Labor Studies Alumni Spotlight: Kristi Mai, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) Organizing Fellow

By Valeria Coronado

The UCLA Labor Studies Program celebrates our labor studies alumni through a series that uplifts their stories and accomplishments, as well as to inspire current students who are pursuing the labor studies major and minor. We invite you to read about Kristi Mai (Class of 2021) below.

Can you tell us about yourself and your background?

I’m a Vietnamese-Chinese American woman who grew up in the San Gabriel Valley. Although my parents are refugees, I did not know about their histories until I had the opportunity to learn about the war in Southeast Asia in my Asian American Studies classes.

Can you tell us about your current position and the responsibilities?

As an Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) Organizing Fellow, I am housed in the Pilipino Workers Center (PWC) as a part of the Membership Team and the Workplace Justice Team. I support with campaigns such as the Immigrants Are LA campaign to push for more resources in LA County for immigrants, along with empowering local community organizations with resources to implement services. I am also coordinating an Organizing Institute, a three-day virtual training series for PWC and APALA members to learn organizing skills, such has holding 1:1 conversations and storytelling. Through my work, my goal is to build a strong relationship between PWC and the APALA Los Angeles chapter to build on the labor and immigrant rights advocacy in the Los Angeles region.

What made you decide to join the Labor Studies Program?

I wanted to learn more about labor advocacy in the Los Angeles region, especially in connection to API community organizations. As an Asian American Studies major, I hoped to connect what I learned about my community to issues in the labor movement and the history of how organizers fought to achieve what we have today.

What about Labor Studies had the most impact on you?

The different class offerings intersecting with so many different subjects, such as art and storytelling, taught me how labor and work is present in many aspects of our lives. Through the Labor Studies classes I have taken, I learned so much not only about the history of labor in Los Angeles, but also more about my own identity as a worker.

During your time at UCLA, were you involved in any campus activities on campus or within your community?

I was heavily involved in the Southeast Asian American community through programs such as the Southeast Asian Transfer Enrichment Day program, the Southeast Asian Students for Organizing Conference, and the Southeast Asian Campus Learning Education and Retention program. I was also a part of two cultural-political organizations: the Vietnamese Student Union and the Asian Pacific Coalition. Currently, I am a volunteer for the Chinatown Community for Equitable Development, and I have recently joined the LA Chapter of AF3IRM

Can you tell us about a role model who has inspired and influenced you and why?

A role model that has inspired me is Myrla Baldonado, the lead organizer at PWC who I have had the opportunity to work with during my fellowship. She is a great organizer who has been dedicated to fighting for justice in the Philippines and in the US, and seeing the work that she does inspires me as I apply to graduate social work programs with a concentration in social/economic justice and community organizing.

Do you have any advice for graduating seniors?

Enjoy the time that you have left in undergrad! Time will fly by so quick, and things can get hectic, but always remember to take a breath and ground yourself.