I act as a kind of media quality control, editing articles for accuracy, ethics, fairness and balance. It’s a stimulating, creative and powerful job that combines my passion for social change and journalism.

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My social activism stems from my childhood in Bombay, India, when I’d join my parents on hunger strikes just to get an hour of drinking water every day, and later with my volunteerism in the women’s and peace movements as well as a longtime union member in my banking career. But in Seattle, I wasn’t active in my Newspaper Guild local until a couple of weeks before a strike against the Seattle Times and the Post-Intelligencer newspapers in November 2000. The employers didn’t seem to be negotiating in good faith after months of bargaining and we started setting up committees to lead a strike everyone dreaded. I volunteered to chair the inter-union liaison committee.

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Money was an issue, but other problems loomed large. Reporters did the same work but were paid less because they worked in different bureaus. In other departments there were issues of low pay, poor treatment by managers and steadily eroding working conditions. There seemed to be a caste system – newsroom workers received better treatment and pay than those in the subscription, advertising and delivery departments. A lot of people walked out on principle. Unlike the P-I, the Times took it very personally – they put up fences and security guards.

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We had to organize a subscription and advertising boycott to pressure the employers. We were threatened with layoffs, which is against the law in this country. There were many temporary workers, who didn't have a prayer of getting their jobs back if they struck, and interns and other low-paid workers who displayed extraordinary courage in staying out. I was afraid I might be deported since I was on a work visa.

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A lot of people left the company after the strike. But I saw a lot of wonderful people get to know each other across departments and transform and gain self-respect, awareness of social-justice issues and continue the fight for common rights.

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I believe we cannot accept the existing framework for work and life built on competition, fear and hierarchy instead of universal respect, survival and interconnectedness. As minorities, we must bring our shared values of respect and humility, dignity and collaboration shared by the Native Americans, the original inhabitants of this country, to build a better community, country and world.

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