When the city of Los Angeles banned gas-powered leaf blowers in 1996, the law sparked one of the most dynamic grassroots campaigns by Latino immigrants in recent history. Latino immigrant gardeners, working with a small group of Chicana/o activists, organized the Association of Latin American Gardeners of Los Angeles (ALAGLA), which pressured city leaders to reverse the ban. ALAGLA pursued its objectives by engaging in the political process, taking direct action, advocating technological adaptations, and reframing the gardeners and their tools in a positive light. Turning public opinion in their favor, they persuaded city leaders to void the draconian elements of the ordinance, which included a misdemeanor charge, a $1,000 fine, and jail time for gardeners using the blowers. ALAGLA’s movement can be compared in some ways to earlier immigrant-organizing efforts by organized labor, notably the United Farm Workers and the Service Employees International Union’s Justice for Janitors campaign, but it is also distinguished from them by ALAGLA’s nonbureaucratic grassroots structure. The association’s campaign for social and economic justice shows the potential for collective action among marginalized immigrant workers and petty entrepreneurs in the informal economy.
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Alvaro Huerta and Alfonso Morales
Image by Alvaro Huerta