Fujianese in New York City
Interviews by Reese Erlich
3 CDs; CD1: 11 Tracks, 79:55; CD2: 11 Tracks, 79:38; CD3: 2 Tracks, 7:43
TRACK 1 – 32:53
REESE: We are here in Canal St, New York with Mr. Dong.
SOMEONE SPEAKING CHINESE – STREET NOISE BEHIND
REESE: Okay. Let’s just start, if he can tell me his name, Mr. Dong, and do I have his permission to record this for broadcasting?
TRANSLATION (FEMALE TRANSLATOR SPEAKS WITH MR. DONG, HE ANSWERS IN THE SAME LANGUAGE)
TRANSLATOR: His name is Mr. Dong.
I agree to the terms of the interview.
REESE: Great. Tell me about his life in China. It was in Fukien, not Fujian.
REESE: Spell it.
REESE: Tell me about his life. Did he come from a city or from a village?
TRANSLATOR: I came from a village.
REESE: Tell me about the conditions there. Why did you come to the US?
TRANSLATOR: I was prostituted in China, therefore I decided to come to the US?
REESE: I was what, I’m sorry?
TRANSLATOR: I was prostituted.
TRANSLATOR: Meaning that he was arrested. Prosecuted, I’m sorry. He, I was arrested by the police, therefore I decided to flee China and come to the US.
REESE: What was he arrested for?
TRANSLATOR: I was in an underground club.
TRANSLATOR: I was in an underground religious club that was not approved by the government.
REESE: Was it a Christian church?
TRANSLATOR: There’s no name for what underground religious club I was in. It wasn’t Christian, it wasn’t anything that was known in the US.
REESE: Tell me about the economic conditions in his village.
TRANSLATOR: There were no jobs in my village and because I was prosecuted I couldn’t find any jobs, therefore I had to find someone to help me come to the US.
REESE: Did other people from his village come to the US?
TRANSLATOR: At the time that I decided to come to the US I was the only person who decided to come.
REESE: Since his coming?
TRANSLATOR: No, I’m the only one.
REESE: How did he arrange to come here?
TRANSLATOR: My brothers and sisters and relatives helped me pay for the trip and also they helped me find the snakehead.
REESE: How much did it cost?
TRANSLATOR: Around 28,000.
REESE: US dollars?
TRANSLATOR: US dollars.
REESE: That’s a lot of money in China.
TRANSLATOR: At the time it was $28,000 US dollars and when I came to the US the snakehead was arrested, so I didn’t have to pay for anything.
REESE: Because of the Golden Venture?
TRANSLATOR: Golden Venture. So he didn’t have to pay.
REESE: Did he have to pay something in advance?
TRANSLATOR: At the beginning I paid $3000 US dollars deposit, but when I arrived in the US because the snakehead was arrested, therefore I did not have to pay anything else.
REESE: What kind of work did he do when he was able to work?
TRANSLATOR: I always work at a restaurant.
TRANSLATOR: I work a lot of restaurants, all Chinese restaurants, sometimes Japanese, and right now I’m working in a Brooklyn Chinese restaurant.
REESE: I’m sorry. Where did he work in his village?
TRANSLATOR: I work in the dumpling store. Wontons, dumplings, that kind of store.
REESE: Dumplings. And in a year, roughly, in dollars how much would he make while he was working in China?
TRANSLATOR: I make about four to five thousand Chinese or MB (?) dollars per year.
REESE: So that divided by eight would be roughly.
TRANSLATOR: Five or six hundred US dollars. Per year.
REESE: Say, “I made…”
TRANSLATOR: I made roughly five to six hundred US dollars per year while I was working at the wonton store.
REESE: $28,000 is such a huge amount of money. How did he expect to pay it back?
TRANSLATOR: If the snakehead was not arrested, I would ask my relatives, my friends in China, my relatives in the US to help pay for that.
REESE: Would you pay so much for month. How would you pay it?
TRANSLATOR: I would ask my friends and my relatives both in the US and China for the money in full to pay off the snakehead. Then I would pay off my friends and relatives month by month.
REESE: You try to pay him at once and then pay them back.
TRANSLATOR: Pay them back. Over a couple of years, maybe.
REESE: Does he have friends who have been able to do that successfully?
TRANSLATOR: I have in my personal knowledge everyone has done that. Pay off the snakehead and then slowly, slowly pay the relatives and friends back month by month.
REESE: Who are the snakeheads?
TRANSLATOR: I believe they are from Taiwan.
TRANSLATOR: I don’t know about their personal background. I do know they’re from Taiwan. The one that I came from at least, but I’m not sure about the other ones.
REESE: Tell me about conditions on the Golden Venture. What did you expect and what did you see?
TRANSLATOR: I went to Thailand first and we were supposed to get on the airplane but since there weren’t any airplanes so we came by boat.
TRANSLATOR: I’m not sure of the places. He’s naming the countries in Fujianese, so I’m not sure.
REESE: The countries he went to after.
TRANSLATOR: That he stopped at. Every single stop. I went to a lot of stops and one of them I got stuff for a couple of months.
REESE: That doesn’t matter. He went to several different stops in Asia?
TRANSLATOR: Several different, like around…
TRANSLATOR: I got stuck at…
TRANSLATOR: First of all, from China I went to Thailand. Thailand I got stuck for a few months, three to four months, and then I went to another location where I was stuck for half a year and then came to the US.
TRANSLATOR: During one of the boat trips, there was a time when I didn’t have any food, any drink for three days.
TRANSLATOR: All the women, all the girls that came on the same boat as me were either raped or a lot of things happened.
TRANSLATOR: There were a lot of fighting, there were a lot of beating. There was water, but the water wasn’t that clean, and I was starved for a couple of days.
REESE: Was there anything they could do? Did they think of rebelling?
TRANSLATION (VERY LONG)
TRANSLATOR: During the trip everyone was minding their own business. We were afraid they would kill us because they have guns and knives, so it was really difficult for us to rebel against the treatment.
REESE: Which way did they come?
TRANSLATOR: The starting point was from China, then I went to Thailand. And from Thailand, every stop was a couple of days or a month of half a year and then to the US.
REESE: Did they come from Africa? Through the Suez or below South Africa? Or through the Panama Canal?
TRANSLATOR: China is here. Thailand is about here. So that would be the Pacific Ocean, I believe.
REESE: Did they sail down below South America?
TRANSLATOR: We just went from China to Thailand and from Thailand there was a couple of little islands, which we stopped at for a couple months. And from that, we were supposed to take the airplane, but then something went wrong, the snakehead told us we couldn’t go on the airplane, so we went on a boat. The boat went from that little island, straight to New York, that’s where we got our drop-off. So I believe through the Pacific Ocean, but I’m not that sure myself.
REESE: At some point they have to end up on the Atlantic. I know in California we get people from…
TRANSLATOR: It’s not from California, it’s…
REESE: Straight to Brooklyn. Where did they think they were going to land?
TRANSLATOR: At the beginning of the trip, I had no idea where I would end up, but it will be the US. I don’t care where in the US as long as it’s in the US.
REESE: At what point did they know something was going wrong?
TRANSLATOR: I have no knowledge about anything happening. All I know is my ending point is the US.
REESE: All of a sudden they hit the ground in Brooklyn and started running off the boat?
TRANSLATOR: All I know is suddenly I arrive in Brooklyn and that’s it. I have no knowledge of anything happening during the duration of the trip.
REESE: On the Golden Venture, were they given food and water?
TRANSLATOR: All we were given were water and peanuts and rice, which was passed out each day at the mealtime.
REESE: Were there toilets or showers on the ship?
TRANSLATOR: Only the women were using the toilets. The men were either peeing into the ocean and doing other stuff directly into the ocean. The women were given toilets.
REESE: Any way to clean themselves? Any shower, bath?
TRANSLATOR: Every week we were given two buckets of water to wash ourselves.
TRANSLATOR: They were toilet paper.
REESE: What happened when they hit the ground in Brooklyn? What did he do?
TRANSLATOR: Everyone was told if you can swim, swim. If you can’t wait for the snakehead.
