AIWA Mission and History
As a community based organization, AIWA is primarily concerned with developing the collective leadership of low-income immigrant women and youth to organize for positive changes in their living and working conditions. Since 1983, AIWA has focused its programs in three major areas: Education, Leadership Development and Collective Action.
Over the years our members have built an extraordinary list of accomplishments—especially given that the work has been conceptualized, organized and carried out by limited-English-speaking, low-income immigrants. Some notable examples of our successes include:
- The Garment Workers’ Justice Campaign (1992-98) focused on dressmaker Jessica McClintock, Inc. for failing to monitor subcontractors’ wage and working hour violations and demanding that she accept corporate responsibility. This campaign resulted in an agreement including a historic phone hotline for workers to report labor violations, and helped raise a national movement around corporate responsibility
- The Community Equity Campaign (1999) secured equal access to government-owned facilities for low-income community members to hold literacy classes and meetings
- Testimony of immigrant Chinese AIWA leaders (1999) was critical to passing the California Underground Economy Bill (AB 633), requiring manufacturers to ensure that subcontractors pay their employees
- Along with the San Jose policy group Services, Immigrant Rights and Education Network (SIREN) and legal nonprofit Equal Rights Advocates, AIWA formed the 3-year High Tech Collaborative (2002-2004) to address low-wage abuses faced by immigrant women in the Silicon Valley electronics industry
- The Ergonomic Improvement Campaign (2002-2006) identified unsafe garment workstations and worked to develop low-cost solutions. AIWA members won funding for the first-ever Chair Lending Library. This campaign inspired continued efforts to bring about industry-wide change by replicating our ergonomic workstations in more factories around the state
- AIWA youth engaged in a successful School Campaign (2004-2006), which triumphed in the creation and hiring of the first-ever bilingual community assistant to serve the needs of Cantonese students and families at a high school with the district’s highest concentration of Asian immigrants
- The Language Access Campaign (2006–2008) advocated for multilingual translation of outreach and enrollment materials from the State of California’s Major Risk Medical Insurance Program (MRMIP), a safety net program for patients who are unable to secure coverage for pre-existing conditions elsewhere.
- In 2008-2009, youth worked in coalition on the A-G Campaign to successfully change high school graduation requirements in order to meet minimum college entrance requirements. AIWA youth members developed orientation materials for English Language Learner (ELL) students, to guide them through the University of California’s A-G entrance requirements. The guidebook was translated to six different languages and youth worked with school personnel to implement an orientation schedule for all ELL students.
- AIWA women were excited to lift their voices and weigh in on the debate surrounding national health care (2006 – 2009). They enthusiastically met with coalition partners, conducted surveys and community training sessions, and also testified to the critical importance of language access in health care service delivery.
- AIWA youth initiated a Biliteracy Campaign (2009-2011) to formally recognize all students who can demonstrate proficiency in two or more languages. This campaign encouraged the development of all global citizens while raising awareness of the contributions and talents of immigrant youth.
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