Founded March 1, 1992, Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance (KIWA) is one of the first and most well-established worker centers in the United States. KIWA organizes low-wage immigrant workers, tenants, and their families to promote workplace justice, housing rights, immigrants’ rights, democratic and sustainable community development, civic participation, gender justice, and cultural resistance. Our vision is guided by the needs of immigrant workers and by an understanding that workers face injustice both inside and outside their workplaces. A multi-ethnic organization based in Koreatown, KIWA is one of the only groups organizing both Korean and Latino workers. KIWA seeks to strengthen progressive, immigrant worker leadership as part of a broad-based movement for social change.
A Just Economy for Workers: Economic justice and workers’ rights
Wage theft—when an employer does not pay workers the wages they are legally entitled to—is endemic in Los Angeles and throughout the country. KIWA organizes workers in multiple industries and across racial and ethnic lines to fight wage theft and create safe places of work where people and their work are respected.
Local workers’ justice campaigns: KIWA stands with workers fighting wage theft. We organize workers seeking respect, fair wages, and healthy conditions across industries and workplaces. We tie our local campaigns to broader industry shifts and policy advocacy goals. Our local campaigns lift up workers’ voices, workers’ lives, and workers’ leadership. One of our recent campaigns, Raw Deal, successfully targeted Urasawa at 2 Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills (see photo above) with the leadership of former Urasawa worker and Ktown resident Heriberto Zamora. Raw Deal exposed not only the conditions at Urasawa but the reality that wage theft and extremely disrespectful treatment of working people takes place in all types of businesses. See coverage here: New York Times, LA Times, La Opinion, and La Opinion again.
Worker Empowerment Clinic: KIWA provides information on labor law and assists workers who have experienced wage theft to advocate for themselves. Each year, we provide information to thousands of low-wage workers and assist workers to file millions of dollars in wage claims.
LA Wage Theft Ordinance campaign. KIWA is on the steering committee of the Los Angeles Coalition Against Wage Theft. We are promoting a citywide ordinance that will impose greater penalties on employers who rob workers of their wages. In addition to fighting wage theft, this ordinance will support the City of Los Angeles. Employers who do not pay workers what they are due are generally not paying the city the taxes they owe. In this budget crisis, our city needs every dollar it can get. Justice for low-wage workers also means more funding for all city services.
California Fair Paycheck Coalition. KIWA assists workers to win millions of dollars in judgments against rogue employers, but it is extremely difficult to collect, leaving workers with a victory on paper, proven before the Labor Commission of the State of California, but nothing in their pockets. Workers often have to settle for far less than they are owed and often cannot collect at all. KIWA is a co-sponsor of State Assembly Bill AB 1164 (Lowenthal), the Fair Paycheck Act. We are working with a broad coalition of workers’ rights organizations statewide to educate policymakers and the public on this bill, which would allow workers to put a temporary hold on the property of employers who illegally deny workers pay they have earned, and will be a critical tool for low-wage workers seeking justice.
Employer education programs. KIWA is partnering with workers as well as the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, the U.S. Department of Labor, local business owners, and Koreatown business associations to provide information on labor laws, so that principled and committed employers can get the information they need. Our most recent seminar for Korean-speaking business owners was endorsed by the Korean American Chamber of Commerce-Los Angeles.
May Day. In 2000, KIWA played a central role in reviving the tradition of the May Day march in Los Angeles. Each May 1st, we organize workers and supporters to march in support of immigrant workers rights. Join us next year!
Reclaiming Koreatown: Tenants’ rights and a community voice in development
Local organizing and advocacy campaigns for affordable housing, a community voice in development, and parks and green space. Please contact KIWA for info on current campaigns.
Handol affordable housing project. There is a deep unmet need for affordable housing in our neighborhood, cities, and country. In partnership with Little Tokyo Service Center, KIWA is developing affordable housing in Koreatown. With this 52-unit LEED Gold project, we seek to demonstrate that we can and must build housing that is affordable, beautiful, and environmentally sustainable. The project broke ground in spring 2013 and we expect construction to be completed in summer or early fall 2014. Please note: applications for housing will not be available until late spring/early summer of 2014. To be notified when applications are available, please sign up on our email list.
Right to the City Homes for all Campaign. KIWA is proud to be part of this national campaign, which was launched March in 2013. www.homesforall.org
Koreatown Tenants Defense Network. In partnership with the Los Angeles Foundation for Legal Aid (LAFLA), Asian Americans Advancing Justice, the Korean American Bar Association, and other organizations, KIWA established a twice-monthly clinic for low-income tenants. It meets on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month at 6:30 pm at LAFLA, 1102 Crenshaw Blvd. Beginning October8, 2013, KTDN will be held the 2nd Tuesday of each month only. Please contact us for more info: 213.738.9050 x105.
Ktown Farms & Gardens. This project expands green space and organic food production in Koreatown. Our neighborhood is over 90% renters, who do not have large yards. Through the collective development of small sites, we are creating a corridor of green, with plots linked together by social interactions across lines of ethnicity, language, and age.
Advocacy for parks and green space. Koreatown is the most park-poor urban neighborhood in the nation and the densest neighborhood in Los Angeles. And we have lungs, too! We are partnering with officials and agencies to bring more parks and green space to our community.
Immigrants’ rights organizing & advocacy. KIWA has worked for many years on campaigns for immigrants’ rights. Most recently, we supported the successful campaign for the TRUST Act, and are working with many coalition partners to promote a sensible and just federal immigration policy that strengthens our nation and our families. Read our statement, issued at the outset of last year’s campaign, here. Much has changed since January 2013, but our principles have remained the same.
KIWA has often participated in voter education and “Get out the Vote” efforts. In 2012, we took a step further and established the KIWA Voters Council, a standing body of KIWA members interested in civic matters. We registered hundreds of voters in the past year: this immigrant community is also a voting community.
Summer Activist Training
KIWA established SAT in 1993 as a unique space for young people interested in progressive organizing with a focus on Asian American communities. We expanded the program and it has been a coalition effort since the mid-1990s, with different organizations and individuals working together and taking leadership. This year’s SAT was held in July 2013 and co-sponsors included KIWA, Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress, Kizuna, Chinatown Community for Economic Development, APALA, Pilipino Worker Center, Thai CDC, South Asian Network, Garment Worker Center, and SEACA.
KIWA’s Neighborhood Organizing Committee of Koreatown (KNOCK)
Cultural Resistance Committee of KIWA
Arte del Corazon (mosaic)
KIWA Mutual Association
Ilkkundeul for Social and Economic Justice across Borders
KIWA Voter Council
English and computer classes
Worker Empowerment Clinic
Koreatown Tenants’ Defense Network
Telecom fraud prevention