Saturday, June 19, 2004

Bus Riders Union Meeting

I have previously described a couple of public events which I have attended in our so-far short stay in Los Angeles. Today I had the pleasure of going to my first social change-related meeting.

The Labor Community Strategy Centre is a local social change organization which grew out of quite successful efforts in the 1980s to oppose the closing of a particular auto parts plant. It engages in both research and action in a variety of areas. Perhaps its most public and successful project is the LA Bus Riders Union. This is a membership organization that struggles for the needs of people who depend on public transit. They have used tactics ranging from legal intervention to direct action to both mobilize people and create changes that improve the environment, public health, and public transportation. Their most visible victory was in a civil rights law suit against the transit system here in LA County for its distribution of resources in a manner that the courts agreed was discriminatory towards people of colour. Much of their current struggle involves trying to force the transit authorities to meet their obligations under that victory.

There were about 25 or 30 people present. The meeting was simultaneously translated among English, Spanish, and Korean. Those of us who were at our first meeting actually did not get to participate in the business portion of the meeting. After a round of introductions, we newbies went off on our own with a couple of LABRU organizers for an orientation session. It contained a great deal of history about the organization and its struggles, as well as providing a forum for all of our questions to be answered in a way that did not unduly prolong the business meeting for the rest of the participants. Mostly I stayed quiet and listened, since I am new to the city. Also, though I do not own a car and am therefore transit-dependent, I am still relatively privileged and am not nearly as constrained by the decisions of the Metropolitan Transit Authority as most of the other participants seemed to be.

I need more time to reflect on how this organization can be a part of my life, and of my social change activity. It is an explicitly anti-racist and anti-oppresive organization that is working on immediate, local needs and I therefore am very interested in being involved. It has a history of success and I had heard good things about it even before I moved here. Judging from today's meeting it is well organized and genuinely grassroots. I do have some concerns, of course. For example, its structure is a mass membership and an elected board, which I have mixed feelings about. And of course it will take me some time to figure out how I can fit in to what they do, given that I am constrained by my childcare and writing responsbilities. At the very least, I'm going to pay for membership and show up to the next monthly meeting.

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