September 11 Digital Archive

Shi Yun Chin

Title

Shi Yun Chin

Source

transcription

Media Type

interview

Chinatown Interview: Interviewee

Shi Yun Chin

Chinatown Interview: Interviewer

Lan Trinh

Chinatown Interview: Date

2004-05-21

Chinatown Interview: Language

Chinese

Chinatown Interview: Occupation

garment worker

Chinatown Interview: Interview (en)

Q: Today is May 24, 2004. We’re at #193 Centre Street. Sitting with me is Mr. Chin. Mr. Chin, could you please tell us your story, tell a little bit about where you were born?

A: I was born in China’s Guangdong Province, in Taishan Prefecture.

Q: Oh, you’re of Taishan descent?

A: Because of the civil war in China, my family was forced to flee to Hong Kong.

Q: What year was that?

A: It was either in the 1950s or 1960s, I don’t remember very clearly.

Q: Either way, it was after the Communist Liberation?

A: I went with my parents to Taiwan, and I grew up and was educated in Taiwan. My maternal grandparents immigrated to America very early, and I myself immigrated in 1976.

Q: Let’s slow down a little. Why did you go to Taiwan and not stay in Hong Kong?

A: At that time I was still small. Maybe it was because my father had economic or political reasons causing him to go to Taiwan. The Nationalist Party and the Communist Party were enemies then, and maybe that’s why he had to go.

Q: How old were you then?

A: 2 or 3.

Q: So you were very small then, and you really grew up in Taiwan.

A: Yes. I grew up in Taiwan and was educated there. Later, my father immigrated [to America] in 1974, just when I was fulfilling my military service. Men all have compulsory military service, and after I finished it, I came to America.

Q: So why did they come to America?

A: My parents came because my grandparents had come. For example, if I had come, I would wish that my children would follow me.

Q: So your father came first while you were serving in the military, and then you came to America later.

A: Right.

Q: How long did you serve in the military?

A: Three years.

Q: Why did they choose New York City?

A: Because my grandparents had chosen New York.

Q: Why did they choose New York and not California?

A: I’m not really clear on that.

Q: The year you immigrated to New York, how old were you?

A: That was 1976, and I was 24 or 25.

Q: When you came, did you already understand English?

A: In Taiwan, I had finished high school, so I understood a little bit of English.

Q: So after you came, what impressions did you have of America? Were you afraid of coming to a foreign place?

A: I wasn’t afraid because the culture in Taiwan is already very close to the West, and more open to the world. I had a certain understanding of Western things, and didn’t feel it was foreign. It seemed like the movies, TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, they all talked about America, so I had already absorbed a lot of Western information. For example, the Communist Party is an iron curtain, and I’m not saying they’re bad, but they are more closed off, and so people from China lack information about this area, and for that reason it’s harder for them to adjust. Coming from Taiwan, I had this kind of information, this environment, and it was easier for me to accept things.

Q: So previously your impression of America was from television, books, or from the letters you got from relatives living in America telling about life there.

A: The information I got was that America was an advanced, free country, and that there was an American dream.

Q: You have an American dream. What is it?

A: At that time, I was young, and I had my own aspirations. Men just want to create their own business, establish their family and career, and make their lives complete.

Q: Back when you were in the military, what was your dream job?

A: Before I had come over, I still didn’t know what sort of careers available in America would suit me. After I arrived, I would have to see and experience things, and then I would know, because you can’t predict things in advance. My parents were working in the garment business, so I also entered that line of work, and because of their influence, I knew a little bit about that field [of work]. In New York during that period, Chinese people had two careers, working either in restaurants or in garment manufacturing, and the numbers employed were really huge, so I joined the garment manufacturing business without even thinking.

Q: So your parents did garment manufacturing in Chinatown?

A: Right.

Q: And how old were they at the time?

A: Between 50 and 60 years old.

Q: Wasn’t it very difficult to adjust to beginning work for the first time in garment manufacturing when they’re already between the ages of 50 and 60 years old?

