Pro-Worker, Anti-Racist: The Asian Canadian Labour Alliance
By Scott Neigh
On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Anna Liu and Patricia Chong. They are both long-time labour activists and members of the Asian Canadian Labour Alliance (ACLA), a network of Asian-Canadian labour and community activists with chapters in Ontario and British Columbia.
It’s a well-worn labour movement slogan: “An injury to one is an injury to all.” It’s an expression of unity, of solidarity, of shared burden. But of course the labour movement is constituted by human beings, and it is not separate from our broader social world that is so painfully riven with oppressions, marginalizations, and exclusions, so sometimes that slogan of determined unity is more aspirational than actual, or is at least incomplete in its realization — some injuries get treated as less important or nonexistent, and some people are excluded from or marginalized within the “all.” To name just one axis along which this sometimes occurs, though decades of anti-racist struggle within and beyond the labour movement have won important victories to reduce barriers, there is still the need for further work to ensure that racialized workers and the issues of racialized communities are at the centre of labour’s agenda.
In one instance of how this work has been and continues to be pushed forward, a handful of Asian-Canadian trade union activists in the late 1990s decided that they needed to create a more formal network bringing together worker-activists of East Asian, Southeast Asian, South Asian, and West Asian heritage as a way to push for a more thorough-going realization of that slogan in a number of different senses. And still today, ACLA works to strengthen an Asian-Canadian labour identity and labour presence in Asian communities; to raise the profile of Asian-Canadian labour issues; to fight for social, economic, and political justice for all; to foster Asian-Canadians in leadership roles in the labour movement and in the broader society; and to challenge racism in the labour movement. Anna Liu and Patricia Chong talk with me about the origins of the group and about the important pro-worker and anti-racist work that it does within the labour movement and in the broader community.