The life of a campus activist can be a lonely one. There is power in numbers — but without that, there is only frustration. And when just a handful of people show up to your social justice rally, it can be hard not to throw in the towel.
But LSA senior Laura Misumi doesn’t accept that students today are apathetic. And through her work as co-chair of United Asian American Organization, she has proof to the contrary.
With access to several Asian-American student organizations associated with UAAO, Misumi has mobilized a large student base to take up the cause of labor rights, focusing on the hospitalities industry, which employs many Chinese, Filipinos and Pacific Islanders.
Misumi contacted LSA senior Dan Braun, who has been involved in labor and immigrant rights campaigns on campus, to form the Students and Workers Together for Justice Coalition in an attempt to connect students who are fighting for fair labor practices.
“I think it’s above and beyond the kind of standard operating procedure of any leader of a student group to try to branch out,” Braun said.
Braun said the presence of UAAO members has amplified turnout at labor rights events compared to attendance to similar events in the past.
“The events that we put on were all supported by UAAO and a lot of students came,” he said. “There’s definitely been a market effect.”
Misumi said that her goal as UAAO co-chair was to repoliticize the organization’s view on a number of issues, but especially labor rights, which affects many minorities but has been mostly addressed by white students at the University.
“I feel there has kind of been a disconnect between labor right organizations and students of color on this campus,” she said.
Misumi’s own eyes were opened to the experience of Asian Americans working in hospitality services after interning in San Francisco last summer with Unite Here, a hotel and restaurant workers union.
“It really surprised me that there were so many that were dealing with issues that we usually associate with other groups than Asian Americans,” she said. “It really struck me as a much more universal issue.”