By GREGORY N. HEIRES
A South Asian American labor group plans to aggressively build its membership and fight for a Democratic takeover of the U.S. Congress in the midterm elections in 2018.
Participants at the Alliance of South Asian American Labor’s 10th annual convention on Dec. 9 celebrated their growing political strength and membership.
But they also sharply decried the attack on immigrants, middle-class families and the poor emanating from the White House and U.S. Congress. The group expects to work with coalitions and to take part in voter registration drives and get-out-the-vote efforts in 2018.
Speakers highlighted the victories of South Asians in the November election in New Jersey, where ASAAL helped elect Democrat Phil Murphy as governor. Ravi Bhalla won the mayoral in Hoboken, becoming the first Sikh, a South Asian, elected as mayor in New Jersey and one of a few elected as mayor in the United States.
Maf Misbah Uddin, the president and founder of ASAAL and treasurer of DC 37, reported that the group is now recognized as a constituency group of the New York State AFL-CIO.
The national AFL-CIO has other constituency groups that represent women, Latinos, Asian Pacific Americans and African-Americans. Uddin, who is also president of DC 37 Accountants, Statisticians and Actuaries Local 1407, said the state group’s recognition will improve the visibility of South Asians and help ASAAL with its political work in New York and beyond.
Besides New York, the more than 100 delegates at the convention came from New Jersey, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia. Ultimately, ASAAL hopes to establish chapters in every state in the country, Uddin said.
The group’s legislative agenda in New York for 2018 includes bills that call for easing the enrollment process of unions; making the assault of taxi drivers a class D felony; establishing the holidays of Eid-al-Adha and Eid-al-Fitr in the public schools; enacting New York State’s own DREAM Act to help the children of immigrants with their education, and protecting workers from discrimination on the job related religious attire.
The convention’s honorees were Terrence Melvin, president of the Coalition of Black Trade Unions and secretary-treasurer of the New York State AFL-CIO, Eddie Rodriquez, president of DC 37 and Local 1549 president and Local 375’s Ahmed Shakir, who is ASAAL’s treasurer and a member of the DC 37 Executive Board.
Guest speakers included U.S. Congress member Carolyn Maloney; New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli; New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, New York City Public Advocate Letitia James; Eduardo Rosario, president of the New York City chapter of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement; Charles Jenkins, president of the New York City chapter of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists; Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union; Arthur Cheliotes, president of Communication Workers of America Local 1180 and several City Council members.