Posted by: mbhcity | November 30, 2008

Sameerah Siddiqui. Community Organizer. Working to clean the air.

Sameerah Siddiqui has been at the forefront of workers rights. She is a community organizer with Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, or CLUE, in Los Angeles.

“I wanted to actually be a part of people lives and see them through change rather than be at the end of the process.” Siddiqui said. “It was my faith that called to do justice in the world.”

Sameerah grew up in Southern California, raised by a family who supported many environmental and social justice efforts.

She originally planned to study biology at U.C. Davis but later found another calling. This calling led her to graduate in 2003 with a degree in International Relations and compelled her to find a way to help others.

“It was at U.C. Davis that I became involved in social justice issues and politics,” said Siddiqui. “I was raised in a family that was pro-labor. My father was involved in community organizing, and when I left home, I took it on myself to get involved in the community.”

Siddiqui’s roots trace back to an internship with a law firm in London where she learned about international. Soon after, she decided that community activism was a better lifestyle.

She began her career speaking on behalf of hotel and service workers who fought for better wages and working conditions.

“I started by working in the hotel and hospitality industry,” said Siddiqui. “I started with an internship with CLUE-LA and worked with hotel workers and started to talk to them about their experiences.”

Siddiqui is campaigning on behalf of the Clean Trucks Program, an effort to improve working condition for the many truck drivers in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

There are two plans, one by Long Beach and one by Los Angeles. Siddiqui favors the Los Angeles plan by allowing corporations to employ work rather than work individually.

“The Port of Los Angeles took a bold step, by having companies with enough capital and resources to purchase the cleanest trucks and pay their employees a living wage, and by law they organize for a union,” said Siddiqui.

Candice Kim, a campaign associate with the Coalition for Clean Air, relates to Siddiqui’s efforts, not only in the fight for cleaner air.

“Sameerah is very effective in the work she does,” Kim said. “She, like I came out of the labor industry. It is the clergy and laity of our communities that have taken action in the community”

A study by the Port of Los Angeles found that independent truckers earn up to $29,000 a year, or $12 an hour, after paying operation costs.

Among those who have helped with Sameerah in the efforts in Jon Zerolnick, a research analyst with the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy.

“Truck drivers cannot afford their trucks,” he added. “They make about $24,000 a year. Most of them are immigrants and have families and are forced to go on welfare because of what they earn. I challenge anyone to live on $24,000 a year with a family and I bet they won’t make it.”

Sejal Patel, a researcher with LAANE, has worked with Siddiqui and calls her efforts fearless.

“Sameerah is fearless and this what has helped in bringing justice to the less fortunate,” said Patel.

As the quest to bring about continues so will Siddiqui’s efforts to help bring about change. The debate continues as to which plan help workers and the communities it surrounds and people that will live there.

“What really compels me is talking to workers,” said Siddiqui. “So many people just don’t talk to others, for example shoppers talking to cashiers. My ability to talk to workers and listen to their stories is what compels me and reenergizes me to get out there everyday.”

Founded in 1996, CLUE-LA is an interfaith community organization with more than 600 religious groups working to speak on behalf of the poor and less fortunate in the Los Angeles area.

A MAP COLLECTION HIGHLIGHTING SAMEERAH’S WORK

LINKS,

The Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice Los Angeles

,

Los Angeles Alliance for a new Economy

,

Coalition for Clean Air

,

Coalition for Clean and Safe Ports

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Port of Los Angeles

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Port of Long Beach,

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