Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance (KIWA) was founded in 1992 from the ashes of the Los Angeles Civil Unrest of Sa-I-Gu. In a city torn apart by racism, poverty and inequality, KIWA started with the mission to address rampant worker exploitation in the Koreatown community. The organization is a model for multi-ethnic organizing, working primarily with Korean and Latino/a workers.

KIWA’s model brings workers from targeted low-wage industries together with community members and students in a broad, multi-ethnic vision for social justice. Its strategies include grassroots organizing and leadership development, strategic industry-based campaigns that target employers directly, advocacy and multi-ethnic coalition building.

KIWA’s first campaign was to win the inclusion of displaced workers in a community relief fund set up by conservative Koreatown business owners after the Civil Unrest. In 1997, KIWA was part of the team that won over $2 million for garment workers from retailers and manufacturers connected with the now infamous El Monte “slave shop” where Thai immigrants were held captive. KIWA’s work exposed Southern California’s modern-day sweatshops to the general public.

KIWA has also organized workers in the restaurant and supermarket industries. Its Restaurant Workers campaign has dramatically improved labor law compliance among Koreatown restaurants. KIWA’s Supermarket Living Wage campaign has pioneered living wage agreements in the industry, improving wages and working conditions for Koreatown’s 1,500 market workers. KIWA also helped win a $1.475 million settlement for owed back wages.

In collaboration with other progressive organizations, KIWA has fought to maintain the state’s affirmative action programs, raise the minimum wage, lower bus rates for the poor, save hundreds of union jobs at two local hotels and win dignity and respect for workers locally and internationally.

For more information, visit our website at www.kiwa.org.

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