Julie Su was appointed by President Biden to serve as the deputy secretary of labor and confirmed by the Senate on July 13, 2021. The deputy secretary serves as the de-facto chief operating officer for the department, overseeing its workforce, managing its budget and executing the priorities of the secretary of labor. Prior to joining the U.S. Department of Labor, Deputy Secretary Su served as the secretary for the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency. The LWDA enforces workplace laws, combats wage theft, ensures health and safety on the job, connects Californians to quality jobs and career pathways, and administers unemployment insurance, workers compensation and paid family leave. Su is a nationally recognized expert on workers' rights and civil rights who has dedicated her distinguished legal career to advancing justice on behalf of poor and disenfranchised communities and is a past recipient of a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant. As California labor commissioner from 2011 through 2018, Su enforced the state's labor laws to ensure a fair and just workplace for both employees and employers. A report on her tenure released in May 2013 found that her leadership resulted in a renaissance in enforcement activity and record-setting results. In 2014, she launched the first "Wage Theft Is a Crime" multimedia, multilingual statewide campaign to reach out to low-wage workers and their employers to help them understand their rights and feel safe speaking up about labor law abuses. Prior to her appointment as California labor commissioner, Deputy Secretary Su was the litigation director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles, the nation's largest non-profit civil rights organization devoted to issues affecting the Asian American community. Su is known for pioneering a multi-strategy approach that combines successful impact litigation with multiracial organizing, community education, policy reform, coalition building and media work. Frequently named to top-lawyer lists such as the Daily Journal's "Top 75 Women Litigators" in California and California Lawyer's "Super Lawyers," she was the first labor commissioner to be included among the Daily Journal's "Top 75 Labor and Employment Lawyers." She has also been named one of the 50 most noteworthy women alumni of Harvard Law School and one of the 100 most influential people in Los Angeles in Los Angeles Magazine. Su has taught at UCLA Law School and Northeastern Law School. She is a graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Law School and began her career with a Skadden Fellowship. Su speaks Mandarin and Spanish.
April Sims was elected Secretary Treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO in 2018. She is the first woman of color and first Black person elected as a WSLC executive officer. Sims firmly believes in the power of working people organizing together, and has dedicated her working life to affirming that power.
Pam Tau Lee
Pam Tau Lee is a fourth generation Chinese American. Her roots are in San Francisco Chinatown where her understanding of the world around her was shaped by maternal and paternal grandmothers, one a garment factory worker and the other a flower grower. Sensing that Pam was a bit of a “free spirit,” her mother emphasized “not rocking the boat,” advice which she adhered to until the late 60’s when the Third World and Asian student movements, the Black Power movement and anti-imperialist/anti-war movements rocked the country and the world. These spoke to her personal and community experiences; demonstrated concrete resistance and visions for a better world possible. Pam and other students heeded the call to “return to community” and to Serve the People. Over a span of 50 years she has been a volunteer student and community organizer, a worker and environmental justice activist and a 26 year career as a union organizer, labor educator, and public health. In 1991 she was a contributor to the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit and the Principles of Environmental Justice, in 1992 she attended meetings which lead to the founding of APALA. Now considered an elder she especially enjoys organizing in intergenerational spaces to protect and learn to live in balance with Mother Earth. Unfortunately tragedy hit Pam’s family when she lost her mother to COVID in January and she has organized an Anti-Asian Violence neighborhood walking buddy for seniors and others in her neighborhood.
I joined the 1988 Peoples movement for democracy and left for the Thai Myanmar border. We were supported by the International Trade Union Movement, by AAFLI and now the Solidarity Center. In 2021 I was awarded the 2001 George Meany Lane Kirkland Human Rights award and in 2004 the San Francisco Board of Supervisors declared August 10, 2004 in the City and County of San Francisco as Maung Maung day. We worked through the ILO Complaints mechanism and in 2000 managed to start the withdrawal of investment from the regime and pressured them into dialogue. We returned to Myanmar in 2012, were able to register the Confederation in 2015. On 1st Feb 2021, the military staged a coup. We objected to the coup and withdrew from the National Tripartite . We were on the streets on 5th February. With help of the international trade union solidarity we managed to deny the regime accreditation at the recent 109th ILC. All of our CC have warrants issued, passports declared void. One miner shot and killed and (11) unionists now in jail. We need your support to ask the US gov to deny accreditation to the regime at the coming UNGA in September.
