2021 USW Cares Staff and Champion Jefferson Award Winner, Sabrina Liu

Sabrina Liu is a campaigner and researcher working for the USW Strategic Campaigns Department. She founded the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) with fellow USW staff member Antonia Domingo and community activists Judy Suh and Kim Dinh in early 2019 after years of advocacy. For working tirelessly to give assistance to undocumented immigrants and underserved communities, she is the 2021 USW Cares Staff Jefferson Award winner and this year’s Champion Volunteer.

Liu’s personal story is amazing: she is an immigrant who battled through an abusive work environment prior to working for the USW – these folks stripped her of her visa out of retaliation for her speaking up. She fought through it and dedicated her life to helping other workers have a voice by joining our union.

“I got involved because I was made undocumented by my employer as retaliation for speaking up on the job. I want working people in underserved communities to have a voice on the job and stand together for justice and dignity,” said Liu.

Liu aided undocumented immigrants at a local restaurant whose employer was attempting to take advantage of their citizenship status by cheating them of hard-earned wages. She also organized a daylong celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in May 2019, which featured musical and dance performances, as well as local food and pastries by local Asian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander artists and businesses. Liu organized activists again to take part in May Day, not just in 2019 but also in years prior.

As USW staff, Liu works with rank-and-file members to build power against corporate greed during contract negotiations and labor disputes.

She also leads efforts in the Labor Movement to fight the hate against Asian Americans that has been rampant with the coronavirus pandemic, and she has volunteered to ensure underserved communities get access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Few people, within and without the labor movement, are as ready to take action as Sabrina is every day,” said one of her USW Cares Jefferson Awards nominators and fellow Local 3657 member, Chelsey Engel.

Since founding the APALA Pittsburgh Chapter, Liu has built a small but mighty volunteer group and strong relationships with other community organizations. In 2020, she helped increase census responses, turned out votes in crucial states across the country for the presidential election, educated workers in precarious situations about their rights, and organized efforts to distribute financial assistance during the pandemic.

Her civic engagement efforts, from census to election GOTV (Get out the Vote), focused on hard-to-reach communities with in-language materials. She recruited more than 65 volunteers for 10 text/phone banks throughout the election season with her volunteers who together could offer instructions on how to vote in four languages. She secured two workshop sessions at the East Coast Asian American Student Union Conference to discuss the “union difference” with college students.

“We use every opportunity to talk about basic workers’ rights because I believe when people have the knowledge and resources, they will stand up for themselves and people around them. And that’s how we build a better community and a stronger future, “said Liu.

In 2021, most recently, Sabrina obtained support from local hospitals and Casa San Jose to get more than 100 community members, mostly undocumented and elderly, vaccinated within just one week. She also led a project to schedule COVID vaccine appointments for more than 1,000 people, targeting those who could not navigate the system because of language or technology barriers. 

Liu worked with five other APALA Pittsburgh volunteers on a multilingual outreach and distributed more than $76,600 to 104 families who were excluded from the stimulus program.

“Sabrina has a heart of gold and a quiet courage we should all aspire to have,” says Engel.

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