A: Not really, because Chinatown’s population was tightly clustered, and as far as language goes, it was relatively easy to communicate, so daily shopping was easier, for example, and there were newspapers and magazines, there were Chinese theaters, and they could go out easily and walk around.

Q: You said that you entered this profession without giving it much thought. Have you ever considered going to college?

A: Yes, I’ve thought of continuing my education, but my parents had to work, and I have a lot of siblings, so maybe due to financial problems, I just couldn’t do that. Originally I had thought of studying and working at the same time, but I couldn’t do it in that environment, I had to work full-time. I was already in my twenties, and I had to be independent.

Q: Before your parents came to America, what sort of work did they do in Hong Kong or Taiwan?

A: My father was a public official in Taiwan, and my mother was a housewife.

Q: You entered this profession in your twenties, would that be considered rather young?

A: It would.

Q: So when you first entered this profession, what did you do?

A: When I first entered the profession, the normal jobs for men were sorter and presser.

Q: What was it like as a sorter?

A: When products arrived, you separated them out, then you arranged the manufacturing process. For example, the accessories to a pair of pants, the buttons, the label, the zipper, you would separate the parts out and send them out. This was considered men’s work.

Q: So you weren’t actually making the clothes?

A: I wasn’t actually making the clothes.

Q: Did you receive formal training before you began this work?

A: I didn’t get any formal training. Just start in the midst of it, and I’d watch what others were doing and do the same thing.

Q: That was in 1976. What was the salary like then, for example, how much could you make a week?

A: If you worked five or six days a week, you could make 300 dollars a week, and that was considered pretty good, because expenses were low, and you could get by.

Q: And at that time, you were in your twenties and didn’t have a family to support?

A: Right.

Q: You entered that profession very quickly. Did you feel like your American dream was a disappointment, in that as soon as you arrived you started working in a garment factory?

A: Everyone has a different American dream. I think that I didn’t have enough education or talent, and I couldn’t reach some high standard, but I could take care of myself in America, I could live peacefully and enjoy my work, and without expecting too much, I could get by.

Q: In this profession, where there were so many female garment workers, did you enjoy the work?

A: I enjoyed this work because of my firm conviction in working hard and getting along with others. I respected my profession, and I got along well with others.

Q: You did factory work for a long time, you worked in this profession for a long time, but did you often switch factories, jumping to new work when there was better pay?

A: I worked in the garment industry for over twenty years, but I only worked in a few factories, because my relations with the employers and with the workers was very good, the employers treated the employees very well, so there was no need to switch places, just to put forth my effort and reap the rewards, and I wasn’t “exploited.”

Q: [Did you say] “Fall short”?

A: No, I was speaking Mandarin Chinese. My Cantonese isn’t so good.

Q: Oh, your Cantonese is very good. So you didn’t think about changing your profession. You continued in it all the way.

A: Yes, I just kept doing it.

A: Lots of people have said that garment work has reached its swan song, some of that due to the government and some of that due to private individuals. It seems that after the government signed the agreement with Mexico, combining the economies and such, America’s own production ability decreased, and the opportunities for employment also decreased.

Q: Have you ever lost your job during the last 20 years?

A: Yes. For example, if the garment company running our factory didn’t send us enough work and orders, then we would be laid off, but we could collect unemployment benefits, because we had insurance.

Q: Have you ever been unemployed for one or two years?

A: Even if New York has weakened, there’s still at least some much work to do.

Q: When you came to New York, you had family here. Have you ever thought of moving to any other place?

A: No.

Q: Have you ever wanted to move due to factors like the weather, and so on?

A: No, I’m used to it.

Q: When you came in 1976, did you live in Chinatown?

A: No, I lived in Manhattan. I worked in Chinatown.

Q: Then have you always worked in Chinatown? What was your impression towards Chinatown in 1976?