Dim Mang (she/they) is an Organizer with Rising Voices, and they are based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. They are a member of Michigan APALA, a fellow with Seeding Change, and a former APALA Fellow. They are currently an advisor for Chin Leaders of Tomorrow. Born in Myanmar, Dim grew up in a working-class family in Oklahoma. She was raised by two Zomi immigrants who personify radical love and community. At the University of Michigan, Dim studied History and Political Science, in addition to organizing with the United Asian American Organizations (UAAO) and the Climate Action Movement. She is committed to organizing with working class Asian American communities, part of a lifetime commitment to the Chin American community that she grew up in. She is currently running Chin Leaders of Tomorrow’s mutual aid for Chin communities in Myanmar. Dim bullet journals in her free time, and is learning to cook Burmese dishes for her friends and partner. Dim hopes to fight for collective and global liberation for the rest of their life.
Panel 1: Rooted in Legacy
Susan is currently the CA Statewide Clinics Organizing Director and 1st VP of the SEIU International API Caucus. In her over 10 years with SEIU 721, Susan has led and coordinated both local and statewide, traditional and non-traditional campaigns in industries ranging from higher education to health care. She is a past member of the APALA National Executive Board and past APALA LA Chapter President.
Kent Wong is the director of the UCLA Labor Center where he teaches Labor Studies and Ethnic Studies. Kent served as the founding President of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO. He is a Vice President of the California Federation of Teachers, and also served as the founding President of the United Association for Labor Education. Before joining the UCLA Labor Center, Kent worked as staff attorney for the Service Employees International Union in Los Angeles. He also served as the first staff attorney for Asian Americans Advancing Justice in Los Angeles. Kent has published more than a dozen books on the labor movement, immigrant rights, popular education, and the Asian American community. His latest book is Asian American Workers Rising: APALA Transforms the U.S. Labor Movement. Kent is married to Jai Lee Wong, a Community Organizer, and they have two sons, Ryan and Robin.
Annie Tan is a special education teacher, activist, writer and storyteller. Annie fights for her students, public education, teachers unions, tenants rights, and Asian American issues. Annie is a proud member of the United Federation of Teachers, a steering committee member of the MORE-UFT caucus, and previously served as a special education committee co-chair of the Chicago Teachers Union. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, Huffington Post, The New Republic, PBS' documentary series Asian Americans, and twice on the Moth Radio Hour on NPR. Annie is currently working on her first book, a memoir, and hopes to one day write an epic book about her family and Asian American history, including about her great-auntie Lily Chin who made her cousin Vincent Chin's name known.
Eni Lestari is an Indonesian domestic worker in Hong Kong and a migrant rights activist for more than two decades. She is the current chairperson of International Migrants Alliance, the first-ever global alliance of grassroots migrants, immigrants, refugees, and other displaced people. After escaping her abusive employer, she transformed herself from a victim into an organizer for domestic workers in particular and migrant workers in general. In 2000, she founded the Association of Indonesian Migrant Workers (ATKI-Hong Kong). She held important positions in various organisations including Regional Council member of Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), former Board Member of Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW), spokesperson of Asian Migrants Coordinating Body (AMCB) and Network of Indonesian Migrant Workers (JBMI), advisor for ATKI-Hong Kong and Association of Returned Migrants and Families in Indonesia (KABAR BUMI). She is an active resource person in forums of academics, interfaith groups, civil societies, trade unions and many others at national, regional, and international arenas. She has actively participated in United Nations assemblies/conferences on development and migrant’s rights and was chosen as a speaker at the opening of the UN General Assembly on Large Movement of Migrants and Refugees in 2016 in New York City, USA. She received nominations and awards such as Inspirational Women by BBC 100 Women, Public Hero Award by RCTI, Indonesian Club Award, and Non-Profit Leader of Women of Influence by American Chamber Hong Kong, and Changemaker of Cathay Pacific.
