SEIU 1021

AAPI Heritage Month: Centering Asian American and Pacific Islander voices
A conversation with union steward president Mariette Shin


As we continue our Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month celebrations, we are lifting up local union leaders! This week we are speaking with Mariette Shin, union steward president of the Marin Municipal Water District chapter. Mariette will be one of our community speakers at SEIU 1021’s free, family-friendly AAPI celebration for SEIU members and their families on June 3rd at Snow Park in Oakland (RSVP HERE).

Scroll down for our Q&A with Mariette to hear about why she thinks AAPI Heritage Month is so important, why unions play a role in AAPI communities, and her hopes for the future.

SEIU 1021: What is your title with the union, how long have you been with the union, why do you think it is important to be active in your union, and how has it played an important part in your life?

Mariette Shin: As the union steward president of the Marin Municipal Water District chapter for the last eight years and the union steward secretary for ten and a half years prior to that, I have learned that teamwork, transparent and frequent communication, honesty, clear goals, and planning can lead a union membership to success. However, I have also learned that it is not as simple as that– without the active participation of all union members, the union weakens and loses its bargaining advantage. We are only as strong as our membership. 

My union leadership role has given me the unique opportunity to develop good working relationships with employees at all levels of our water district, from the laborer to the general manager. It has taught me the importance of patience, persistence, appreciation, an open mind, and strategy. I am truly grateful for those learning experiences.

S: Do you think unions play an important role in AAPI communities? Why?

MS: Unions play just as important a role in AAPI communities as they do in any other community. Unions are about workers coming together to defend their rights. Of course, different minority communities will face their own unique challenges with equity, diversity, racism, and stereotyping. For the AAPI community, a strong union will amplify their united voice when they speak up for equal rights, awareness, and acceptance.

S: Why is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month important to you, and why is it important for our greater community?

MS: As a female Korean-American who was born in the States, I have faced a great deal of racism, stereotyping, ignorance, and conflict while growing up and in my professional work environments. I rejoice in how AAPI Heritage Month acknowledges the importance of AAPI culture in America and how I feel represented and seen by it.

The key word in AAPI, however, is “American.” America truly is a melting pot of color and culture. That is what makes America truly unique and great. By having the AAPI Heritage Month in America, AAPI citizens are being recognized as Americans, and the celebrations of the month allow AAPI citizens to bring greater awareness to all communities about our contributions to this country.

S:  Why are you excited about “Here All Year: Celebrating AAPI Heritage with our Family” on June 3, and what do you hope people gain from or experience at this event?

MS: I am grateful that the AAPI community in our union put this AAPI heritage celebration together. Celebrations like these acknowledge our place in this society, create an opportunity for us to share and bond over our common stories and experiences, strengthen the unity of this community as a whole, and educate people outside of the community, thereby spreading awareness, understanding, and, hopefully, acceptance of AAPI cultures.

S: Is there anything else you want to add that you feel is important to share?

MS: In the future, I hope to see even more acceptance and peace between all the different cultural communities. A member from one culture who knows what it feels like to be discriminated against for their race or culture should keep that in mind before doing the same to someone else. I hope that little by little, one step at a time, our society can raise itself to a higher plane.

Don’t miss SEIU 1021’s free, family-friendly event on June 3rd in Oakland, where Mariette Shin and other union leaders will be speaking. There will also be delicious food, live dance and musical performances, and a solidarity march with healthcare workers. RSVP Today!