REESE: Didn’t they land on a beach? Were they able to walk off the boat?
TRANSLATOR: We didn’t actually land on the beach. There was some distance between the beach and the boat, so a lot of people died while they were jumping off that boat. They drowned. A lot of people were…
TRANSLATOR: There was no swimming because the waves, the wind, were really, really big, so a lot of people drowned. Everyone was jumping off.
TRANSLATION (MR DONG SPEAKS A LONG TIME)
TRANSLATOR: At the boat there were two sides. The one on the other side, if people were to jump off that side, those people died because the waves were too huge and they were washed out to the ocean. I, on the other hand, jumped out on the side near to the beach, but the person in front of me and the person in back of me all died because the waves were too big and they were all washed off. And I was, because I was holding a bag, that’s why I survived. If you were to hold a bag, in a way, it would hold you up, in a sense, so you won’t drown. and then I was swimming and swimming and swimming and then it was a good thing because I have a rope which pull me a bit toward the beach and I almost thought that I would drown, because I drank a lot of the ocean water and I almost gave up myself, but I kept on swimming and swimming and I eventually hit the beach.
REESE: When he says bag, he means luggage?
TRANSLATOR: A luggage back which I bought in Thailand. It was a Hong Kong kind of bag.
TRANSLATOR: It was a rectangular bag that I held on to which a rope had attached to it which kind of helped me toward the beach.
REESE: What happened when he got to the beach?
TRANSLATOR: At that time, by the time I got to the beach I almost passed out. I laid down on the beach and the police officers came, they gave me a blanket, and I didn’t know what happened because I was really out.
TRANSLATOR: While at the time I fainted and the police officers gave me the blanket, it was daylight, almost dawn I believe. And then I went in a car and I was taken to a Red Cross facility.
TRANSLATOR: Then I was sent to the immigration service center.
TRANSLATOR: I fill out a lot of arrival papers, airplane papers, at that facility.
EMERGENCY VEHICLE DRIVES BY
TRANSLATOR: The place that I was sent to, they asked me to do origami, the Japanese kind of paper airplane.
REESE: Folded paper.
TRANSLATOR: Folded paper – animals, flowers, airplanes. And they would, after I would be done with those folding, the people over there would take it out and sell it to someone else.
REESE: What month and year did he leave China and then what month and year did he land in Brooklyn?
TRANSLATOR: May of 1992 I left China.
TRANSLATOR: I arrive in the US on June 6, 2003. I left China in May of 2002 and arrive in the US on June 6, 2003.
REESE: Over a year.
TRANSLATOR: It’s a very, very long and hard.
TRANSLATOR: A lot of places I spend over a year, sometimes a couple months. Just at the stops.
REESE: How long did he spend in the immigration jail?
TRANSLATOR: I spent one night at the immigrations service center. Then I was sent to a prison in I believe Pennsylvania, but I’m not sure. York, Pennsylvania.
TRANSLATOR: I was in the Pennsylvania prison for 1,300 something days.
REESE: What were the conditions like?
TRANSLATOR: The prison guard in the Pennsylvania prison were pretty nice, they treat me pretty good and it wasn’t that bad. Everyone treat me pretty nice.
REESE: Why did they let you out?
TRANSLATOR: At that time Clinton went to Pennsylvania, spoken to the governor, at that time I’m not sure who the governor is. The governor asked President Clinton about what he should do about the Chinese people who is currently at the prison and I believe that they said they should let us go. Then immigration held us for twelve days and after…
TRANSLATOR: …after the twelve days Clinton passed a law down to the governor in Pennsylvania, asked him to release all the asylees in the Pennsylvania prison.
REESE: He gave an order.
TRANSLATOR: An order, but that’s how he…
REESE: Some in the Chinese community say they are legally bringing their relatives here, and people who pay the snakeheads aren’t fair because they are cutting in line. How does he respond?
TRANSLATOR: I don’t understand.
TRACK 2 – 9:53
TRANSLATOR: I don’t believe it’s fair. I don’t believe it’s fair for people to just pay money to the snakeheads to bring their families to the US and cutting in line to the people who are doing it legally. I don’t think it’s fair.
REESE: But that’s what he did.
TRANSLATOR: I don’t understand why I come to the US myself, it was only because the poor condition in my own village, that’s why I came, so I don’t know if it’s really fair or not. The conditions were really bad and there were no other choices for me at that time.
REESE: Does he know many other people from Fuzhou who are living here in NY and face the same kind of conditions?
TRANSLATOR: I have known a lot of people who are doing the same thing illegally to come to the US.
REESE: Does he live with family or some other men down here?
TRANSLATOR: The place I’m living at I live with four other people, we have bunk beds, it is a very tight place. You can walk in, but there’s not that much place to move at.
REESE: It’s in Brooklyn?
TRANSLATOR: I live on Clinton Street. In Chinatown.
REESE: These aren’t relatives?
TRANSLATOR: all of them came from my village so I have some knowledge of them, but we’re not really that close. They’re not my relatives.
REESE: They’re living together to share the rent and it’s cheaper.
REESE: How much does he make now working in the restaurant?
TRANSLATOR: Because I…
TRANSLATOR: I earn about two thousand or more dollars per month, but at one restaurant I was almost beaten to death because there was a lot of burglary in Bronx and one of my teeth got broken. I don’t have the money to fix that.
REESE: How much does he pay for rent? Can he save any money or does everything go for expenses?
TRANSLATOR: I spend about a thousand, something dollars on expenses such as rent, groceries and clothing and stuff like that and the other thousand dollars I send back to China, to my relatives.
REESE: Is he glad or sad that he decided to pay the snakehead? Would he do it again?
TRANSLATOR: Due to my experiences I would not do it if I had known it was going to happen.
REESE: Tell me about the law in Congress to legalize your status.
TRANSLATOR: I have, I believe, I have knowledge they’re doing something to get a law passed in congress, but I don’t go into that much detail about what they’re doing, those people are doing, but I know they’re trying to get the green card on our behalf.
REESE: Anything else?
TRANSLATOR: I just want to say that that US government would give us some human rights. We can’t go anywhere, we don’t have any status. The people in China, we haven’t seen them for over ten-something years. Some of the parents are dying, they’re sick, and we can’t even go back to see them. The children are growing up, we haven’t even seen these children. We haven’t even hugged them. Just give us some rights, just pity us, and give us some status where we could live like normal people.
REESE: He would like to have residency status here, a green card here and be able to visit China?
TRANSLATOR: I would love to be able to see my parents and my wife again.
REESE: Would he be allowed to return to China?
TRANSLATOR: I think they would. If I were to have a green card then I could go into China. I want to ask if he would be able to come back out.
TRANSLATOR: I am afraid that I won’t be allowed to go outside of China again.
REESE: Good. Thank you.
TRACK 3 – 1:52
STEREO AMBIENCE TO GO WITH THE INTERVIEW WITH MR. DONG
ROOM TONE, 1 MIN.
STEREO AMBIENCE OF THE RESTAURANT
TRACK 4 – 1:10
REESE: No sound of chopping? Gracias, senores.
TRACK 5 – 2:08
REESE: This is a demonstration in front of the, what’s the name of the restaurant?
M: This is the Golden Bridge restaurant.
REESE: Why are people boycotting?
M: This restaurant opened up about five months ago and refused to hire any of the 318 union workers, which is the only independent Chinatown restaurant workers’ union that fights to improve conditions and they also threatened one of the union leaders and badmouthed the union in the press, saying it was an illegal organization.
REESE: And the demonstration ended.
TRACK 6 – 2:02
REESE: Say I’m so and so, introduce yourself and say what kind of work you do.
WILLIAM CHU: I am William Chu. I’m the chairman of the American Fujian Association of Commerce and Industry. We’re located at 11 East Broadway, Suite 12A, New York, New York, 10038.
REESE: You were telling me about what happened after 9/11 how people couldn’t get back to their homes.
