Our History Is Already Written (I): Chinatown 1982

In honor of the 1982 Garment Workers’ Strike
by huiying b. chan

the bosses are cheating us
we must refuse!
holiday pay & wages docked
we will not be used!

we supply the fashion industry
Macy’s & JCPenny’s galore
extravagance extracted from our hands
ten-hour days & they still demand more!

join us this Thursday
bring your friends & neighbors too
Sun Yat-Sen Plaza
we’ll have signs, translators, & food

but wait, what will my husband say?
will i lose face to friends?
the shops give enough money
for our month’s loose ends

last year i arrived
brimming luggage, no english in tow
if i’m fired tomorrow
where am i to go?

bring me your finger
let me bandage that prick
the blood loss is small
but we must mend the smallest uptick

we workers must be united
through thick of the threats
reputation & coins
pale against precedent we must set

we didn’t petition for visas
to sign our lives away
let the see yuw giys & jee gwuts marinate
while we raise our fists in praise

woman, are you not tired of begging
for our rights to be fad?
have you forgotten the histories
of peasants from our lands?

across rebellions & Revolution
we are one, through it all
it’s not spring ‘til all flowers bloom
stop hiding in the bathroom stalls

we ensure our futures
garment workers united

we march down Mott
picket signs & union hats glisten

with you by my side
we as 20,000 rise!

let our men watch from restaurants
it’s our time as women to make them listen!

see yuw giys & jee gwuts — Cantonese for soy sauce chicken & pork bone, in reference to garment shop work.
See: “How Chinese American Women Changed U.S. Labor History”.

“it’s not spring ‘til all flowers bloom” is a quote from Shui Mak Ka, lead organizer of the 1982 Garment Strike.
See here.