum, filmmaker, and photographer.

Santa at the 2019 Mother’s Day event at the Downtown UCLA Labor Center

About the Artivist & Filmmaker Wil Prada

For Prada, the film is very personal and uplifts the voices, resilience, and power of immigrant working families. In an interview, Prada said “the film reflects a lot of the stories of people in my family and hits very close to home. My dad at one point had three jobs: he was a dishwasher, he would deliver newspapers, and he worked at the Pizza Hut. Growing up, my mom worked at the Jack in the Box and also did house cleaning.”

Wil Prada

Making the film, for Wil, “was an opportunity to uplift and amplify the voices of immigrant parents, the issues they’re going through, and what’s important to them.” Wil explains that “the film dispels myths such as that immigrant parents don’t care about their children’s education and that’s why they don’t go to school meetings. The truth is that they’re working long hours, which makes it hard for them to go to parent meetings.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To learn more about Prada’s work and how Sewing Resilience came about, you can read the rest of the interview here. You can also check out our recent panel discussion featuring the filmmakers and garment worker activists here.

REPORT: LGBTQ+ Worker Experiences at UFCW

UFCW 770 and 1428 Rank and File Members, West Hollywood Pride 2019

LOS ANGELES – A UCLA report published today found that advocacy efforts by rank-and-file members of the United Food and Commercial Workers broadly support union organizing for safer and more equitable workplaces for LGBTQ workers in the U.S. and Canada, but the fight toward ending workplace discrimination is far from over.

The researchers hope that the findings can inform discussions and strengthen union organizing related to equity for LGBTQ workers across industries. The report was a collaboration between the UCLA Labor Center and the United Food and Commercial Workers OUTreach, an LGBTQ advocacy group within the union.

The researchers surveyed 1,004 United Food and Commercial Workers members, one-third of whom identified as LGBTQ, in regions across the U.S. and Canada. UFCW members work in a variety of industries, including grocery, retail, health care, meatpacking and food processing, and cannabis.

Three-quarters of survey participants said their local union takes concrete actions to support LGBTQ workers and 70% said LGBTQ workers are protected by their union contracts. In addition, 68% said it should be a top priority for unions to explicitly prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation on the job.

The authors write that collective bargaining agreements are one of the tools unions can, and do, use to increase equity for marginalized workers. UFCW OUTreach organizers, for example, have negotiated for policies that explicitly prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation in the workplace, measures that have effectively filled existing legislative gaps.

More than two-thirds of the respondents said their current union contract protects LGBTQ workers, and more than half of LGBTQ workers said they felt protected at work because of their collective bargaining agreements.

The report offers a timely analysis of issues surrounding workplace issues for LGBTQ people and identity politics in North American labor movements. Its publication occurs just days before National Coming Out Day (which is Oct. 11 in both the U.S. and Canada), and just four months after a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision affirming that LGBTQ and transgender workers are protected from discrimination at the workplace under the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

“The union has the power to advocate to address systemic inequities that affect LGBTQ workers by utilizing collective bargaining agreements as well as educational training that increases awareness of the urgency to improve the workplace for LGBTQ members,” said Michelle Kessler, the chairperson of UFCW OUTreach.

Among the survey’s other findings:

  • 87% of union members said LGBTQ workers should be protected by their union contracts.
  • 83% said LGBTQ issues should be supported by union leaders.

“When direct actions are taken by union leaders, workplaces are safer for LGBTQ members,” said Jean Tong, the union representative for UFCW Local 770 in Los Angeles. “Equally important is the thoughtful work our union has done to expand leadership opportunities for LGBTQ workers to participate in the decision-making process.”

While the survey respondents generally support LGBTQ workers’ rights and contract protections, the study also explores the ongoing on-the-job challenges LGBTQ workers face. The UFCW represents workers on the front lines serving customers and providing essential services to the community, where they are often exposed to overt discrimination, negative cultural attitudes and everyday indignities that are frequently minimized or go unnoticed.

