NCAPA members joined the #LiveTheWage challenge July 24-30 to raise awareness about the growing inequality in the U.S. July 24 marked five years since the last federal minimum wage increase. Below is a blog by the Japanese American Citizens League executive director about her experiences during the challenge.
DEJA VU: By Priscilla Ouchida
As I sat down to eat my third lunch of rice, fried eggs, and carrots in as many days, it was déjà vu all over again. The meal took me back to the years I was a minimum wage worker. I was young, healthy, single, and did not have children. Yet, I could not survive on 40 hours of minimum wage work. I worked three jobs to support myself – a day job, an evening job and a weekend job. Most of my money went to rent and utilities. My life today is a lot better than those days.
Could I do it today? I came into the Live The Wage challenge with a lot of plusses. I have health insurance. I can cook and I have cooking equipment. I have a work wardrobe, and a large stash of soy sauce and sugar packets that I accumulated from fast food establishments (some old habits die hard). I didn’t have those things 40 years ago. And because of a health condition, I could only stay on my “minimum wage” diet for three days.
I did what I did in my youth. I took my $77 and put it into piles. $21 for Metro transportation to and from work. $25 for one week of food. $31 for other expenses. This was my hard rule. No more than $25 for food – I learned from experience that there is always an unexpected expense. I put the money in worn envelopes.
A “minimum wage” diet is not a healthy diet. Fruits and vegetables are a luxury. If I didn’t get fruits and vegetables from someone who grew it in their garden, I didn’t eat it. A lot of people will ask, “why don’t ‘poor’ people just eat a healthier diet?” Healthier is expensive. What did I buy on my minimum wage? Eighteen eggs for $2.79; a small bag of rice for $4.49, wieners for $3.99, frozen peas for $1.50, five cups of yogurt for $3.75, raw carrots for $1.99 and a watermelon for $4.99. Years ago, I could buy a can of Spam, but that is now out of the range of my budget.
My breakfasts were a cup of yogurt with a bowl of watermelon. My lunches were leftover rice, 2 fried eggs, and raw carrots. My dinners were wieners, rice and frozen peas or raw carrots. It was a monotonous routine. One that I survived on for over two years. I varied my wieners – sometimes I ate them sliced and cooked with soy sauce and sugar for a teriyaki effect. Other times I ate it grilled dipped in soy sauce. (Love those packets of soy sauce.) I remember watching people with envy as they ate something other than rice, eggs or wieners.
Most people today don’t think much about pennies, but like most minimum wage workers, I thought about pennies. Each and every one. A penny could make the difference between being able to buy a bar of soap or a bottle of shampoo or not being able to buy a basic necessity. A penny can be the difference between getting well with medications or staying sick. If your co-pay is $5.00, $4.99 does no good. And when you need feminine napkins, you need them!
Today, 12.6% of Asian Americans live below the poverty line and many educated millennials have to live like I did. They did all the right things but were born in a time that they came into the job market just as the economy crashed. It is even harder on families. This is not a “poor” person problem. It is a problem of inadequate wages for the working class.
-Priscilla Ouchida, executive director of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL)
"I took the challenge to stand in solidarity with the millions of workers who support their families on minimum wage and to raise awareness about the nearly two million AAPIs who live in poverty. While inequality has run rampant, working families are faced with impossibly difficult decisions every day. It is time to rebuild the middle class. It is time for a LIVING wage."
-Jenny Ho, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance-D.C. Chapter
NCAPA members joined the #LiveTheWage challenge July 24-30 to raise awareness about the growing inequality in the U.S. July 24 marked five years since the last federal minimum wage increase.
Last Wednesday, July 23, students and several AAPI organizations rallied to show support for the All Students Count Act of 2014 that would allow data to be disaggregated into seven Asian American race groups and four Pacific Islander groups. State Education Agencies would be required to collect this information on K-12 report cards to better support students and target school resources. The act was introduced by Congressman Mike Honda.
The day of action was organized by NCAPA organizations Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, OCA, the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance and the Japanese American Citizens League. They also partnered with the Asian American Legal Defense & Education Fund and the National Women’s Law Center. Read their letter of endorsement here.
Additionally, the All Students Count campaign was covered by NBC here.
We all hear microaggressions — those brief, commonplace statements that make you feel “less than,” excluded, annoyed or put down, whether intentionally or unintentionally. This is our guide to breaking them down, helping you to avoid making them, and showing you what you can do if you experience them.
What was said
“I can’t tell Asians apart.”
How it might come across
Saying “I can’t tell Asians apart” communicates that you do not see the person on the receiving end both as Asian and as a distinct individual. Everybody deserves to be seen and respected as an individual, and as part of the group they identify with.
What you can say instead
Sure, many of us are guilty of mistaking someone we know for someone else at some point or another in our lives—people can and do have similar features that can be easily mistaken for a friend or known acquaintance. It can be totally embarrassing, but just own up to it – don’t blame it on not being able to tell Asians apart.
What you can do if you hear it
If you’re on the receiving end of this comment, say something like “When you say that, it makes me feel like an indistinct member of a group and not an individual.”
To address anti-turban bias and increase awareness, NCAPA member the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) created the first-ever public service announcement about Sikh Americans to air on Comcast cable channels through July 27.
SALDEF received more than 400 photo contributions from the community across the country. The 30-second ad shows how Sikh American values are aligned with overall American values.
Keep a look out for this PSA and more news from SALDEF! You can also read more about the PSA in this Fast Company article.
NCAPA has grown! We welcome our newest member, the Center for Asian American Media, by announcing that they are co-hosting an online screening TONIGHT at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT.
The film, “American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs,” will be shown in a social screening and details the life of activist, writer and philosopher Grace Lee Boggs. Boggs, who recently celebrated her 99th birthday, devoted much of her life to the African American movement and has been involved in several of the U.S. social movements of the last century.
Find out how you can watch the film tonight here. The social screening will feature a Q&A with filmmaker Grace Lee.
Laws that ban women from having an abortion based on the sex of their child have become a popular topic in recent years among some U.S. lawmakers. Eight U.S. states have laws banning sex-selective abortions, including Arizona, Illinois and South Dakota.
A report released June 3 combats myths about sex selective abortion laws in the United States. Proponents of these laws have even used language insinuating that the influx of Asian immigrants is the reason these laws are needed because of supporters’ belief that Asian culture favors males over females.
Here is one myth the study counters:
MYTH: Empirical studies of sex ratios at birth of foreign-born Chinese, Indians and Koreans prove that sex-selective abortions based on son preference is occurring in the U.S.
FACT: More recent national data of sex ratios at birth show that foreign-born Chinese, Indians and Koreans have more girls overall than white Americans.
The report also concludes that although lawmakers and proponents of sex-selective abortion laws claim the laws are needed to combat gender discrimination, these laws are generally proposed by legislators who are anti-abortion in general and are concerned with restricting abortion access.
The report, “Replacing Myths with Facts: Sex-Selective Abortion Laws in the United States,” is a project of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), the International Human Rights Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School and Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSRH).
Did you miss it? Watch today’s Tumblr Q&A right here to see President Obama answer questions on education, college affordability, and more.