WILLIAM CHU: Right after that day, after the plane had been run into the world trade, I was on BKLU and just like in front of you saw all the smoke come out from the building. And after a while there’s another one go in and then that day it’s just a disaster because world trade was all collapsed. And you cannot go through from Queens, Brooklyn, or Bronx. What I know is all bridges closed and then I was in front of the bridge you can go through. and I try to call the precinct, the fifth precinct, see whether they need help, ask the police to let us go through so that we can help them to see and interpret for the Chinese people that could run away. Unfortunately the precinct is all empty too, and all you could do was by recording, and the whole day we can’t go anywhere.
REESE: What about when people didn’t have ID?
WILLIAM CHU: After that they close up the whole area on the south, south of Canal Street, and if you don’t have ID you can’t go in there.
REESE: What did that mean, many of the Fujianese and others here don’t have ID.
WILLIAM CHU: Yeah. Most of them is new immigrant, they don’t have ID and they can’t come in. So it become a ghost town.
REESE: Tell me about changes in Chinatown since 1989…
TRACK 7 – 6:04
REESE: Tell me about changes in NY Chinatown with the immigration of Fujianese since ’89.
WILLIAM CHU: Since 1989 the first boat had been arrived to in Los Angeles and there was a big arrest and from that day on there’s over half a million of people from Fujian have been smuggled into USA. And they’re everywhere, a lot of them doing very good business because from workers and then they pay off the debt and then they open the restaurant and doing the business. And of course some of them still in the very bad shape because they don’t work enough.
REESE: What is the going rate now to pay a snakehead from China?
WILLIAM CHU: I don’t exactly know, but what I heard is before 1989 it’s about five, seven thousand dollars. That’s what they just mentioned about sister paying, that’s very, very low price. And the price kept going up because it’s more difficult for them to come over, and what I heard, it’s more than seventy-thousand per person nowadays.
REESE: What is the attitude in the community towards the snakeheads?
WILLIAM CHU: Most of the people are really happy about it because the new immigrants, with the old immigrant, the family could be get together. And then cousins and nephew they could be together again. Not like before you could only just make a phone call and talk to them on phone. And the secondary. And the way I could see it, the newer immigrant really bring life to America like in Chinatown. I still remember 34 years ago when I was first in America. I come to visit Chinatown, just like a dead place. On East Broadway, it’s a disaster area. After three, no one want to walk over it. And there’s some store where they’re selling shoes and clothing, nothing at all. On Bowery there’s just all the people, the drinking people laying on the floor with a bag of liquor and drinking and getting drunk and nothing else. A few restaurants, and the most busy time is Mott Street and Canal. And then you can identify Chinatown very easily. Oh, I’m going to Chinatown. Oh, you’re on Mott Street, you’re in Chinatown. But nowadays you walk up 13th street, you’re still in Chinatown. You walk up Delancey, used to be nothing there, and now almost on every street you see the China sign there and you say what’s going on, am I in Chinatown now? Yes, you are. Welcome to Chinatown.
REESE: How many square blocks now?
WILLIAM CHU: Okay, when you say square block, you really got me this time. When one block is one street I would say oh, over 144 square blocks.
REESE: Say that in a sentence.
WILLIAM CHU: It is about 144 square blocks. At least. Is Chinatown. And among there you see Little Italy there. Little Italy is on Mulberry Street.
REESE: Any sense of how much of the population now are Fujianese?
WILLIAM CHU: When you say that, it is so hard to answer, I tell you why. The old people, when I say old people, like we get old and new. new is a new immigrant and the old immigrant, most of them are citizens already and they have been living here of course and they still stay here, except the one who is not here is mostly young people and they grow up. They move someplace else because they don’t need to stay here because they speak English. The new immigrant, mostly they don’t speak English so they’re all coming here. So I would say it’s 50-50. 50 is old immigrant and 50 is new immigrant here.
REESE: And where mainly do the old immigrants come from?
WILLIAM CHU: The old immigrants many come from Hoisan, Hakaw, we call it Cantonese. And the new immigrant mostly are just Fujianese and some small part for Northeast.
REESE: Why so many from Fujian?
WILLIAM CHU: All right. I think it’s just the facility. Taiwan is right close to China. And I’m pretty sure I heard, maybe you people will know too. Every junk that comes in here, the captain is from Taiwan. The boat is from Taiwan too. They’re so close they could go to Fujian and they could smuggle the people in from China and they could smuggle them into America. And they could make a very good profit of it. And because of that we have so many boats coming here. That lead to 1994 Golden Venture incident and it’s a disaster because we have ten victims that drown in that incident.
REESE: Mr. Dong said the women had been raped by the sailors, that it took over a year to get to the US. Is that typical?
SOMEONE COMES TO THE DOOR
TRACK 8 – 11:35
REESE: We’re going to continue the interview here. Some people, there is a legal procedure for immigrating if you have family in China you can petition for them to come over. There is some resentment of the people who pay snakeheads.
WILLIAM CHU: Why you heard something like that?
REESE: That people shouldn’t try to immigrate illegally.
WILLIAM CHU: As far as I know, the government could give them a special visa, then they could be coming here sooner than the other one, because it is a special visa. We have a lot of different preference in one, two, three, four. And if you are in that category, I don’t see why someone have to complain about someone getting a special visa.
REESE: No, I’m talking about people who don’t get a visa at all.
WILLIAM CHU: Pay the snakehead to come here. One thing you have to remember. The people who apply for it, they get permanent residency when they come in here. And they can apply for social security and they can apply for all things they could really got. And they can go for the driver’s license and they get all kinds of privilege they have here. When they stay here for over one year, they could go to school for free. all those free, and yet these people are complaining about people who really have to pick up a big debt, like 70,000 or 50,000 or 20,000 to just get here and try to have their new life. They should really give them a break. If they complain about them, I just feel sick about people who have no moral and none of the humility at all. This is the way I feel. Even though I’m very lucky. thirty four years ago I come here, my father is a cook and then he applied from a P sector, a preference sector, a special cook coming here, our full family is here, we are the lucky one, but we can’t because of that and try to jeopardize someone. Especially in America. You have to remember America is only Red Indian before. After Columbus some white people and then England, France, anywhere that they all come over here and this became America. America of all different kind of color. Why should people jeopardize that? Please don’t do that.
REESE: There is a lot of sentiment to close borders in the US. What do you say about that?
WILLIAM CHU: When I heard about that I would say, “Are you red Indian?” If not, why you want to close the door? If someone closed your door before, how would you feel? If someone could tell me that and answer comfortably, maybe I could really feel better.
REESE: Mr. Dong said the people he knows, they try to get money from their family to pay off the debt and then pay their relatives back.
WILLIAM CHU: When you’re talking about form of payment, how they pay, I hear so many different ones. And the typical one you just mentioned about I’m pretty sure. If the donor is paid by one method, I doubt it is paid by the other method. But if he knows both, then I bet he has a friend who is also doing that. I’m pretty sure it’s different ways. I remember one time one of the community leaders I know came for help. I think oh god, I get two nephews in here and I didn’t promise to pay anything, but they come here now, what can I do? Can you talk to the snakehead? I said listen, you know, I’m not a snakehead. If I talk to them, what do you think they think? Well, you are community leader, we are all in the same boat, we’ve got to help. So I said maybe you’re right. If the people just mention about person’s name, they might mention my name and they think it’s my relative and just come in and try to get money. So I talked to them, oh, they are very nice. They know what I feel, I heard they were so bad, they will beat you, beat you whatever. And I said oh fine, they promise him to come but is here already, I will try to arrange that when they work and then they pay sure an amount until they collect all the fee. But is it possible that you could pay maybe a little bit deposit? But there’s no force, as he said, no force, and whatever you’re really comfortable and then you do it. And I ask my friend who is a community leader too, and he’s willing to pay a few thousand dollars and then he paid. And he said oh, I would like to work for my uncle and he maybe stayed there for two or three weeks. He left. So he was very afraid and he called me again. Oh, my god, I don’t know what to say but if he’s not there, we’d better tell him. So we tell him, oh don’t worry, if he’s not there, he’s not there. And sure enough later I think we will find him or meet him and I don’t think he will run away and he will pay. He talked very nice. Everyone said oh, they’re bad, they beat people. If I know that someone told me this guy said that, and he’s next to me and I talk, the way I said would be this. I don’t against you people but please, don’t rape, don’t kidnap. Everybody has own life. I’m fortunate enough, I have a new life, I don’t have to pay for anything. But if someone is already there, let them go and help them. You become hero, I said. I did really said that to them, and I don’t mind.
