By GREGORY N. HEIRES
Members and guests gathered at DC 37 May 18 for the annual Asian Heritage celebration, themed “We Vote, We Make a Difference,” was appropriate in the run-up for this year’s mid-term elections. Besides hearing a call to arms, the crowd enjoyed a fun evening of Asian food and cultural presentations.
“Our time has come,” said DC 37 Asian Heritage Committee Chair Maf Misbah Uddin, who the union’s treasurer and president of Accountants, Statisticians and Actuaries Local 1407. “We will be recognized if we are in the mainstream”
But Uddin acknowledged the community needs to engage more in the country’s electoral system. Asian Americans — the fastest growing demographic group in the United States — make up 7 percent of the U.S. population, yet only 1 percent of voters.
Keynote speaker U.S. Congress member Grace Meng, who is from Queens, described the New York-based Alliance of South Asian American Labor as a model advocacy group.
ASAAL, which Uddin founded, with the support of Asian-American labor leaders and activists, has played a key role in the election of Asian-American candidates, including Meng, in the New York metropolitan area. The group is also active in voter registration, electoral reform and legislative work, as well as community issues.
ASAAL added its voice to the numerous groups that condemned Trump’s 2017 travel ban on Muslims from several countries in the Middle East. Judge Margaret Chan, of the state Supreme Court, New York County, an honoree, also urged the Asian-American union members at the celebration to become more politically active.
“We can’t just grow in size,” Chan said. “We have to grow in power. Let’s get people registered!” In his remarks, DC 37 Associate Director Oliver Gray said right-wing policies emanating from the U.S. Congress and the White House represent a great challenge for working families.
“You can’t begin to understand how dangerous this period in American history is,” Gray said. “There is an assault on workers in this country.”