A: There was good and bad, because in the 70s, there were gangs, and that was all bad, they would disturb the peace and tranquility in the community; the good thing was that it was easier to adjust, because it was a Chinese community, the clothes, food, housing, are work were all convenient, and it was more interconnected.

Q: When did you establish your own family?

A: In 1979.

Q: When you met your wife, what was your profession?

A: She was also working in the garment industry, but she stopped work after having a baby, and then she stayed at home as a housewife, because she wanted to take care of the children, and manage the household.

Q: Did you ever join a union?

A: In ’76, when I started work in the garment factory, I also joined the 23-25 Union.

Q: Why did you want to join the union?

A: Because it had security and benefits. They offered worker’s protection, and they had benefits like health insurance, holiday time, lots of good things.

Q: Now, did your bosses give you any pressure about joining the union, did they tell you not to join the union?

A: No, because America is a free country, so they can’t reject you [based on that].

Q: What were the employers like?

A: My own employers were Chinese, some of them are from Hong Kong, and some of them from mainland China.

Q: Now, in the twenty years that you have been in Chinatown there have been a lot of, in the 70s, there were lots of Chinese from Taishan in Guangdong, and in the 80s, a lot came from Hong Kong, and then in the last ten years, a lot have come from Fuzhou, so what kind of problems come about when so many Chinese people from different regions are in the same place?

A: In my own experience, there haven’t been any problems, at work everyone gets along, there aren’t any quarrels, because everyone is working. I’ve heard that there have been arguments, but they weren’t a big deal.

Q: But newly arrived immigrants without any status are willing to work for cheaper pay, and that creates competition. As a Chinese-American who has been here for much longer, do you feel that they are stealing your jobs or forcing down your salary?

A: Personally I haven’t come across such a thing. I’ve heard others say that, but still it’s not very common. The employers have to run things according to the law, and they don’t want to risk trouble. If the employer doesn’t follow the employment laws, and he tries to exploit his workers, then he’ll have to take responsibility, and I don’t think my employers would be willing to do that.

Q: So you’ve never felt any influence?

A: I’ve worked at several garment factories, and the garment factories had really perfect regulations, for example, fire equipment, and children not allowed in the factories. They were really excellent.

Q: So the laws were very strict. Now, all the way until now, you’ve never actually made the clothes, you were responsible for arranging…?

A: No, I worked as a presser.

Q: Oh, you are working as a presser?

A: I’ve always pressed clothes.

Q: In English we call it “presser.” Because I haven’t worked in the production of clothing, I don’t understand the process of manufacturing clothing. At what point does clothing reach you to be pressed?

A: When the garment factory produces a pair of pants, first comes a strip of cloth, there’s the trunk of the pants, and there’s the pockets, and it enters the clothing factory, and the female textile workers sew up the trunk of the pants, sews on the zipper, adds the buttons, and the legs, and completes the pants, then there’s some string cutters who clean up the ends of the strings, and then they come to us and we use steam to make them flat, make them beautiful, and complete a pair of pants.

Q: Do you sit as you do the pressing, or do you stand?

A: I stand while I press. Because of the location of this equipment, I need to stand while I do it.

Q: Now you work seven hours a day, how is it that you don’t get exhausted?

A: Once you get used to it, you won’t feel exhausted.

Q: Have you ever suffered any work-related illnesses?

A: I’ve never had any work-related illnesses.

Q: I’ve heard lots of female workers say that they sit for such long hours that their hands and legs develop problems, isn’t that true?

A: Also some of them have pain in their hip bones.

Q: And you are very healthy?

A: The main problem is that on hot days I feel really hot, because in that work environment, it’s not possible to have air conditioning, because there’s the steam, so air conditioning wouldn’t work. But as long as there’s air flow, it’s OK.

Q: When you add on other machines too, isn’t it very hot?

A: I can put it like this, that’s why we have fans and air pumps, in order to make the air flow. The important thing is the structure of the factory, and whether it has been designed well or not.

