Published: May 3, 2021

Statement from SEIU 503 Executive Director Melissa Unger and President Mike Powers on Asian Pacific American Heritage Month:

As we observe Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, we must acknowledge the rise in violence and harassment targeting these communities and reaffirm our commitment to #StopAsianHate. An examination of the history of Asians and Pacific Islanders (API) in our country tragically reveals what impacted people have known for well over a century; this uptick in racist, xenophobic hatred is not new and continues a cycle of widespread abuse. From the Chinese Exclusion Act to the annexation and theft of Hawai‘i to the internment of Japanese Americans and the use of Pacific islands for atomic bomb testing during World War II, our country and our society have perpetrated significant harm on API communities.

Despite the hate, API Americans have made lasting impacts. While their families were detained by a racist government, Japanese Americans of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team became the most decorated unit in American history during World War II. Chinese workers during transpacific railroad construction in the 1860s and again as garment workers in the 1930s made breakthroughs for all workers when they had the courage to strike and to fight. In 1964, Patsy Mink became the first API woman elected to Congress. She helped pass Title IX, which provides a legal obligation for gender equity at colleges today. 

In 2021, we wish to celebrate the contributions of API individuals in our union, the labor movement, and our society. We will listen to their experiences and do our best to act as true allies in the fight for justice and equality. Please join the members of SEIU 503 in celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. For more information on our Asian Desi Pacific Islander Caucus, please click here. The Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO) has compiled this series of anti-racism workshops during APAHM. Please participate if you can.