Pabitra Khati Benjamin is a builder, an organizer, a parent. She immigrated to the US from Nepal with her parents when she was 7. Growing up in a working-class household, her passions for community organizing grew out of this experience. A supporter of Adhikaar since 2010, Pabitra has served as a board member since 2015 and began as Executive Director in 2017. She brings to Adhikaar strong and diverse alliances, seasoned and developed over the last 25 years, blending an intersectional approach to race, class, caste, gender, sexual orientation, and ethnicity.
Panel 2: Reimagining a New World Beyond Borders and Oceans
Amy Leong is the community organizer on staff with the APALA Seattle Chapter and long-time member of the chapter. Prior to joining the chapter as staff, Amy graduated from the University of Washington with a B.A. in American Ethnic Studies and minors in Labor & Diversity. Her organizing background stems from her mother being a Unite Here member for over 30 years, being a APALA member since graduating high school, working as a summer organizer for Unite Here Local 8 in Seattle as a student and as a worker organizer and customer outreach coordinator for the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 in Las Vegas, NV. After moving back to Seattle, she joined the Seattle Chapter as a staff to build the bridge between the labor movement and broader community. She hopes to continue to develop more space for AANHPI workers in the local and national labor movements and help leaders step into their power.
Tavae Samuelu is the daughter of a pastor from Leulumoega and a nurse from Saleimoa. As the Executive Director of Empowering Pacific Islander Communities (EPIC), she's a passionate advocate for Native Hawaiians & Pacific Islanders and is committed to liberation for all. Tavae was born and raised on Tongva land and credits her time on unceded Ohlone territory for her political identity and consciousness. Before joining EPIC, she served as the Development Director for the RYSE Youth Center in Richmond and has since become a member of RYSE's Board of Directors. Tavae is also the Vice President of the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council (A3PCON). The pandemic has taught her that her most important title is Aunty Vae.
Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson
Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson is a 36 year old Affrilachian (Black Appalachian), woman from the working class, born and raised in Southeast Tennessee. She is the first Black woman to serve as Co-Executive Director of the Highlander Research & Education Center in New Market, TN. As a member of multiple leadership teams in the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL), Ash-Lee has thrown down on the Vision for Black Lives and the BREATHE Act. Ash-Lee has served on the governance council of the Southern Movement Assembly, the advisory committee of the National Bailout Collective, and is an active leader of The Frontline. She is a long-time activist who has done work in movements fighting for workers, for reproductive justice, for LGBTQUIA+ folks, for environmental justice, and more.
Jessica Tang is the President of the Boston Teachers Union, representing over 10,000 active and retired educators. She is the first person of color, first openly queer and first woman in over thirty years to serve in this role. She is a co-founder of the Teacher Activist Group-Boston, Boston Education Justice Alliance and MA Education Justice Alliance, and serves as a board member for several civic and labor groups including Citizens for Public Schools, Private Industry Council, Boston Partners in Education, Parent Teacher Home Visit Project and the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance. She’s also the first and only APIA member to serve on the American Federation of Teachers Executive Council. Jessica serves as a VP of both the Massachusetts AFL-CIO and American Federation of Teachers-Massachusetts, and is a former co-chair of the Massachusetts Asian-American Educators Association. She currently serves on the United States Commission on Civil Rights Massachusetts State Advisory Council and served a three-year term on the New England Advisory Council of the Federal Reserve. As a teacher-activist, she has been involved in many community organizations that are working to advance racial, social and economic justice. She earned her Bachelor’s degree at Harvard and holds an Ed.M. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Hideki Yoshikawa is a cultural/applied anthropologist teaching at Meio University and the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa, Japan. He is the Director of the Okinawa Environmental Justice Project and the International Director of the Save the Dugong Campaign Center. Over the last 15 years, he has been at the forefront of internationalizing and environmentalizing Okinawa’s struggle against the overwhelming presence of U.S. military bases on his native land, Okinawa. He has worked extensively with U.S. environmental NGOs and the International Union for Conservation of Nature. His relationship with the APALA began in 2015 when he volunteered to be an interpreter for an Okinawa group that hosted an APALA delegation to Okinawa. In 2015 and 2017, he helped organize and participated in an Okinawa delegation’s trip to the U.S. The Okinawa delegation met with APLA members in both years and participated in the APALA’s 2017 Convention in Anaheim, California. In 2019, he also helped an APALA delegation’s visit to Okinawa. He shares and learns from the APALA’s envisioning of a just society and its Principle for Collective Liberation.