Last night, the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) honored writer, photographer, and labor organizer David Bacon with its Humanitarian Award at a scholarship dinner and celebration. The evening’s them: “Continuing the Legacy: Immigrant Rights, Worker Rights and Economic Rights.”
Bacon, a member of the Guild freelance unit, uses his reporting skills as an instrument for social change. He has shed the illusion of journalistic objectivity and uses his pen and camera to give voice to migrant workers who are the hidden victims of an indifferent global economy.
“Many of you know David as a photographer or a writer,” said Katie Quan, deputy chair of the UC Berkeley Labor Center, in her introduction. “I know him as a labor organizer.”
Bacon invited the fluently bilingual Quan to join him in a door-to-door campaign organizing workers for the molders union — many of them monolingual Chinese speakers. Bacon, Quan and Bacon’s wife Lillian Galedo, executive director of Filipino Advocates for Justice, have remained good friends.
If the AFL-CIO was not always amenable to immigration reform, it is now, in large part thanks to Bacon’s relentless efforts, she said.
He has been an organizer for the United Farm Workers, the United Electrical Workers,, the International Ladies Garment Workers and the International Moldeers and Allied Workers. He edited the California AFL-CIO News and the Contra Costa CLC Labor News.
He has been a powerful voice for the voiceless — notably, for migrant workers. At a time when all major daily newspapers but the New York Times have slashed their labor coverage, Bacon reports on the work place, and the impact of the global economy on workers. His books include “Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants” (Beacon Press, 2008), “The Children of Nafta” (UC Press, 2004), and “Communities without Borders” (Cornell University Press, 2006). His newest effort, coming out later this year, is “The Right to Stay Home,” proposes alternatives to displacing communities in Central America and criminalizing the newcomers when they arrive in the U.S.
“No one is illegal,” he told the audience.
Today, immigrants from Nigeria, China and other lands “are being fired for working,” he said. “Where are these people going to go? They could become day laborers, domestic workers. The consequences ripple on down.”
Bacon shared a shout-out to his wife, who he said has been an unflagging source of inspiration and support throughout his career.
Read more about David Bacon in a profile by Guild Freelancer John Geluardi.