“Nearly a quarter of LGBTQ workers reported being harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and 43% had heard negative comments or stereotypes in their current workplace,” said Sid Jordan, a co-author of the report and a researcher at the UCLA Labor Center. “This points to the cultural and structural changes that will be needed to give meaning to nondiscrimination policies.”

The report outlines four main recommendations that would improve the workplace experience for LGBTQ people:

  • Develop proactive union agendas and policies that recognize and protect the rights and identities of LGBTQ workers.
  • Create visible, clear and concrete organizational structures for LGBTQ leadership and participation at every level of the union.
  • Develop organizing and labor education programs that focus on lifting up and affirming LGBTQ workers’ rights and identities.
  • Create spaces within unions and affiliated community centers where LGBTQ workers can work with their allies to eradicate workplace violence, discrimination and harassment.

 

Release originally published at UCLA Newsroom on October 8,2020 

Download the report: Union Values and LGBTQ+ Worker Experiences: A Survey of UFCW Workers in the United States and Canada

 

Meet Dream Summer 2019 Graduate, Armando Delgado Jr.

We are ecstatic to announce that the UCLA Dream Resource Center’s Dream Summer 2019 fellows will be graduating this Sunday, August 18th! The fellows engaged in critical work, throughout the fellowship, to ensure that social justice continues to be a strong force within the United States. Each fellow performed a critical role to advance the work of the host organization they were placed with and to sustain the immigrant rights and labor movement. The graduation will celebrate the leadership, dedication, resilience, and growth exhibited by each one of the Dream Summer 2019 fellows. 

Meet Armando Delgado Jr., one of the Dream Summer 2019 fellowship graduates!

Placed at United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) for Dream Summer 2019.

Biography

Armando Delgado Jr. comes from a single-parent household. His mother and three sisters have been a great support system throughout his life, such as by helping him accomplish his educational goals. Armando graduated with a B.S. in Physiology and Neuroscience from the University of California, San Diego. Having worked in the education field for three years at the Boys & Girls Club of the West Valley, he has successfully served as a mentor to students and helped students gain access to post-secondary educational opportunities. 

Although Armando enjoys working in the education field, in the future he hopes to utilize his skills to increase inclusion and accessibility for individuals with disabilities in the technology and healthcare fields. Having a disability himself, Armando understands how challenging it is for people with disabilities to navigate and find support in a socially and politically turbulent world. He also understands the difficulty of seeking aid in a society that implicitly or unconsciously discriminates against and secludes people with disabilities. He hopes to challenge these societal norms through his work. With this goal in mind, Armando will pursue a Ph.D. in public policy or human-centered design and engineering to examine how technology mediates communication and interactions with disabled populations.

Armando presenting during a power analysis activity at the Dream Summer 2019 kick-off.

We asked Armando: What was your experience with the fellowship like?

“My participation in the Dream Summer fellowship has been a pleasant and positive experience. It has provided me with the opportunity to learn how immigrants and allies organize, at a national and local level, to advocate for immigrant rights. The fellowship has also shown me how to raise awareness and increase advocacy for immigrant rights by building a strong community of supporters. 

I also learned how to effectively work at an organization that specializes in increasing community action for a specific social justice issue. The workshops that were presented to us, during the Dream Summer kick-off, gave me a huge eye opener to the wide range of fields in social justice, such as community outreach and field organizing. Through the workshops, I learned that in order to dismantle economic, political, and social barriers we must first understand the problems in our communities and how these problems affect individuals daily.”

Armando discussing some of the topics that will be spoken at UTLA’s Leadership Conference.

We asked Armando: How has the fellowship helped you grow?

“The fellowship has helped me grow into an individual who is more vocal. Through my host organization, United Teachers of Los Angeles, I learned how important it is to use your voice effectively⏤to create impact and change⏤when organizing for a social justice issue. It is important for one to express their opinions and fight for what is necessary.

The fellowship also gave me insight into how grassroots organizations and unions utilize social media platforms to conduct community outreach. I learned that social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter can be utilized as powerful tools to challenge authority and unite individuals under a common ground. The fellowship also taught me how to summarize large heaps of data and translate that data into infographics for a target audience to easily understand. People must easily understand a problem or issue in order for solutions to be implemented.”