Q: When 9/11 took place, you were working in your factory. Where is it located?

A: It’s on Canal Street, between Lafayette and Broadway.

Q: Is it close to this building?

A: Yes.

Q: What kind of impact did 9/11 have upon your life?

A: Basically the time around 9/11 was extremely difficult days for America, New York and for Chinatown. I myself personally suffered, because after that day, a lot of my work had all but disappeared. The traffic had been tightly restricted and the garment factories didn’t open, there wasn’t any work, so we didn’t get any income, and in that way we were impacted.

Q: Is that because of the quarantine, and the raw materials couldn’t get inside?

A: Yes, the materials couldn’t get in or out. And people’s attitudes changed, they became more hesitant, so there were many weeks that we couldn’t do any work.

Q: And that wasn’t because there were no people to work, there were still people ordering products and there were people working, but rather it was because vehicles couldn’t get in?

A: Yes, because we were right next to the place where those repeated disasters had occurred, and so our traffic was greatly controlled.

Q: So how long was your factory closed?

A: Two, three weeks.

Q: What did you do during that time?

A: I stopped working. I didn’t go to work.

Q: And what about your income?

A: Since we weren’t operating, we didn’t have any income.

Q: In this kind of situation, what help could your union provide?

A: After 9/11 occurred, the entire world, all of America helped out New Yorkers, and people like us who lost our work, who suffered, the organizations like the Red Cross, Safe Horizon, and the union, they all offered assistance and help. For example, some people had no income for several weeks, and some couldn’t pay their rent, or they couldn’t buy food. The Red Cross first helped these people.

Q: Mr. Chin, did you yourself apply for economic assistance?

A: Yes, because I had suffered, I was a victim of 9/11.

Q: And was that because your factory had temporarily closed?

A: It had temporarily stopped operations.

Q: Now how did you know about [the economic assistance], did the news report that you could go to these organizations and apply, or did you hear from something else?

A: I saw it in newspapers and magazines, from the news in newspapers, and from what my friends said, what they told me.

Q: How many places did you go apply?

A: I applied at the 9/11 Safe Horizon because the 9/11 Safe Horizon helped victims a lot. Because I was a victim.

Q: Even though you don’t live in this area…

A: Because I worked in the area that was affected by the disaster. For example, there was a one-time cash subsidy. Later, they helped us apply for a few months of health insurance. Later they held training classes, those lasted 13 weeks, and they taught English, computers and business skills.

Q: Which one did you select?

A: I selected both English and computers.

Q: How is your current English level?

A: I can understand a little spoken English, and I know how to press some of the computer keys.

Q: If you were to move to a city without Chinese people, would your life be difficult?

A: Due to my life experience, I wouldn’t be afraid. The greatest fear one has is fear itself. If you aren’t afraid, then even in a difficult environment, if you have willpower and you’re throw yourself into things, then everything will be fine.

Q: So for thirteen weeks you studied English and computers, and…?

A: And also studied some skills for the garment industry. I guess you can say my profession is that of presser, and I learned some new skills, such as how to make the products the best possible, how to operate, how to run things, and I increased my skills, and stopped using outdated methods which would overtax my body’s energy.

Q: But you’ve already done this line of work for so long. Surely you’ve already learned everything you need to know. In those 13 weeks, did you really learn anything knew?

A: I did, because during all these years, I was just focused on working each day, and I had no opportunity to learn anything new.

Q: Did your factory have training every so often?

A: No, it didn’t.

Q: So you just used your same methods for ten or fifteen years without any changes?

A: Without changing at all. During those six weeks, I learned a lot of stuff.

Q: Recently, the garment production business has gradually been outsourcing to foreign countries. Have you thought about changing your line of work?

A: If I wanted to change professions, to speak bluntly, I’m too old for that, my age won’t let me adapt, to start over anew, because I’m not a young man anymore.

Q: You don’t look old.

[The interviewee laughs.]

Q: Do you fear that there will be no more work in this field?

