January 27, 2012
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Kimi Lee

Photo: Xiomara Castro

We are alliance therapists. Building alliances takes a lot of personal and emotional work. It’s like dating: you need to spend time getting to know each other. You may decide it’s not the right fit and call it quits or you may decide to work at it and grow something much bigger than yourself.

Kimi Lee has been organizing and working with social justice organizations for the past 20 years, starting as a teenager in San Francisco. Her first generation family immigrated from Burma (a country under military dictatorship) in 1971. Her mother was a garment worker and her father worked as an auto mechanic, restaurant worker, and taxi driver. The issues faced by her parents and family led to her social activism and personal connection to the rights of immigrant workers.

Kimi is currently the Lead Organizer of the United Workers Congress, a new strategic alliance to build power for excluded workers and their national independent worker alliances (sectors include: domestic, day laborers, guest workers, farmworkers, restaurant, welfare, taxi, and formerly incarcerated).

Her MSC work has also included serving as the National Coordinator for the Alliance for Educational Justice, a new organization that she helped to build and shape.

Prior to MSC, Kimi was the Executive Director of the Garment Worker Center, a worker center organizing Latino and Chinese garment workers in Los Angeles. With the GWC, she helped to coordinate a national boycott against a young women’s clothing chain (Forever 21) and organized many actions in solidarity with other workers in LA and around the world. While in Los Angeles, she also helped to build MIWON, the Multi-Ethnic Immigrant Workers Organizing Network which brought together five different worker centers and helped to connect workers from different sectors and ethnicities. While organizing Chinese garment workers in Los Angeles, she also saw the need to create a space for other Chinese organizers to work in the Chinese immigrant community. She helped to start a new Chinese organizing group to provide a space for progressive Chinese Americans and which hopes to eventually organize low wage Chinese workers.

Kimi’s past experience includes working as the Field Director for the ACLU of Southern California where she focused on criminal justice issues such as police brutality, prisons and harsh drug laws. While at the ACLU, she coordinated the No on Prop 21 campaign and helped to start Southern Californians for Youth, a youth organizing network in LA. Before moving to Los Angeles, she organized students with the University of California Student Association and organized students of color to fight for affirmative action, register student voters and to stop fee hikes during the 1990s.

Kimi currently serves on the Board of the Chinese Progressive Association San Francisco. She is a mother of a two little girls and recently moved back to the Bay Area to help take care of her parents.

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