REESE: Do you think that’s typical?
WILLIAM CHU: I only met one so I don’t know the rest. If the rest is bad, I don’t know. But the one I met, I never see again.
REESE: What kinds of jobs do the new immigrants get?
WILLIAM CHU: Mostly get, as far as I know, many Fujian people that come in here, just like the people who come here to study, if they don’t know nothing, the first thing they’ll do is go to a restaurant and wash dishes. I presume that they do the same too. I’m not sure if relatives are brought in here, maybe they have a better job. I’ve been wash dishes before – twenty-four years ago, the first job I got was just two dollars an hour. I work ten hours, I get twenty-dollar pay. I one of the workers who take one day off, I wash that day as a dishwasher, my whole body was wet, I got $20. I did that too.
REESE: Do they work in garment shops too?
WILLIAM CHU: I think they do work in a garment, yeah.
REESE: Mostly women?
WILLIAM CHU: I don’t think so. I’ve been in a garment factory and I saw women but I also saw men. I would say they’re male and female. Only part I feel bad about, I heard, was the female who come here become prostitution. If they’re forced to do that, god save them. If not, I can say anything. That’s not my point.
REESE: I’ve heard those stories.
WILLIAM CHU: The debt is so very, very big. God bless the people.
REESE: I know conditions are difficult for all immigrants. Do they have to work longer hours for lower wages? How bad are conditions?
WILLIAM CHU: Actually, a lot of people try to complain. Oh, we don’t make enough money. They try to take advantages. But I have to be very frank with you. Myself, 34 years ago when I was here, I try to get a job, nobody hire. You know why? Because I have a green card. They are afraid I will do something to them. And what I do finally, the way that I did it, I walk into an Indonesian restaurant, I tell them I’m student, I have no green card, do you have a job? Oh, we really don’t have a job, but you will need help. But we only pay very, very low. I said how low? They said we only pay you $1.80 an hour. At that time it was $2.35. I said I don’t mind that, I will take it. I have an opening for dishwasher, if you want to come, you could do it tonight. I say fine, you can try me out first. And you know what happened? At night, after I finished, they say William, you can stay here, and we will start to pay you $2.35 from tonight on, not $1.80. So one thing in my mind, the way I feel, if you really worth the money, the people will pay you if you do have the performance. The one who always cry about themselves, that they don’t make enough money, because they don’t perform and they want to have the privilege of the other people who could perform. And that’s wrong. They should really think about and do it, think about twice. Before they say oh, there is no minimum wages and the people is not really working. Let’s face it. Reese. If you are the person not working and the radio station doesn’t pay you and you don’t make enough, you think you would sit here? But if you can perform, you think they would pay you, I doubt it. I’m sorry, I’m not offending you, but the way they talk, they’re just like you and me. I only believe performance. And that’s why I work in New York life for thirty-one years already. And I’m still working. You talk about eight hours. I work seven days a week, I work almost sixteen hours a day. I’m sorry. Not all is in New York life, but most of the time I spend is in community. I help the community grow, but I don’t mind the work and I don’t get paid too.
TRACK 9 – 10:29
REESE: We’re out on the streets with William Chu. Where are we now?
WILLIAM CHU: We’re on Fuzhou Street. This is called East Broadway, in NY City. And we’re at the corner of E. Broadway and Catherine Street.
REESE: Why do they call it Fuzhou Street?
WILLIAM CHU: The reason for that is the most, the majority of people who walk on this street on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, is almost 98% is from Fuzhou. And that is why they call it Fuzhou Street. They have Fuzhou #1 street and Fuzhou #2 street. And the #1 street is E. Broadway. And the second one is Algers Street. And you could go up to six, seven block, it’s all Fuzhou people.
REESE: Let’s go where there’s more people.
WILLIAM CHU: Even now, it’s tough because it’s Monday, and you can see almost everywhere is closed. So in the daytime you float with the traffic, at nighttime you can walk by yourself and no one shows up at all. This is a liquor that is owned by Housan people. I think it is still Housan people.
REESE: A lot of brandy.
WILLIAM CHU: Yeah, more than that, they got Muthai too. This is Dong Tang mall, which is a new mall they just opened. There used to be a restaurant next to it, and now they all closed up and became mall. When this mall is being, they have one store, and they break down to ten, twenty store. I’m going to bring you to one of them, make you feel excited about it. This is one of the chairmen from the health Association. This is Reese. He’s from California. And this is reporter. You want to say something about Fuzhou Street here on E. Broadway? You don’t have to use your name if you’re afraid to use your name.
KAI YU CHEM: My name’s Chem. Kai Yu Chem.
REESE: Are you a member of the community association here?
KAI YU CHEM: Yeah.
REESE: What do you do?
KAI YU CHEM: We do American ginseng.
WILLIAM CHU: Right now he is a store owner of American ginseng. You know ginseng? And he is a store owner at 88 East Broadway. This store selling candy and this store selling ginseng.
REESE: You can speak in Fujianese, that’s okay. What does the community association do? How does it help people?
WILLIAM CHU: What Mr. Chem really talking about is most of the association here right now in Fuzhou community, we’ve got over 120 associates and each associate really represent one of their commune, their place, their villages. And what they do is they try to help their new immigrant members or their relatives or their new village people, the communist people, to facing the difficulties, solve the problems, so they can make a good living in here.
WILLIAM CHU: So what mainly they really do, once they pay off the debt of the new immigrant they learn how to live in America and they have some saving and they learn to build up the business and what they do is advocate, show them how to expand their knowledge and really do their own business. Just like Mr. Chem used to be a worker and now he is a store owner.
WILLIAM CHU: When they start a business, usually they have a lot of problem, and what they do is help them find the right corridor so they don’t have those problems anymore. Like if they have to file a corporation, they don’t know where to go, they show them to a lawyer, so they can file a corporation to protect themselves when they ask if they do have, or so they could limit their liability. Or when they need a license for a restaurant and the health department give them a lot of problems, so they really have to communicate with the health department to make sure they’re not over dealing or discriminating them so they can make a living on their own business.
REESE: How long have you been in the United States?
KAI YU CHEM: Fifteen years ago.
REESE: Say for the translation.
WILLIAM CHU: I came here fifteen years ago.
REESE: And what kind of work did you do when you first came?
KAI YU CHEM: First time I work in a Chinese restaurant I open now American food. Mexican food.
WILLIAM CHU: So fifteen years ago I work in a Chinese restaurant and now I have a ginseng store and also a Mexican restaurant.
REESE: Where did you learn to cook Mexican food?
KAI YU CHEM: I learned Mexican food two years ago.
SOMEONE ELSE COMES IN
WILLIAM CHU: This is Mr. Quoh. Executive vice-chair from the American Fujian association of commerce and industry. And he’s done a lot of business in Hungway, Hangjo in China. Now he’s in Chinatown.
REESE: I’m doing a documentary for NPR.
WILLIAM CHU: Before he start his Mexican restaurant business he work in a Mexican restaurant and after he learn all the tricks and the way to operate a Mexican restaurant and then that’s what Mr. Chem said, we’ve opened a lot of chains as a Mexican restaurant and we are the top ten for Mexican food in New York City.
REESE: What’s the favorite dish he knows how to cook.
WILLIAM CHU: Quesadillas. Quesadillas, like fajitas, tacos. It’s better.
WILLIAM CHU: In New York there is the top 100 and Mr. Chem’s restaurant is in the top ten.
WILLIAM CHU: Continuously for five years, the top ten.
REESE: Amazing. Congratulations.
KAI YU CHEM: Thank you.
REESE: That’s a real success story.
