CASE STUDY #10: CO AND RACE AND POVERTY
Foundation Funding of CO: How the Liberty Hill Foundation
improved the lives of Korean immigrant laborers in Los Angeles.
The Liberty Hill Foundation, based in Los Angeles, provided a seed
grant of $4,000 to Korean Immigrant Workers Advocates (KIWA) in 1993 that helped spur
the organization’s development and catalyzed significant multi-racial CO efforts. KIWA has
had extraordinary results in working with low-wage workers. The following illustrates how
strategically chosen small grants for CO can have very substantial impacts.
As a young and enthusiastic union organizer with the successful Justice for Janitors cam-
paign in the late 1980s and 1990s, Roy Hong came into contact with many of his fellow
Koreans who were working in low-wage service industries. He also became keenly aware of a
contradictory but recurrent theme — the image of the Korean immigrants, both within and out-
side the Korean community, as successful and financially secure business owners.
Aware that 70% of Korean immigrants are laborers working for someone else, Roy was
bothered by what he calls the myth of the “model” immigrant community. He also saw the
potential for a meaningful organization that could represent low-wage Koreans and build a
progressive voice in the Korean community. So, in 1992 he and a few friends created the
Korean Immigrant Workers Advocates (KIWA), the first and only organization of its kind in the
Roy and other KIWA organizers began very simply by visiting Korean immigrants working
in the garment and restaurant industries to find out their problems, needs and hopes. They
made individuals aware of their rights and educated them about labor codes in this country.
Soon KIWA set up a legal clinic to help individuals solve work place grievances and from there
connected one worker with another who, in turn, supported and organized still others.
Through a process of experience and education by KIWA organizers, many Koreans soon
realized they were not alone when it