CPA History on a Timeline
Influenced by progressive movements of the 1960s and 1970s, and an older generation of activists in the Chinese Workers Mutual Aid Association, CPA opened its doors in 1972. CPA pushed for normalized relations between China and the U.S. and joined in the struggle to save the International Hotel, a low-cost housing complex for residents as well as to grassroots organizations including CPA.
CPA also worked closely with residents and workers by setting up the first free bilingual legal clinics to assist the Loh Wah Que (longtime immigrants) to qualify for legal status in the U.S. and by participating in unionization drives for workers and supporting workers from Nam Yuen and Asia Garden restaurants as well as the Jung Sai garment factory.
Faced with the conservative times and the surge of immigrants in the 1980s, CPA responded by initiating English and citizenship classes, launching voter registration and education campaigns and joined with other people of color and disenfranchised communities to elevate our rights in the political process. CPA also fought back and organized against anti-immigrant attacks such as the Proposition 63 “English Only” and the Simpson-Mazzoli bills.
CPA also worked with local and statewide groups to increase public education, expand bilingual education and ESL programs, including organizing one of the largest contingents in the March on Sacramento for Education.
In response to the brutal murder of Vincent Chin, a Chinese American who was beaten to death by two unemployed autoworkers who never served time in jail, CPA helped build a movement to demand justice for Vincent Chin, organizing a West Coast tour for Mrs. Lily Chin, Vincent’s mother.
The 1990s posed new problems as CPA moved into another decade. The anti-immigrant sentiment as well as the control of global corporations was growing. In response, a new generation of CPA activists resisted against reactionary social policies such as Proposition 187, Proposition 209 and “welfare reform.”
During this decade, CPA built its youth program, launching the Chinese Power Against Tobacco (CPAT) campaign to engage youth in the struggle for healthy communities locally and globally against the tobacco industry, and establishing Common Roots, a cross cultural Latino-Chinese youth empowerment program with People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic Rights (PODER) that focused on environmental justice.
CPA also organized around holding landlords and city agencies accountable and to win major improvements to the housing code enforcement, especially for families living in Single Room Occupancies (SROs) in the Housing Justice Campaign.
In the 2000s, the impact of corporate-led globalization hit home. The work and scope of CPA expanded, and the organization became a crucial voice in the community in the fight for environmental justice and workers’ rights.
The Worker Organizing Center engaged in multiple campaigns to win back wages, severance pay and dignity for low-wage immigrant workers. Major victories included the Wins Garment case, which won $1 million in back wages for 250 immigrant garment workers and restaurant campaigns, the King Tin and Golden Dragon restaurant, and New On Sang poultry shop campaigns. CPA also fought for and passed groundbreaking laws such as the San Francisco Minimum Wage Ordinance and the Paid Sick Leave Ordinance and provided vocational retraining programs for dislocated garment workers. CPA worker leaders participated in a groundbreaking study of Chinatown restaurant worker health and working conditions with academic and government partners, which laid the groundwork for future worker organizing and advocacy.
CPA also strengthened its environmental justice work through the Immigrant Power for Environmental Health and Justice (IPEHJ), collaborating with other allies to unite and empower working class immigrant families to fight for healthy communities.
CPA engaged deeply in movement building, joining the fight-backs against new waves of anti-immigrant legislation, organizing the community against unjust wars, and sending member and staff delegations to Hong Kong to protest the World Trade Organization (WTO) and deepen the analysis of the international struggle against corporate-led globalization.
In 2009, CPA also launched Youth Movement of Justice and Organizing (Youth MOJO) aimed at developing the leadership of Chinese American and immigrant youth.
2010 to 2012
Through decades of multiracial solidarity building, CPA helped lead the formation of San Francisco Rising and the Progressive Workers Alliance, two multiracial alliances aimed at building the voice and power of low-income and working class communities of color in San Francisco. Internally, CPA also merged our tenant and worker organizing programs to form the Tenant and Worker Center, which launched the Campaign to End Wage Theft with the Progressive Workers Alliance. Youth MOJO took a leading role in the fight to protect healthcare access for working-class communities of color in the Healthcare Security Master Plan and the fight to save St. Luke’s Hospital. CPA celebrated it’s 40th anniversary.
2012 to Now