Andolan (Organizing South Asian Workers) Records
Language of Materials
Andolan (Organizing South Asian Workers) is a non-governmental, membership based group in the New York City area that organizes and advocates on behalf of South Asian immigrant workers, with particular focus on Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian, Nepalese, and Sri Lankan workers in the retail, food service, and domestic work industries, many of whom are women. Founded in 1998 by Gulnahar (Nahar) Alam, Andolan's goal is to support and empower working-class communities to realize their rights and overcome obstacles such as language barriers, discrimination, immigration status, and gaps in social services for legal assistance and other types of support. The Andolan (Organizing South Asian Workers) Records (dated 1992-2012) consist of materials created and collected by Andolan documenting the organization's activism and advocacy on behalf of South Asian workers. Materials in this collection include photographs of members and events; administrative office records; organizational brochures in multiple languages and press kits; event files; financial records; funding resource files with applications and correspondence; and banners used during demonstrations. A large portion of the collection is legal aid files documenting Andolan's role in legal assistance on behalf of individual low-wage South Asian workers related to wage compensation, political asylum, and domestic violence. This collection documents a group that has been less visible in the traditional labor history of white-dominated labor union activities, due to their identities and the type of work they perform.
Andolan (Organizing South Asian Workers) is a non-governmental, membership based group in the New York City area that organizes and advocates on behalf of South Asian immigrant workers, with particular focus on Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian, Nepalese, and Sri Lankan workers in the retail, food service, and domestic work industries, many of whom are women. This organization was founded in 1998 by Gulnahar (Nahar) Alam, who immigrated from Bangladesh and was once herself a domestic worker. Andolan's goal is to support and empower working-class communities to realize their rights and overcome obstacles such as language barriers, discrimination, immigration status, and gaps in social services for legal assistance and other types of support. Andolan's major program areas include providing support to workers, promoting legal advocacy, and community campaigning through meetings, educational workshops, referrals for medical assistance, counseling, and translation services. The group supports members navigating the legal process against abusive employers for wage violations, sexual harassment, assault, domestic violence, and imprisonment. Andolan works in coalition with other organizations on campaigns related to worker's rights and human rights, such as the Campaign to Increase the Minimum Wage and the Campaign Against Diplomatic Immunity of UN Employees.
Asian/Pacific American Archives Survey Project. "Andolan Records." http://apa.nyu.edu/survey/?p=1280 (retrieved July 27, 2018).
This collection is arranged in chronological order. Files within the legal aid files are arranged alphabetically by last name.
Scope and Contents
The Andolan (Organizing South Asian Workers) Records (dated 1992-2012) consists of materials created and collected by Andolan documenting the organization's activism and advocacy on behalf of South Asian workers in New York City in the domestic work, restaurant, and retail industries. Materials in this collection include photographs, administrative records, legal aid files, financial records, funding source files, and banners from demonstrations and protests.
The majority of files in the collection consists of legal aid files documenting Andolan's role in legal services on behalf of low-wage South Asian workers related to wage compensation, political asylum, and domestic violence. Individual's files typically include client intake forms, court filings, attorney correspondence, affidavits of support, and other documents describing the client's personal background. These documents are in English, with some in Hindi and Bengali.
Photographs in this collection date from the early 1990s to the mid-2000s and contain not only Andolan images, but also images from events for Workers' Awaaz, an earlier workers' rights group founded by Gulanar (Nahar) Alam. The majority of the images in this collection document Andolan members meetings and informal gatherings, workshops, discussion panels, and international conferences including the South Africa for Urban Racism Conference in 2001. Photographs from this collection also include members attending protests and demonstrations outside employer homes, detention centers, restaurants, the UN, and larger demonstrations in Washington, DC and Philadelphia. This collection also contains photographs of award presentations to the organization and also the founder, Nahar Alam.
Administrative files include member identification cards and forms; contact lists; timesheets; press releases and media packets; Board of Director agendas and by-laws; newsletters; and staff profiles. Financial records include budgets, reports, and analysis. Press clippings in this collection are in Bengali and English and relate to activities surrounding Andolan and its founder Nahar Alam, as well as issues related to the organization which include worker's rights, specific legal cases, and demonstrations. Event files contain both Andolan-created events such as self-defense courses and legal aid informational workshops, and also events in partnership with similar community allies and organizations. These files include primarily promotional flyers and information sheets; sign up sheets and guest book entry pages; related correspondence; and planning notes. Material can also be found on the Yoni Ki Baat stage performance by Andolan members which was also made into a documentary film, Claiming Their Voices.
Funding files reflect Andolan's pursuit of financial support through private organizations for basic organization administration costs and also special projects. These files often include applications containing vital financial, promotional, and historical information on Andolan, including staff lists, historical summaries, budgets, and samples of event announcements. Funding files can also contain correspondence and regularly submitted reports to the funding organizations.
Andolan also retained a small collection of material relating to local and global partner and ally organizations, including informational brochures, press clippings, and advertising for events. Three large cloth banners in the collection were created by members and typically carried during protests and demonstrations. This collection documents a group that has been less visible in the traditional labor history of white-dominated labor union activities, due to their identities and the type of work they perform.
Conditions Governing Access
The majority of the material is open without restrictions, however, due to attorney-client privilege and personally identifiable information, access is restricted for a some of the Legal Aid Files. These select files are closed to researchers for 75 years from the latest date within each folder.
Conditions Governing Use
Copyright (or related rights to publicity and privacy) for materials in this collection, created by Andolan was not transferred to New York University. Permission to use materials must be secured from the copyright holder.
Identification of item, date; Andolan (Organizing South Asian Workers) Records; WAG 354; box number; folder number; Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, New York University.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Donated by Sehana Prakash Mehta in July 2018; the accession number associated with this gift is 2018.097.
Four cartons of duplicate material, billing and bank statements, office supply catalogs, booklets on financial and governmental institutions, computer software manuals, bound booklets of blank forms, and tax returns were removed from the collection before processing. Two cloth demonstration banners were also removed from the collection.
About this Guide
At the time of accessioning, materials were rehoused in archival cartons and folders, and described on the collection-level.
During the processing of this collection in 2021, all material was refoldered into archival folders and placed in appropriate sized containers. Original titles were transcribed onto the new folders when possible. The loose items previously grouped in folders during accessioning were sorted and refoldered by the processing archivist into relatable groupings and assigned titles. The individual legal files were reviewed by the processing archivist, and if they were found to contain privacy concerns then they were separated from the rest of the collection and placed in a separate restricted box.
In March-April 2021 the banners were rehoused by Preservation Lab staff.