The Chinese Staff and Worker's Association (CSWA) () is a nonprofit, nonpartisan workers' rights organization based in New York City which educates and organizes workers in the United States so that they may improve their working conditions. It primarily assists workers in restaurants, the garment and construction industries, although it is active among workers in a variety of professions. The organization serves workers from all backgrounds, most of its members are Chinese and most of its efforts directed at employers in Chinatown.
CSWA's Chinese name transliterates as "workers' social club."〔Macawili, "Chinatown Workers Organize - New York City," ''The Progressive,'' February 1994.〕
CSWA is a worker center, not a labor union. It has often been described as a "pre-union" organization—an organization outside established organized labor but which can or should, over time, become a labor union. However, others point out that CSWA and other worker centers are more appropriately designated "post-union" organizations. CSWA leaders forcefully distinguish their organization from traditional labor unions.〔"The Chinese Staff and Workers' Association," in ''The New Rank and File,'' 2000.〕 CSWA often criticizes labor unions for not advocating effectively on behalf of workers, and has negotiated with or sued labor unions for failing to fairly represent their members.〔Hsiao, "Chinatown in Limbo," ''Village Voice,'' May 30, 2001〕〔Brecher, "Labor Update: Organizing the New Workforce," ''Z Magazine,'' July/August 1998.〕
CSWA has a membership of about 600 workers, although active supporters and volunteers number in the several hundreds. In addition to its headquarters, the organization has centers in Brooklyn and the Lower East Side of Manhattan. CSWA's executive director is its founder, Wing Lam.〔〔Tait, ''Poor Workers Unions: Rebuilding Labor From Below,'' 2004; Louie, ''Sweatshop Warriors,'' 2001.〕
==Goals and activities==
CSWA engages in educational efforts, assists workers in enforcing their legal rights and helps workers become more effective advocates in the workplace.
CSWA's primary function is to help workers, most of whom are immigrants with a poor grasp of spoken and/or written English, understand their rights as workers under local, state and federal law. CSWA also assists workers by filing lawsuits against employers, either on its own or in cooperation with the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund or attorneys working pro bono.〔Kolbert, "The Unfashionable Mr. Lam," ''Mother Jones,'' September/October 2001.〕 CSWA also sponsors English-language classes, day-care, seminars on successful squatting and employment fairs which help workers become better employees and which enhance their employment prospects.〔
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