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