WILLIAM CHU: I hate people try to make it so bad and try to say oh, everybody’s so poor and they need help. I tell you one thing, is that most of the honest Fuzhou people in New York, they all know that you want people to help you, you got to help yourself first. And they are very successful and they are doing very well and not just like how people say oh how bad, how poor they are. And actually…
WILLIAM CHU: See? Some do and some don’t. This is Li Ching, a nice restaurant, is negotiating to sell to Fuzhou people, and they’re from Canton.
REESE: I’m going to get the sound from inside.
SOUND INSIDE THE RESTAURANT
WILLIAM CHU: He says this is also a Fuzhou party for someone who is getting married.
MAN: Wedding party.
WILLIAM CHU: And this is the reporter, Reese, from California.
REESE: I liked the sound of the music.
CHAT ABOUT THE PARTY
REESE: Can I take a picture?
TRACK 10 – 0:20
REESE: Wedding sound.
TRACK 11 – 1:25
BACK ON THE STREET
WILLIAM CHU: Fifteen store in there. This is a jewelry store, a ginseng store, and then you have apparels, for ladies and men, and they have some gift shop items.
REESE: They call this a mall?
WILLIAM CHU: They call this mall, they call this mall. And this is typical of the way that the people in Fujian, when they have a place to open, and this is where they would go and shop. So here you look like you’re in Fuzhou. This is a restaurant owned by Fuzhou people. And they become very successful businessmen and they used to be also ??? Here, but they do very well now. They have buildings in there too.
REESE: I just want a minute of the sound of this. One minute of music.
END OF CD 1
CD 2 – 79:41
TRACK 1 – 6:39
REESE: The sound of cooking.
0:28 – KITCHEN NOISES
REESE: Sound, maybe of something in the wok?
1:35 – SOUND OF FAN STARTS
2:35 – SIZZLING PAN
3:17 – FAN ENDS
REESE: What is the name of the restaurant?
MAN: Keng Seafood Restaurant.
REESE: Thank you.
3:40 – DANCE MUSIC AGAIN
WILLIAM CHU: Let’s go down into the restaurant. And let’s check out the kitchen.
WILLIAM CHU: This is another restaurant with a wedding. Some of the movie company would like to have a place, which is owned by Fuzhou people, when they are not busy at all, and rent the place for movie.
REESE: To show movies or make movies?
WILLIAM CHU: To make movies. This is another mall. The barbershop is still open, the salon, you want to go in there and take a look?
REESE: Sure, why not?
WILLIAM CHU: This is normally so busy and she’s still working in here.
SPEAKS WITH OWNERS
WILLIAM CHU: This is a salon. People are getting their hair cut. And I don’t know what kind of sound you could have here. It’s not real, but they got music. It’s nice. They got all kinds of material here. This is the owner, typical hard worker. After age, still working.
SPEAKS WITH OWNERS
WILLIAM CHU: Okay, great. Bye, bye. They are hard-working people.
TRACK 2 – 17:17
REESE: I see there’s a moneygram to send money back home. I guess in the old days you had to send with mail or someone who was working.
WILLIAM CHU: This is Reese. Mr. Juh. Mr. Juh is an old immigrant. He has been here over 30 years.
WILLIAM CHU: He’s in the construction business. Alternation, renovation, he’ll be the expert for it.
REESE: Moneygrams send money home.
WILLIAM CHU: In the old days you just heard from the radio before, Sister Ping used to do that, and I’m pretty sure this was one part of the show she was involved with. Because it’s called laundered money, right? But in the Chinese community they’d do a lot of this, but they didn’t know it was laundered money. They didn’t know this was illegal. But this is good, let people know they won’t do it.
REESE: The idea was if you wanted to get money to your relatives you’d give it to her and she’d make sure it got to the families.
WILLIAM CHU: Yes, and it was a nominal fee. $5. The bank’s charging ten, she’s charging five, and also, once you put the money in here, in Fuzhou they have the money already. So why not, so the people do it. It’s what you call convenient. But they didn’t know it’s laundered money. It takes someone like me or you to say hey, this is laundering money.
REESE: It didn’t used to be considered laundering money.
WILLIAM CHU: But not with the racketeering law and it’s laundering money. I don’t think so because I heard a long time ago in the newspaper about this Mexican immigrant group that was wiring money through the bank, over $50,000 to unrelated business and then they call it laundering money an d get arrested. So I think for a long time nobody knows.
REESE: It wasn’t enforced. The Muslim community had that problem too.
WILLIAM CHU: Did they arrest a lot of the Muslim community?
REESE: Yeah, especially.
WILLIAM CHU: They saw a lot of tour busses, traveling buses from here, and today one of the traveling buses is owned by one of our Fuzhou people too, that have a bus line to go to Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington DC.
HEAVY STREET NOISE (SUBWAY?)
REESE: That was an EL, wasn’t it?
WILLIAM CHU: That was a subway. This is the Manhattan Bridge on top, and then there is a Grant Street Station from ??? and the subway is from here to there.
ANOTHER SUBWAY COMES THROUGH UNDER THE NEXT PART –
And then every time when they go through, when you’re in this building it’s not soundproof. When you’re in that building, it’s soundproof. And right now, the rental in that building is lower than the rental in this building but the people, the tenant in there, tried to sue the landlord, say they raise the price too much and try to fight with the landlord.
SOUND OF METAL GATE SHUTTING
WILLIAM CHU: This is the sound of people going home from work, so they close up the store from the gate.
REESE: This is, after all, New York.
WILLIAM CHU: After all, this is New York, no matter where you go you need the gate.
REESE: Everywhere I think.
WILLIAM CHU: Everywhere? Okay. This is all Fuzhou famous fishbowl pastry. This is all made by meat, like a wonton. It tastes delicious. Fuzhou people love it.
REESE: Is that a moon cake?
WILLIAM CHU: This one is not a moonquake. This is a pastry…
SPEAKS TO OWNER
WILLIAM CHU: When the people get married in Fuzhou this is the cake that they send to the people. And that’s a fish ball. Rice cake. We’re at the bus stop and the people get off here from Boston, Washington, Pennsylvania. And from this street go to the other. We see the, what’s that, Bushi?
WILLIAM CHU: Bushed
REESE: That means they’re tired?
WILLIAM CHU: Down there is bushed, that’s another sign. That’s to Boston.
REESE: So it’s mostly for people in Chinatown.
WILLIAM CHU: Well, it used to be, that’s what you think, but now it’s for people like Americans, and they all come over here because the price is so good. It’s all kinds, not just Chinese anymore. And the owner is very smart, he also has a stop at 34th or 33rd street. So it’s not just going to stop here. Bakery, we have a lot of bakery. This is all brand new this year, just opened. Wedding center up there, and bakery down there.
REESE: Oh, yeah. Where you’re going to get your wedding clothes?
WILLIAM CHU: Wedding clothes, everything. Tuxedos, facial, makeup, everything.
REESE: Weddings seem very big.
WILLIAM CHU: Oh yeah, when you have half a million population, everywhere are getting married. People here, might be going to Washington, DC or Boston or Philadelphia. Here is another example, that when you look over, it’s called FUZHOU….. Mr. Chem used to have a small restaurant like this. But nowadays because so many Fuzhou people are there, they eat Fujianese food, he got a restaurant, called Lucky Banquet, which is across the street.
WILLIAM CHU: This is going to be a hotel. I don’t think a motel, but it says Hotel 91. It’s renovating and they put up a hotel right on East Broadway.
REESE: Are there other hotels here?
WILLIAM CHU: Not on East Broadway. It’s the only one, then you have a ??? on East Bowery, which is about $10 a bed, and then you get another one on Foresight Street, the Four Star Winds Hotel is about $160 a night for a room. Not a bed, a room. This is all Fuzhou people for the snack and dishes. A salon. Oh, they do tattoo too. My son is being tattooed.
REESE: Are there tattoos in China?
WILLIAM CHU: I can’t answer that question. I know a lot of people do tattoo, most of them are American or other people. I seldom see Chinese do tattoo. Sometimes Japanese do tattoo. And this is unusual for me, I remember that tattoo used to be illegal in America. You cannot do it and everyone who is doing it is doing it secretly. And now you can do it everywhere you want. Including the Chinese community, in Chinatown.
