Wei Min July-August 1974 Vol. 3 No. 8
130 On Strike, Many Arrested
Jung Sai Workers Rip Garment Industry
“If you’re not afraid, join us. If you are afraid, this isn’t the place for you~” This was the slogan cried out in Cantonese by 135 garment workers (mainly Chinese along with several Pilipinos and Chicanos) in front of Plain Jane (Espirit de Corp) Co.--one of the largest garment manufacturers on the West coast.
The women are strikers from a Plain Jane contract shop in Chinatown, Jung Sal (Great Chinese American Sewing Co.). The “sweatshop” conditions at Jung Sal coupled with intense police harassment and arrests on the picket line has forged even stronger unity and militancy among the strikers.
On the first day of the strike (July 15), the 135 strikers shut down Jung Sai completely--resulting in Plain Jane liquidating the contract shop. Seeing this tactic, the workers went directly to the main Plain Jane plant to shut it down.
Several days later, July 16, 38 Jung Sai workers and 2 supporters were manhandled into police paddy wagons and hauled off to jail. One woman who was arrested was hit by a scab truck. The police left her lying there for over an hour. The police repeatedly told her to get up saying she was “faking it”. Meanwhile the scab driver sat smiling in his van under police protection--finally an ambulance came and carried her off to the hospital.
The strikers were cram packed into small paddy wagons, as much as 20 people per wagon. Two Chinese women fainted on the way for lack of oxygen. When one of the women who fainted asked for a drink of water in jail, the police doctor told her to drink it out of the toilet. Racist cops warned the women that if they were in Peking, it wouldn’t be so easy for them to do these things. And how did the women respond to this treatment? They told the cops, “We’ll be back until we win!”
WHY ARE THEY STRIKING?
What was it that led the Jung Sai workers to take this course of action? Just check out the working conditions and living standards of people in Chinatown. We sfl know that for years, the Chronicle, radio and TV stations, numerous sociologists, etc., have pointed to the problems, but for once, working people are realizing that the only real solution is to organize and fight back.
At a recent press conference one Chinese woman exposed the horrid conditions at Jung Sai which drove her to the point of attempting suicide. With the strike, she saw that the only real solution is to fight. She saw the only solution was to knock down the company for its years of harassment, speed-ups, and inhumane treatment of the workers.
WHAT ARE THEY UP AGAINST?
What are they up against? They are up against one of the largest garment manufacturers on the West coast which has 55 contract shops in San Francisco, 20 in Chinatown; 40% of its production is done by exploiting working people overseas in Hong Kong, Korea, and India. Doug Thompkins, President of the firm, a ‘hip’ long hair employer built his empire off the backs of immigrant women workers in the U.S. and Third World workers overseas. But now that the workers are fighting back, he is doing everything possible to smash them
He has called in strike-breaking police DAILY to harass and arrest peaceful pickets. The cops are the worst in the city. Strikers and supporters are busted at random. These “examples of S.F.’s finest” come out to the picket line every day with their riot batons drawn, and with their leaded gloves, to laugh at, harass, and provoke the pickets into creating an incident. Often, there are as many “men in blue” as there are pickets.
Also on the side of the company are the courts. Just the other day July25, Judge Samuel Yee, a local “fantung” (“rice bowl”--a derogatory term for one who exploits and lives off the people) revoked O.R. (release on own recognizance) and set $150 to $250 bail for some of the 15 pickets who were arrested the day before on trumped up charges of “obstructing the sidewalk, resisting arrest, and blocking a parked truck.” The Judge also told arrested supporters that they had no right to be out on the picket line. That Chinatown already has enough problems and enough trouble without “people like you making more trouble.”
Well it seen that the people who are making the real trouble for Chinatown--the bosses, the garment manufacturers, the Six Companies, the police, and the courts--are all in cahoots and determined to keep workers from being organized. On the other hand, support for the workers has been rapidly growing every day. Responding to their call ‘BA-GUNG!’ (strike!), community people, garment workers, students and working people throughout the Bay Area have come out in support of the Jung Sal strikers.
On Saturday, July 20, the Jung Sai workers linked-up their struggle with the Lee MAH workers. Over I50 people participated in a car caravan-parade throughout Chinatown spreading news about both struggles. Garment workers rushed out of their shops to grab leaflets as the 30 car caravan drove by. Garment bosses slammed their doors shut as shouts of “Lee MAH unfair!” Jung Sal unfair!’ rumbled throughout Chinatown. Even today, people are still talking about the caravan.
The climate in Chinatown is now one of excitement where everyone is closely watching to see which side will win. The bosses are looking at these two struggles, and the workers are looking at these two struggles. A victory could ignite the spark for organizing the entire community.
Their fight is everyone’s fight. On one of their leaflets, the Jung Sal strikers say: ‘Our fight is the fight of all garment workers. While we slave for pennies, the manufacturers make dollars off of us. Our fight is the fight to get rid of sweatshop conditions. We don’t want Chinatown or any other community to be used as a haven for cheap labor by employers. They think we have no rights as human beings or workers. Therefore, we are standing up and fighting for our rights and the rights of all workers.’
The workers informed us that they need the support of everybody. People can support them by coming out to-the picket lines at 900 Minnesota (SF); publicizing the strike to other workers and donating to the strike fund (mailing address: 2230 Grant Ave., P.O. Box 362. San Francisco, California 94l33). For further information call 397-0629.
Let’s all rise up, support the Jung Sai strikers and make the slogan they learned in jail --“WORKERS UNITED WILL NEVER BE DEFEATED “, a fact.