By Luisa Blue, BSN
Many of our parents fled repressive regimes for America to be able to freely voice their opinions and pursue their dreams. At a time when authoritarian candidates are getting elected here and abroad, we must remember we came to this country because America allows the people a voice in how they are governed.
During the 1920s, when Filipino-American laborers were facing riots and persecution at a time of high economic anxiety, writer and activist Carlos Bulosan wrote, “We do not take democracy for granted. We feel it grow in our working together — many millions of us working toward a common purpose. If it took us several decades of sacrifice to arrive at this faith, it is because it took us that long to know what part of America is ours.”
Bulosan understood that we have to come together to fight for immigrant and worker rights, and that the work is unending. My parents came to the United States from the Philippines in pursuit of freedom and opportunity. At their urging to give back to their adopted country, I became a nurse, and then a union organizer for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), because I believe that when we come together we can accomplish more.
I chaired SEIU’s investment in the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) civic engagement work in the 2016 election cycle, and we have provided unprecedented support to ensure that our community was educated about and engaged in elections.
And although the outcome of the presidential election was ultimately disappointing, AAPI voters in Nevada made their voices clearly heard. As a Filipina American, I was proud to see a tremendous 40 percent increase from 2012 in the Nevada AAPI early vote. Filipino and Asian Americans contributed to the election of the first Latina Senator, Catherine Cortez Masto and helped two new Democrats join Congress — Jacky Rosen and Ruben Kihuen, who immigrated from Mexico when he was 8 years. Their victories are a silver lining to all working families. In the Silver State, according to recent exit polls conducted by the AAPI Civic Engagement Table, six out of 10 AAPI voters voted Democratic. Since AAPIs constitute 9 percent of the electorate, we were a pivotal swing vote in a tightly contested election and provided more votes than the two-point margin of victory. On Election Day 2016, AAPI voters rang the bell for democracy in Nevada.
SEIU will continue the fight for democracy and working people who have come together in the fight for better futures for our families — from the Fight for $15 and a union to Black Lives Matter to the fight for comprehensive immigration reform to action on climate change. Together we have shifted our nation’s political discourse around the state of injustice and inequality in our economy and democracy.
SEIU represents more than 2 million members including 110,000 AAPI workers nationally and we will continue to work with our AAPI members, community organizations, and community leaders to lift up the voices of AAPIs for civil, economic, and worker rights.
Now, more than ever, it is vital to invest in our democracy. We must add to our victories by continuing to be involved through the yea, whether it’s by running for school board, attending city council meetings, or telling our elected officials how we want them to vote. It’s not enough to vote once every two or four years.
SEIU is proud to stand with the Asian American Pacific Islander community in Nevada and with working people across this nation to support our collective voices for justice. We must honor the sacrifices of those who came before us by continuing to fight for immigrant and worker rights.
Luisa Blue, BSN, is Executive Vice President of SEIU, the nation’s largest healthcare union, and a Filipina-American nurse who helped to found the SEIU Nurse Alliance. She is one of the highest-ranking AAPIs in the labor movement and joined the union in 1977 by organizing nurses at her hospital.
By Luisa Blue, BSN