So you started working at the CPA in Boston then what? What did you do?
"Well in 1985 P&L sportswear shut down. The CPA formed a support community for workers. They came to the CPA and fought to get job training."
Fought? To get job training from the government.
"Yes from the government. The city got a big grant and we advocated for the programs (the workers) wanted."
What were their needs?
"extended health insurance..
And most of them were Chinese?
"mostly. Some were Italian. Before 3/4 of the women worked in the Garment Factory and they were the ones who had insurance in the family."
As a millennial, and for younger people this is pretty interesting. Basically at one point, clothes were made, in Boston. The factories shut down because they went over to China or Pakistan or wherever. But in a way, it is so bizarre to think that those factories were once here. And this was the 80's not that long ago.
"The CPA also raised money by organizing trips to New York. We would rent a School bus and then people would pay a cheaper ticket, $30 to go toNew york from Boston's Chinatown..."
Hold on hold on hold on.... you mean the whole concept of a Chinatown to New York bus, actually came from the CPA? Like the whole 10 dollars to ride the bus or if you knew the guy you didn't even necessarily pay, that type of Chinese bus that reached it's peak in the 90's but was taken down by a law suit from the other big Bus companies, Grey Hound, Peter Pan and what have you.
Lydia thought back. "I think so. Nobody else was doing the trip yet except those bigger bus companies and they were charging a lot more. Then at some point we worked with Trans Pacific Travel.. and then I don't know we just sort of stopped doing it."
Okay more about the Bus thing has to be researched because The Chinatown to Chinatown bus is a HUGE story about what Chinatown is.
In fact I remember working at Commonwealth Automobile Re insurers fro a Summer job in the mail room and seeing some faxes that were planning to take those Chinese buses down in the Commonwealth through lawsuits over handicapped riders. It's a cool story because it deals with Boston and New York's Chinatown and how the two were tightly connected by that bus. And then college students and other white people started riding it too.
So do you ever deal with the bus companies now?
"Well we come up against them mainly for workers rights with the Sunshine Travel Agency and crazy business practices. Like a lot of the drivers will go without sleep for 48 hours."
Hmmm that would explain the reputation for crazy driving and accidents.
So what else does the CPA do?
"We have staff that help people learn about their rights, we do fundraising. But mostly we respond to things that the Community brings to us. We fight against wage theft. And actually Mayor Mart Walsh signed a wage theft executive order where your business license can be taken away if you don't pay your workers. We work a lot with health care workers and help them organize against the agencies if they mistreat them. And one of the biggest things we've done recently is set up the Land Trust with the help of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative."
I actually met with a friend from DSNI and blogged about it on Kung Fu Dad.
There will definitely be a part 3 post about Lydia Lowe. Does anyone have any stories about the Chinatown to Chinatown bus? Or maybe parents or grandparents that worked in a Garment factory? I would like to interview someone about that.
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