WILLIAM CHU: Oh, I saw it already, it dropped in the street (?). typical store. In Fuzhou I saw a lot of stores like that on a small street.
REESE: Did you go back to China?
WILLIAM CHU: Three years ago I was in Fuzhou for four days.
REESE: I’ve been to China three times myself, and I know people, some people want to immigrate to the US. How realistic was their understanding of what life would be like here?
WILLIAM CHU: This is the La Fujian restaurant that I told you that Mr. Juh put up. This here.
REESE: The man we met.
WILLIAM CHU: No, another Mr. Juh. And his friend asked him to put another one over here, and this is the one he put up for banquets.
REESE: Let’s step away. How realistic is the Chinese understanding of life here?
WILLIAM CHU: 100% of the people, if you told them how hard life was going to be here they would think you were baloney, that you just don’t want me to be there so I could be your competition. But a lot of people that when I got here that I heard said oh, I’m so sorry that I’m here. Number one, this is not Fuzhou, and nothing is convenient for you because you don’t speak English so you have to stay in Chinatown, and some people discriminate you because you are a new immigrant, as I told you before. So it happens. The only way you can do is to belong to this Commerce association and learn from them so you know how to really live in this world, and then you’ll feel a lot better. And I’ve been back in China and they ask me how is America? I say it’s just like a slave camp, because I work sixteen hours a day, seven days a week, nonstop. It doesn’t matter I’m making a living or working for the community, but the way I tell them is it’s a slave camp.
REESE: They don’t believe you.
WILLIAM CHU: What they answer because they don’t believe me is I don’t mind being a slave camp member like you. I tell them get your family to send you, but you will be sorry. And some people when they come here they say oh, I met you, you’re William Chu, you told me this is a slave camp, I don’t believe it, I feel so sorry I don’t listen to you, I’m here. It’s really tough. I’m the one who speaks English and I do okay, but it’s tough, it’s tough. Someone make six thousand dollars, you make two thousand. It’s a lot in Fuzhou, but not in here.
REESE: People see people sending money and see pictures. Do immigrants here, when they send pictures home they are intentionally trying to make it look like they’re more successful?
WILLIAM CHU: One thing I object to is taking pictures is a really serious matter in Chinese culture because it’s really forever they have to show here is my grandpa in New York. How can they be bad? Of course, they have to dress the best. I remember when I was in Hong Kong, my parents went to shoot a photo for Chinese New Year, we always had the best suit on, then shop our hair, we go to barbershop, my sister go in the salon, and we go in the back and take one picture. I’ve got one picture from thirty-four or thirty-six years ago, it looks so cute. So when you say the people dress up nice to show the people in China, it’s not intentionally, it’s just deliberately you have to show the best, it doesn’t matter how poor you are, you would not if you lived in a big hole, would you take a picture and send it back to China. No, not even here.
REESE: They’re not trying to fool.
WILLIAM CHU: Right. It’s traditional culture to show our best. It’s not people trying to fool people.
REESE: What street is this?
WILLIAM CHU: This is Pike Street or Allen Street that you call, and the council just approved, they’re going to put up a sign for the Chinese symbol. They don’t know exactly where yet. Some say on Mott Street some say here, but the money is there ready, they just need to be sure they do the right thing and it will really be the symbol of Chinatown.
REESE: All right. Do you need to go back to your office?
WILLIAM CHU: Of course. This is a supermarket owned by a Vietnamese and Cantonese and they do very successfully and now they got over ten stores in this two-state area, New Jersey and New York. Brooklyn, Queens, New York, they all have a chain and including New Jersey, but over 10 supermarkets. And you just passed by the other one, Fuzhou Supermarket, one of our leaders discovered that was a way to make money too so they pay the owners of the store there and people have their own supermarket. And you can see they’re busy.
REESE: Let’s go back.
WILLIAM CHU: Meanwhile, you see people with bags. They’re going to some other places. Maybe Massachusetts and DC or Pennsylvania. This is a gas station for many, many years. Be careful.
REESE: In NY you have no rights as a pedestrian.
WILLIAM CHU: It’s not only Chinese drivers, American drivers. I don’t care if they’re white or blue or black or brown, they don’t care. I’ve talked to the department of transportation and complained about he traffic light for the pedestrian so they have enough time to cross the street and they told me oh, Mr. Chu Chinatown has the most safety for pedestrians. And I said if you don’t do it, I will go to the media and tell them.
TRACK 3 – 5:56
WILLIAM CHU: It cost double to build, they estimate.
REESE: Hi, how are you?
SPEAKS WITH OWNER
TRAIN GOES THROUGH
WILLIAM CHU: When you walk in there you will hear the soundproof.
TRAIN SOUND FADES AWAY
REESE: Mr. Dong told me he lives in a small room with four others. And he works in a restaurant, he’s a chef. He says he saves about $1000 a month and send it home. Does that sound good?
WILLIAM CHU: That sounds good. Put it this way, $1000 in America is $8000 in renminbi. But nowadays….this is a lady whose doing a ginseng store too. And they’re closing up. She consider she has a very big store. It is over 20 feet long and I’m pretty sure the rental is quite high. It’s surprisingly high for East Broadway.
SPEAKS TO OWNER
WILLIAM CHU: She is rushing to a wedding party. Maybe tomorrow you come back.
REESE: Everybody’s getting married tonight.
WILLIAM CHU: It’s Monday. Monday is wedding night for Fuzhou people. This is a street of catering restaurants. Monday, Sunday, Tuesday, sometimes even Wednesday. Sunday is for Cantonese people, Friday is for Americans and Cantonese, and Thursday is the most quiet day because most people have to go to work, so you won’t see many people here.
AGGRIVATED MEN SPEAKING
REESE: What are they talking about?
WILLIAM CHU: This restaurant, why do they give so many tips? This restaurant, the people who work here get paid a lot, and they wonder why do they get so many tips? It could be a topic. There are a lot of restaurants, a lot of salon. All the necessity people need. Ginseng shop, where they go after work so they can perform better.
REESE: By ginseng you mean herbal medicines. I studied that in Singapore.
WILLIAM CHU: We are back to East Broadway and Catherine Street. This corner, which is about seven Fujianese Associations in there, the Baker Street one is the Chang Luh American Association, because most of the members all join one and the rest is all Commerce Association.
TRACK 4 – 2:58
REESE: General street ambience in Chinatown, New York.
PEOPLE TALKING, HORNS, DISTANT TRAFFIC
REESE: Okay, we’re walking down the street now.
TRUCKS, PEOPLE TALKING
TRACK 5 – 1:48
0:34 CHINESE WOMEN SMOKING ON THE STREET
1:12 TRUCK PULLS UP AND AWAY
TRACK 6 – 11:20
REESE: Interview with Jimmy Chang. Introduce yourself.
JIMMY CHANG: I am Jimmy Chang from the United Fujianese American Association. Vice president. I Jimmy Chang from United Fujianese American Association. Vice president.
REESE: And I have permission to record you for broadcast?
JIMMY CHANG: Yes.
REESE: When did you first come here and what job did you first get?
JIMMY CHANG: I come here in 1978. First time I make a dish wash in a kitchen, working for American restaurant. And at that time I only make $30 a day, $40 a day at night. And in the daytime I go to school for four years. So nighttime and the weekend I go to American restaurant to make the people take off cook and dish wash for four years.
REESE: Where were you from in China?
JIMMY CHANG: Fujian in south China. I came from south China, Fujian.
REESE: What did you do after working for restaurants?
JIMMY CHANG: After working for restaurant, I cannot working for them, actually I work in the summertime, working for sportswear. After high school I go into follow up my brother to do sportswear to open shop for sportswear fashion, contractor.
REESE: This is a tough job. Is cost a problem?
JIMMY CHANG: Yes, and that time, is because they have no WTO, so a lot of garments should be here, not much difficult right now, but at that time a lot of manufacturers, they’re still making domestic. So if we’re doing nice quality, shipping on time, 1980 something, 1990, at that time the stock could be much harder than now because at that time garments were making domestic.
