Untapped Power: The Strength of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Working People

Source: Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) AFL-CIO, November 2019

Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) workers are the fastest growing working age population in the United States, overrepresented at the lower and higher ends of the labor market – meaning that our communities experience wide income disparity. And yet AANHPI working people are often overlooked and under organized. As our immigrant and working class communities are under attack, it is increasingly important that the labor movement, community-based organizations, and policymakers take into the unique challenges and needs that AANHPIs face as well as recognize the common issues and experiences that this community shares with all workers.

We wish to impart the urgency with which the labor movement and policymakers must continue to organize and protect AANHPI communities in order to secure safe, healthy, and prosperous livelihoods for all working people and to harness their political potential to drive progressive change. In short, the labor movement stands to grow stronger from organizing AANHPI workers, and AANHPI communities stand to benefit from uniting together and joining the labor movement.

This report takes a look at who AANHPI workers are, what barriers we face, and how advocates, policymakers, and the labor movement can fight for AANHPI communities and all workers.

As unions and the labor movement come under attack, it becomes increasingly important to organize Asian
Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders — the fastest-growing population in the United States.
There are more than 21 million AANHPIs, comprising roughly 5% of the population. …. In 2017, AANHPIs had a poverty rate of 11.1%. Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders had the highest poverty rates at 16.1% and 18.3% respectively. Notably, roughly 3 in 4 (72%) Asian American low-wage workers are immigrants; this is significant as Asian Americans account for over one-quarter (27.1%) of the immigrant population in the U.S. …. In 2018, union members had median weekly earnings of $1,051, which was $191 more than their non-union counterparts. Asian American union workers had median weekly earnings of $1,119, which was 2.5% higher than their non-union counterparts who earned $1,092. The union advantage is even greater for Asian American women, who had median weekly earnings of $1,033, compared to their non-union counterparts who made $929 a week — an 11% difference. ….

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