“May Day 2020 recap: Street Vendor Power and Demands!”
In 2017, it was estimated that there were approximately 50,000 vendors in Los Angeles. It took more than a decade of organizing to finally legalize vending in the city of L.A.
Thanks to this movement led by single mothers and immigrant families – it is now also legal to vend in the STATE of California as of September 2018. Unfortunately, like many workers, street vendors have been left with no income because of COVID19 shutdowns. Because of varying legal statuses, vendors have also found themselves unable to apply to many family services and employment relief.
Street Vendors held a car caravan action on May Day 2020 to demand support from the city of Los Angeles, to give them refunds on permits that are currently useless especially as Safer-At-Home orders seem to continue into the Summer. I interviewed Carmina Calderon of the Community Power Collective to give us a brief overview of the vendor needs and demands.
1. One of the Vendor demands is “refunds for permits issued” since vendors are unable to work at the moment. What does this mean?
Vendors are demanding refunds for their permits that have basically remained unused since they got them. These permits cost $291, which right now, could go a long way for the vendors since they’re not working. On top of this BSS (Bureau of Street Services)/Public works – one of the stops of the May Day rally- is the entity showing up to reprimand/ticket vendors if they still decide to vend during this time.
2. Have there been cases of vendors left without housing? Are there estimates of how many vendors are renters?
So far we haven’t seen any vendors lose their housing, but a lot are being harassed by their landlords. A lot of them have been paying their rent in cash, or live in makeshift housing (informal unit), etc. We hold weekly calls with all our members, including vendors, to let them know about their rights as tenants. We help write the letters to their landlords, and we also connect them with legal counsel if their case sounds extreme. Almost all vendors are renters.
3. What kind of support are vendors looking for? Have families been receiving or applying for “Angeleno Card” or similar services provided by the state of California?
They need money for things like food and bills and medical expenses. We do our best to let them know they don’t have to pay rent right now, but then there’s the impending fear that they will be evicted once the quarantine lifts and the courts open back up. They applied for Angeleno cards, but I think we only know one person that received it. And yesterday the portal for aid for undocumented people opened up and CHIRLA’s support lines were flooded instantly, so we are still pending to see which of our folks were actually able to get anything. We are also working on giving them letters from our lawyers that say they were affected by COVID-19.
4. Highlights of recent national vendor conference/call?
Last Wednesday, May 13th there was a Vendor Townhall with Vendors from NYC, Washington DC, Chicago, and Los Angeles, demanding street vendor justice across the US. The townhall was used to have vendors from across the country tell their stories of their struggle to work in a dignified way. They also used the call to announce their platform and get the attention of their local and state officials. the link for the platform is here: https://medium.com/@carinamariakg/national-agenda-for-street-vendor-justice-ba55e2d2e51d
5. Other ways to support?
Street Vendors have been receiving some aid from our friends at Inclusive Action – where they’ve already been able to help 600+ vendors with loaded money cards for any of their expenses. The link is right here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/street-vendor-emergency-fund?fbclid=IwAR3B5RoY9zpyIVwYDAzW0ZXwugHfCH2vlzz-aWtZpieKy4fvUmnNgIjLMjM
Best way for public to connect:
We’re working on launching our new social media to talk about the work we’re doing with housing and street vendors and mariachis. We’ve formed an entity called Community Power Collective. For now, follow the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/CPColectivo/
We’re also trying to help Mariachis in the same way with the cash cards, like with the street Vendors: https://www.gofundme.com/f/emergency-mariachi-relief-fund
Please stay tuned as we continue to provide updates from the campaign and share ways to become involved!