REESE: There were more garments made inside the US then as opposed to now.
JIMMY CHANG: Definitely. More garments made here, sometime we can get better price if they don’t pay the better price because otherwise they can’t make the label cheap, the worker don’t want to do that.
REESE: What happened in the last ten years?
JIMMY CHANG: The change is because people starting to make the garment, import and the garment industry is change. The world economic is change. Between the US and China trading, they change. So in China they got Shanghai and Hong Kong, they starting opening to do garment factory over there. So the labor over there is very cheap. Even they have ??? Before, June of ’05, but the high price of the garment, they still got benefit to make over there, China, to make Shanghai. In ten years and like before they’re starting to move. The factory and other garments go to China already.
REESE: What can you do here to compete?
JIMMY CHANG: To compete because New York City, Manhattan, we have world fashion center here, fashion avenue, fashion center, because the garment center is midtown. We are close to the midtown, ten minutes, fifteen minutes, so if they have quick shipping, we make it here. Short time, quick time, we make it here. And price, lower level price, it’s like they’re starting twenty dollar, $30 lower price, they got to make it here. So in fashion, the style, teenage, the style is a fancy style they have to make it here because it change every season. So we have a hard time. Right now it’s very hard to stay with that because cheap price go outside. Naschung, they start in Naschung. Many fashion decide, they’re holding the older garments, make up to after July first they have a low quota, to make quota. That’s why we make it much cheaper, over here, over there. Since July last year the business is tough in NYC and lose a lot of jobs here for all the workers.
REESE: How many Fujianese are there as a percentage?
JIMMY CHANG: The starting immigrant in 1983, so such, such become permanent in July 1984. A lot apply to move here. The growing they figured out all the US are 800,000 people Fujianese. 800,000. Restaurant, Chinese food takeout, we have 60,000 restaurant between food takeout and buffet, all the country. We pride for all the workers, 300,000 workers for all the workers in the US. We supply for all the workers, 300,000. In New York we have actually more than 100,000 coming here. We have 50 to 60 thousand to citizenship here. We have green card, 20 – 30,000 like that.
REESE: Describe Fujianese political organization.
JIMMY CHANG: Last year we starting to have Fujian community understand we have so many citizenship here, we do not go to vote. So as far as Chinese American we are aligned to starting in March, after personal day.
CELL PHONE RINGS
REESE: You were saying in a sentence or two tell me the efforts to organize.
JIMMY CHANG: We just very old way to do to make people come out. We have family to family, friendship to friendship to tell them to come out and vote. This is freedom, this is US, we have to go out and vote to get benefits. People feel we have education thing, we say this is our community is very strong right now. Everybody say, because our community is united all together NYC. Because NYC Chinatown is all we have. We have lawyer, accounting, banking, all the family is here. Even people living all the way even ten hours back, fourteen hours back they still come here to Chinatown. Shopping, make meeting with friends, so they like to buy condo here, house here. So they like to get together, they don’t want to go too far away from the others.
TRACK 7 – 15:43
REESE: This is Jimmy’s garment factory.
JIMMY SPEAKS WITH WOMAN
0:18 SEWING MACHINE? STARTS
DISTANT WOMAN’S VOICE – LOUDSPEAKER?
WOMAN: Explain why we are here.
REESE: Introduce yourself again.
JIMMY CHANG: I’m Jimmy Chang, I’m the owner of ??? (store name). we have about sixty workers working here.
REESE: Are most of them Fujianese?
JIMMY CHANG: Mostly Fujianese, or Cantonese.
REESE: You help the community?
JIMMY CHANG: Yes. We hope people can continue with working here with ??? because this workers are totally new immigrant coming here. They don’t speak much English, they can’t find other jobs, they need this job. It’s very, very important to support a family by working here.
REESE: What clothing do you make?
JIMMY CHANG: We make sportswear, skirt, pants, shirt, like that.
REESE: Any brand names?
JIMMY CHANG: The garment is making for JC Penny. Kohl. We sell these garments for domestic. We hope we make it better than imports.
REESE: You face competition from Asian countries?
JIMMY CHANG: Between the US and Asia China and India and ??? their labor is cheap over there, but our labor is $6 an hour right now. But over there, in a month they don’t even get $100 US dollars. So I see with the labor we can’t even compare. But compare, we working hard we deliver faster than anyone in the whole world. we deliver faster than anyone else.
REESE: You deliver faster.
JIMMY CHANG: We have as soon as possible, we always 24 hour, we deliver. We do not have even one week deliver. We always same day deliver. Like, this morning they come in and afternoon we ship it out, ready. Like 10,000 garment, easy. That’s’ why we stay in business here.
REESE: Do the Fujianese who come here, what happens if the industry loses jobs?
JIMMY CHANG: Right now between 20 years ago, the people coming here, 90% working in garment manufacture. Now, 70% are working for restaurants. Something changed. We do not have supply of so many jobs here the garment factory, the people all go to restaurants to wash dishes or cook. Restaurant is more right now.
REESE: Okay, we’re going to get some ambience here.
RHYTHMIC SHOOSHING SOUND
VARIOUS MACHINES – SEWING MACHINE?
REESE: What are they making?
JIMMY CHANG: They’re making pants.
REESE: Looks like women’s pants.
JIMMY CHANG: Yes, women’s pants. Right.
REESE: Sound of steaming as they’re pressing the pants.
8:18 WOMAN SPEAKING VERY CLOSE
8:45 RADIO MUSIC PLAYING
10:00 WOMAN SPEAKING CLOSE – EMPHATIC
REESE: What did she say?
TRANSLATOREESE: She says she’s from China, it’s a very poor place. And she needs to earn more money, she work, the government needs to bring more work to here. Don’t bring it to China, don’t bring it to Mexicans.
WOMAN: More working, more money. Yeah. Money.
REESE: Did she have to pay to come here from Fujian?
TRANSLATOR TALKS TO HER
TRANSLATOR: No, she is immigrant.
WOMAN: No working, no working.
TRANSLATOR: Not enough to work. Ten dollars a day right now, not enough work. Like, today she has work, but last week she did not have work, so the work right now is not $10 a day.
REESE: Is that possible? Even for piecework it has to be more.
TRANSLATOR: She is working by the piece rate. But there isn’t enough work. So only ten dollars, $15, $20.
REESE: That’s tough. Thank you very much.
REESE: Sound of a cutter.
REESE: Is that possible because under minimum wage don’t they get the minimum per hour?
TRANSLATOR: Yes, that’s why when they come in they have to punch the card. If they have work, they need to punch the card how many hours they work. That’s why they come in some times only work for two hours. So they get $10, $20. Sometimes they come in and just sit there, waiting for the work.
REESE: They’re off the clock.
MACHINE NOISE – REALLY NEAT SOUND
REESE: What’s he doing?
TRANSLATOR: Part of a button. Hook.
REESE: He’s putting the metal hooks?
TRANSLATOR: Hook, yeah. The belt.
REESE: He’s putting the metal clasp on for the belt. Just say “I’m” and etc.
JOANNA CHEN: My name is Joanna Chen. I’m working in the local 325 as a business agent. So this is a shop, I go to most stops in Chinatown.
REESE: Say I’m.
JOANNA CHEN: I’m Joanna Chen. I work with the union and as a business agent so take care of the shop in Brooklyn, Queens, and Chinatown.
JOANNA CHEN: I’m Joanna Chen. I work here for a business agent.
REESE: Looks like they’re going home.
TRACK 8 – 1:34
REESE: Sound of leaving the factory.
RHYTHMIC SOUND IN BACKGROUND, SPEECH IN FAR BACKGROUND
0:46 TIME CLOCK
REESE: I see, this is actually the elevator. So we can go someplace.
WOMAN: Hallway. Just a few questions. I’m not a big shot like she is.