Learn more about Dream Summer here.

 

Meet Dream Summer 2019 Graduate, Bezawit Tenna

We are ecstatic to announce that the UCLA Dream Resource Center’s Dream Summer 2019 fellows will be graduating this Sunday, August 18th! The fellows engaged in critical work, throughout the fellowship, to ensure that social justice continues to be a strong force within the United States. Each fellow performed a critical role to advance the work of the host organization they were placed with and to sustain the immigrant rights and labor movement. The graduation will celebrate the leadership, dedication, resilience, and growth exhibited by each one of the Dream Summer 2019 fellows. 

Meet Bezawit Tenna, one of the Dream Summer 2019 fellowship graduates!

Placed at the National Education Association for Dream Summer 2019.

Biography

Bezawit Tenna lives in Maryland and is currently a fourth year student at Towson University studying Political Science with a minor in Business Administration. Bezawit moved to the U.S from Ethiopia, with her family, on a hot summer day in 2006. At the young age of eight and with no prior knowledge of English, she was ready to embark on a journey that would change her life forever. Navigating through elementary school⏤without knowing how to speak English⏤posed many challenges for her social and academic life. However, given her sociable personality and with the help of her English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) teachers, the language barrier only became a temporary dilemma.

Although school life was not very difficult for her, moving through the system as Black Immigrants was a challenge for her family. She noticed the lack of resources her parents had, from finding employment to help regarding legal work and assimilation. Inspired by the hardships her and her family faced, she made it her goal to alleviate some of the stress immigrant families face. She volunteered at various centers that provide resources to immigrants such as CASA de Maryland and the Ethiopian Community Center.

Upon graduating in Spring 2020, she hopes to work at an organization that helps marginalized groups⏤like immigrants⏤embrace every opportunity, notice their innate value, and see all things as possible. Through personal and educational experience, she understands the significance of current issues facing the U.S. immigration system. Due to this experience, she is interested in gaining first hand knowledge in key policy and international relations issues regarding immigration and human rights.

Bezawit preparing for an NEA CAPE meeting in LA.

We asked Bezawit: What was your experience with the fellowship like?

“For the Dream Summer fellowship, I was placed under the NEA Center for Social Justice (CSJ) and specifically under the Community Advocacy and Partnership Engagement (CAPE) department. Prior to the fellowship, the National Education Association (NEA) was only an organization that came up while talking about the educator Code of Ethics during a discussion in my education elective classes. I was never aware of the depth of the organization and the significant role it plays within the social justice movement.

At NEA CSJ, I was responsible for ensuring that minorities, particularly immigrants, are represented in the public school system as well as given the resources and support to achieve all of their goals. I researched different ways that immigrant students can organize to put on various events, such as Know Your Rights workshops and Citizenship Drives. Overall, through this fellowship, I was able to contribute to the fight for a more diverse classroom (teachers, administrators, and staff) that meets the demographics of our diverse student population. This is an essential part of the American public school system because representation is a crucial aspect of success for young and impressionable students.”

Bezawit meeting with NEA Senior Policy Analyst, Stephanie Luongo, regarding a research project on ethinc studies in public schools in the U.S.

We asked Bezawit: How has the fellowship helped you grow?

“The Dream Summer fellowship and NEA strengthened my skills, as well as helped me develop new skills. Throughout the fellowship, I mainly engaged in researching issues around immigration within the public school system. Through conducting research, I learned how to think complexly and how to present information in an effective and efficient manner. Communicating research data about immigration issues can be difficult because it is a multiplex issue.

The fellowship also helped me develop networking skills because I was encouraged to engage with staff by scheduling interview meetings with them. I was able to schedule a couple of interviews with staff working in human resources, communications, and advocacy. The interviews helped me understand that social justice work can be done both internally and externally. Prior to this fellowship, I would never have thought about asking someone to engage in a sitdown conversation regarding their work. This allowed me to recognize that networking is more than exchanging business cards and email addresses.” 

Learn more about Dream Summer here.