The Common Good
July-August 1997

Asian Immigrant Women Advocates

by Rose Marie Berger | July-August 1997

When most people hear "Silicon Valley," words such as clean, pure, technologically developed, and high personal income usually come to mind.

When most people hear "Silicon Valley," words such as clean, pure, technologically developed, and high personal income usually come to mind. However the reality of immigrant workers is much different. Because we cannot communicate well in English, immigrants often start at the lowest-paying printed circuit board (PCB) manufacturing positions, very different from our initial expectations. For more than 10 hours a day, we handle toxic chemicals, solder small parts to PCBs, and peer through magnifying glasses....Exhausted after constant overtime, an immigrant woman has no time to learn English or other skills...Nevertheless, we are slowly and steadily gathering strength and raising our voices. — Eun Suk Kim

Asian Immigrant Women Advocates (AIWA) is a community-based organization founded in 1983. Through leadership training, language development, advocating for social and economic justice, and promoting a women-centered organization, they empower low-income, limited-English-speaking Asian immigrant women in their homes and workplaces.

Executive director Young Shin is an immigrant from Korea. She began Asian immigrant services in 1976 by initiating the San Francisco Bay Area committee of Korean wives of U.S. servicemen and support services for battered women. After graduating from law school, Shin co-founded AIWA, which brought together Chinese, Filipina, Korean, and Vietnamese women who work as seamstresses, hotel room cleaners, electronics assemblers, nursing home workers, and janitors in the greater San Francisco area.

AIWA member Sun Young Kang identified hazards in her workplace after a Toxic Training workshop. "I never realized how dangerous my work place is. Now I’m committed to sharing this information with my co-workers!"

Asian Immigrant Women Advocates, 310 Eighth St., #301, Oakland, CA 94607; (510) 268-0192.

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