REESE: I only interview big shots. I’ll ask the same questions and you can decide…
TRACK 9 – 1:02
METAL DOOR OPENS
0:31 ELEVATOR SOUND STOPS, GATE GOES UP
(PEOPLE CALLING: Goodbye! Bye!)
REESE: You have to speak three or four languages around New York. Let me get your names on tape…
TRACK 10 – 7:05
HALLWAY – PEOPLE SPEAKING IN THE BACK
REESE: We’re back with some more union interviews. Introduce yourself.
LANA CHEN: My name is Lana Chen. I work for unite here which is the common worker union.
REESE: Say I’m.
LANA CHEN: I’m Lana Chen, I work for Unite Here, the common worker union.
REESE: What is your position?
LANA CHEN: I work in the education department. I am educational program director.
REESE: Introduce yourself.
JOANNA CHEN: I’m Joanna Chen, I work for Unite, common worker’s union.
REESE: Lana I have your permission to record this for broadcast?
LANA CHEN: Yes.
REESE: Impact of globalization on business, discuss.
JOANNA CHEN: For understand, a lot of workers complain because they don’t’ have work in the shop. They complain they send a lot of work to overseas. I have one worker in the shop who says they want the government to help them get work in NY and have more money to survive. A lot of work is sent out to overseas. So they hope the organizing, the other organized community will help them to get more work.
LANA CHEN: Since the NAFTA, North American Free Trade Agreement, we lost a lot of production jobs, especially in garment factories, and most of our workers, being affected by a free trade agreement, but I think it is an unfair agreement. And our members, the age is 45, most of them are under 60. they are not under the time to retirement. It is hard for them to get vocational training to move to another job, so I see many of them suffer by the free trade agreement and when I was at the shop many of them say they want more job here and don’t want to depend on welfare, that’s doing nothing. That’s my personal feeling.
REESE: Tell me about he delivery man in the elevator.
LANA CHEN: There is news happened last month, the Fujianese delivery man was stuck in the elevator when he delivered food to one family in a government building. It’s a housing project, yes. And what happened is when he came from the restaurant he was stuck in the elevator. After three days people find him.
REESE: Why was this outrageous?
LANA CHEN: When he first got out from the elevator and told the Chinese community I can’t believe this happen in the US and a person was stuck I the elevator and be stuck for three days.
REESE: Someone revealed h e didn’t have documents.
LANA CHEN: Yes, according to reports he was an undocumented Chinese man who was stuck in the elevator. I don’t think that is a correct way of saying that because everyone should have privacy here and that is against the law.
REESE: Someone told the newspapers he was undocumented.
LANA CHEN: yes, that’s why as a reader we know the story.
REESE: What was the community reaction?
LANA CHEN: The Chinese community was very shocked that this happened because after this happened they set up a team for more than 100 police to investigate, the river, the building, the sidewalk, but they can’t find him. And according to the delivery guy when it first happen he knocked the door and someone answered him but they didn’t care. His English was not so good, he could only say “No good, no good,” so someone knew he was stuck in there but nobody cared, nobody was concerned. So it’s really a lousy story and the second surprise for the committee people is how come they expose the victim’s status? Because in NYC there’s a law to protect everyone has they’re privacy.
TRACK 11 – 8:16
REESE: Continuing Union interviews. Lana, I know in the Fujianese community there’s a sense of solidarity but there’s also class differences. Mr. Chu said below minimum wage is okay, what do you think?
LANA CHEN: As union staff, I support to pay minimum wages because especially for the garment worker they work very hard. If you never work in a garment factory you can’t imagine how hard they are. Under the hot weather they are repeating a job again and again, to make New York fashionable, so I support minimum wages.
JOANNA CHEN: We all support minimum wages for the workers, but we know in this industry it’s very hard because most important is the worker need to fight for themselves too. In this situation even though they fight for it, they want to give up, so we educate them to fight for it, don’t give up, that’s what we see right now.
REESE: How do you describe those relations between community and employers.
LANA CHEN: What I see is the community organization, other organizations, community leaders, they all support the workers because right now they understand there’s not many jobs left for the immigrant, especially production work like the garment factory, so they all support the worker. We all work together and we are fighting very hard in the political, for example, register to vote and bring our issues to the politicians.
REESE: Many Fujianese are not citizens, but some are?
JOANNA CHEN: It’s true. Like Jimmy says, after 1985 they got the legal green card and even though they belong to citizen they are not coming out because they are afraid and they say it is not their business and after a few years the Fujianese community educates them. They need to come out to vote if they are citizens. Last year, they came out to vote, it’s true.
REESE: Why is that happening now?
JOANNA CHEN: They believe they could get something from the government. Before, they didn’t think they had the right to and now they feel they have the right to get something but in this few year they feel they need to do something and they could get the benefit and they know more about human rights.
REESE: Is this an immigrant pattern of voting?
LANA CHEN: I think after many years through the hard work by the union and the community group and the Fujianese organization and two years ago we finally elect the first councilman is an Asian Chinese councilman so it gave us courage for other voters that if we united together we would get our job done. They understand if we live in US many policy are decided not by the politician but the politician will collect the voices and decide what they are going to do, the best way for the community. they understand that and more people come to register if they are eligible and come out to vote. The election for city councilmen is a great encouragement for the Chinese to vote.
REESE: Any positive examples of organizing in the Fujianese community you can point to?
JOANNA CHEN: No.
REESE: Why is it difficult to organize the Fujianese?
JOANNA CHEN: In this few year, because a lot of the work is sending out to overseas and also the Fujianese people, when they come to the US they don’t know much about the union and they get benefits from the outside and they thought they could get medical from the government. The most important thing is they don’t want to pay more money to the government. Like if they want to join the union they don’t want to pay payroll stuff because they need c ash to survive.
LANA CHEN: I think the main issue is we don’t have too many jobs here and I have a conversation with Fujianese workers and they all say they earn very little, they are worried about their life here so right now they all want to, depends on the government.
END OF CD 2
TRACK 1 – 0:53
OUTSIDE – TRAFFIC, TALKING
CHINESE WOMEN SMOKING ON THE STREET
TRACK 2 – 6:47
REESE: Why do people keep coming to the US?
JOANNA CHEN: I think because even though they come here with little money it’s still better than their country. Last year I went back to my country, it’s been 43 years I went back. There are no jobs back there, it’s very poor. There are old people and babies in their village. That’s why they choose and very hard to find ways to come here. Better than there.
REESE: It costs a lot to come here. How do they afford it?
LOW HUM OUTSIDE
JOANNA CHEN: Like Jimmy say we have a good relationship with people even though we don’t know him. So people collect money from their relatives and friends. If they have friends who have a restaurant or factory so they can get help from them. They work hard to get money and pay to the snakehead.
LANA CHEN: I want to record that many of the worker is quite difficult to organize. The Fujianese worker today because the main issue is we don’t have too many jobs here and some of them think right now we have government benefit like child help or family help that helps them if they have some medical problem, so that’s a reason also.
REESE: What is the attitude towards snakeheads?
JOANNA CHEN: In Fujianese they all say Peng is a good lady. For me too. By the relatives she supposedly my sister, but a long generation ago. I heard from my mother and relatives they say she is really a good lady, she help a lot of the Fujianese people. Even though they are not enough pay the money, she borrow the money to the people so they like her.
REESE: She’s on trial for smuggling the people into the US.
JOANNA CHEN: She’s accused of smuggling immigrants into the United States.
REESE: How are they seen?
LANA CHEN: I haven’t because I haven’t heard too many about Sister Peng from my friends but when I read the Chinese newspaper I know the Fujianese community, they think that Sister Peng is a good lady and she did help many of the Fujianese people in many ways.
REESE: they say she was responsible for the Golden Venture. But in the Chinese community she provided a useful service.
LANA CHEN: Right. That’s what I read from the newspaper because I don’t know too much about the case and a couple years ago when the Golden Truffle, Venture, but as Joanna mentioned, in the Fujianese community they sympathize her.
REESE: What did the Golden Venture do to the community?
LANA CHEN: I think this is, because for me, I came from Hong Kong and when I first read the news I got very sharp and at the beginning I’m also very curious why they do that.