FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, April 15, 2020
Washington, D.C. - Leaders, members, and allies of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance mourn, remember, and celebrate the life of former Executive Director, Jin Sook Lee. Jin Sook served as APALA’s second Executive Director. In this role, Jin Sook was crucial in building relations between the labor movement and the Asian-American community. Later Jin Sook moved to Korea to work with the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions. Most recently, Jin Sook served as the Global Campaigns Director at Building and Wood Workers International. She has dedicated her life to social justice and the international movement for workers’ rights and gender justice. She is survived by her husband Kyung Kyu Lim, and their daughters Hansoo and Yunsoo.
Kent Wong, APALA Founding President of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, Vice President of the California Federation of Teachers, said,
"Jin Sook embodied the spirit of global labor solidarity. She understood the link between the struggle for workers rights in the U.S., Korea, and throughout the world, and dedicated her life to peace and justice."
Cathy Feingold, Director of the AFL-CIO International Department said,
“Jin Sook was a leader in our global labor movement who never stopped fighting for justice. As the Building and Wood Workers’ International Global Campaigns Director she helped lead our movement’s work to fight for migrant, racial and gender justice. I had the honor of knowing Jin Sook for over 20 years. We both entered the US labor movement as young women with a commitment to global worker rights issues. She directed the US Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance before heading to South Korea to work with the labor movement there. Despite our geographic distance over the years, we always found times to meet for long conversations to discuss families, strategies and dreams. Her commitment to workers in the US and globally had a positive impact on so many lives. She will be deeply missed. Love and solidarity to her family and her broader labor family. May she rest in power.”
Matt Finucane, APALA’s first Executive Director, NEA, said,
“Jin Sook was a true champion of workers, women and immigrants everywhere. We were lucky to have her as part of the APALA family, and will always be inspired by her commitment to others and her many accomplishments."
May Chen, APALA Founding Member, former International Vice President UNITE HERE, said,
“I had the honor of knowing and working with Jin Sook Lee at APALA and on international affairs issues. I watched her grow from an energetic, idealistic young activist into a mature, capable, effective organizer and advocate. She was intelligent, beautiful and dedicated, and she carried out all her work with grace and integrity. She was a wonderful, strong Asian woman leader, and we will miss her very much.
I was always amused and struck by the contrast of Jin Sook's calm, quiet demeanor with the deep, tough, militant drive she brought to the labor movement. I remember a delegation of Korean union activists she asked me to help out in New York for a protest at the headquarters of Citibank. To me, it was interesting and unthinkable to see bank workers involved in union organizing. The young workers from Korea were spirited, loud and militant, and ultimately effective at getting Citibank's attention to their issues in Korea.”
Gloria Caoile, APALA Founding Member, APALA Nevada Political Director said,
“Words are not enough to describe Jin Sook’s passion for the fight for workers’ rights. You’re in my prayers Jin Sook! And I’ll go ‘one more year’ in your memory!”
John Cavanagh, Director of the Institute for Policy Studies said,
“Wanted us all to pause for a second to honor the beautiful life of Jin-Sook Lee, who worked at IPS for 3-4 years in the 1990s. IPS was early into our quest to become a diverse workplace, and a workplace where all were accorded respect. We had passed a new set of personnel policies laying out affirmative action goals, and goals of achieving a far more equitable workplace. Jin-Sook joined me on the "Isms Committee" during that period, and we reached our goal of over 50 percent women by 1997, and were on our way to greater racial diversity. She shouldered institutional responsibility. She came out of organizing in the Korean community in the U.S., had two amazing sisters in that world, and embraced IPS's international work.
When she left IPS, I introduced her to Barbara Shailor, then head of international affairs at the AFL-CIO, and Barbara hired Jin-Sook to direct the labor alliance of Asian-Pacific American workers. Jin-Sook then moved into the global labor movement where she was a champion of migrant, gender, and racial justice. I got to see her when she came to the US to the AFL for meetings.”