Visibly Ah Mou : Community Organizing as Minority Solidarity in the United States

Deng, Kalina Yingnan

On December 5, 1985, PL Sportswear Inc., Boston’s largest garment factory, without giving advance notice, closed its doors and sent home 349 workers, most of whom were uneducated Chinese females (ah mou) from Boston Chinatown. Although the 1984 Mature Industries Act entitled displaced workers to job retraining and English language courses, in the case of the PL workers, the state neglected to fulfill this promise to Massachusetts’ working class. After six months of state inaction, the ah mou traded their sewing machines for picket signs and transformed into powerful labor activists. This paper explores how the ah mou defied cultural traditions and social conventions to organize themselves as a political force. Furthermore, this paper narrates how the 1986 Boston Chinatown garment workers, by projecting their own voice and by making themselves visible to the greater Boston community and the state, cultivated a space for Asian Americans in the United States.

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On Our Terms: The Undergraduate Journal of the Athena Center for Leadership Studies

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Athena Center for Leadership Studies
Center for Digital Research and Scholarship
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January 31, 2014