APALA Unites Generations of Activists in Largest, Liveliest Convention Ever

The Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA)’s 11th biennial convention which took place July 21-24 in Oakland, drew in the biggest crowd in APALA history. Over 1500 people participated in the Friday rally (co-hosted by the Alameda Labor Council) at Oakland City Hall, protesting lending practices at Wells Fargo as well as calling for workers’ and immigrants’ rights.

Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis opened the convention, addressing wage theft, and was met with a standing ovation for her strong support for the DREAM Act.  The convention’s impressive lineup of speakers also included AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler, AFSCME Secretary-Treasurer Lee Saunders, SEIU President Mary Kay Henry, and California Labor Federation Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski.

The convention’s theme, “Generations United: Our Jobs, Our Rights, Our Future!” placed an emphasis on engaging youth, with 200 young leaders from across the nation in attendance. Inspirational and thought-provoking testimonials were given by student activists and DREAMers Ju Hong and David Cho, as well as Pulitzer-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, who all shared their own personal experiences as undocumented immigrants and highlighted immigration as an important issue in the APA labor movement. APALA also kicked off its “Generations United” mentorship program, designed to unite activists of all ages in building a better understanding of the labor movement.

Fareed E. Michelen, community outreach specialist for the New York state AFL-CIO:

Once again, the APALA Convention has set a benchmark for other organizations to follow. The engagement of youth, college students, and experienced members displayed the true diversity and progressive vision of the organization.

APALA honored labor and community leaders during the sold-out gala dinner on Saturday evening, and the grand ballroom was at capacity with more than 20 APA elected officials, including Congressman Mike Honda, Mayor Jean Quan and State Controller John Chiang. A strong focus on rank-and-file workers’ experiences provided stirring testimonies from union members and worker center activists in the Bay Area and beyond. Additionally, cultural performances, including a Japanese drumming troupe, a Filipino American hip hop artist and a duo of young Chinese harpists added color and heightened the energy level throughout the convention.

The convention ended Sunday afternoon with the election of new APALA national officers and at-large board members. The “Generations Rising Slate” — Johanna Hester (AFSCME) as president, Matthew Finucane (NEA) as 1st Vice President, Van Ngyuen (SEIU) as 2nd Vice President, Tracy Lai (AFT) as Secretary, and Michael Yee (IBEW) as Treasurer — was confirmed as the new officers. Incoming president Johanna Hester, Director of Organizing and Field Services at UDW, expressed her enthusiasm for the new leadership:

I’m looking forward to working alongside these amazing activists for the next two years; the new officers and I are excited to lead the development of APALA into a strong, sustainable, multi-generational alliance.

Press coverage of the convention can be found at the Oakland Tribune, San Jose Mercury News and World Journal, with TV coverage by KGO, KTVU, Univision, and Telemundo. Click here for photos from the event.