A: I have a lot of confidence in it, I’m certain there will still be work.

Q: So you would say that the amount of work might decrease, but it won’t disappear?

A: It’s just like food, it’s not going to disappear. Just as people will always need food, there will always be a need for clothing, people will definitely need to wear clothing.

Q: But your salaries can never be as low as those in China?

A: Well, that’s talking about the ability to compete. Our strength here in New York is that we can produce clothing more quickly. That’s something that China and Southeast Asia can’t keep up with, don’t you agree?

Q: So if the order is not large, you can finish the job quickly in a short amount of time and provide the goods, while distant places can’t do that.

A: It seems that in the business world, a single day’s difference is quite significant.

Q: Let’s go back to discussing those thirteen weeks. Besides training, was there any other subsidy?

A: During those 13 weeks, we didn’t work, we gained knowledge, and we studied for 35 hours every week. During this time we couldn’t work, so there wasn’t any salary. But the 9/11 compensation gave us 300 dollars a week.

Q: Was this 300 dollars less than what you were making at the factory?

A: No, because…

Q: You said that in the 70s, you made 300 dollars a week, and if you’re still only making 300 dollars a week, how is that enough for your daily life?

A: Because I wasn’t going to classes every single day, and I would use my mornings, I would first work for 4 or 5 hours, and then go to class. I would go to classes according to their schedule, and in that way I had the 300 dollars in compensation, and besides I had a bit of salary from my work.

Q: So you were still working, you didn’t completely stop work?

A: Yes.

Q: How long was work halted after 9/11?

A: It completely stopped for two or three weeks. Afterwards, it came back very gradually, and became stable. The garment factories’ progress slowly returned to normal, and then there were the training courses, that kind of education. Because of 9/11, a lot of the garment factories closed down, because they couldn’t maintain themselves.

Q: And that was because materials couldn’t get in?

A: And it was also because the garment factories had to bear everyday operating expenses, such as rent, utilities, and at the same time there was no product, and they couldn’t keep it up.

Q: But your factory didn’t have that problem…?

A: Our boss and workers both understood each other’s situation, that we were in the same boat, and we worked together to get through those difficulties.

Q: What kind of teacher did you have during those 13 weeks, was the teacher Chinese or White…?

A: There were Whites and also Chinese.

Q: There were Chinese?

A: The Chinese teachers used Chinese to explain things. It seems that for the English classes they used non-Chinese [literally: “foreigners”], and it seems that the computer teacher was a non-Chinese, at least that’s the way it was in my class.

Q: At the time, did you think about changing your job? Did they encourage you to study new professions?

A: There was a bit of everything, but they knew that the students’ levels didn’t reach so high, so they didn’t remind us that we should change professions. In the computer classes, we could only learn the most basic stuff, so we couldn’t change careers based on that.

Q: Did studying computers help you in your work after you finished the classes?

A: At the moment, we don’t have any need for computers, there’s no need for computers at work, so learning about computers was a matter of gaining personal knowledge.

Q: Which organization provided the 13 weeks of training?

A: The 23-25 Union.

Q: Did the union run the classes themselves, or did another organization take responsibility for the teaching?

A: I think it was the CWE, I think that organization’s system was very good, they started classes on time, and after we finished there were tests. After putting forth so much effort, they also wanted to know what kind of results there were.

Q: Do you think that 13 weeks was sufficient? Would you like to continue studying?

A: I think that, if it didn’t affect my work, I would like to continue studying, because people desire to increase their knowledge, and gain better knowledge.

Q: After the economic assistance ended, how did you get by?

A: I returned to my position as a worker, and worked normally.

Q: Did you work the same amount afterwards, or did you do less?

A: In our factory, we had dozens of people go do the training, so it affected the amount that our boss was able to produce. After those 13 weeks were over, we all worked very hard for the boss, because we had a responsibility to the company.

Q: Your children have all grown up now. Do you wish for them to follow you in this career?

A: My children have already grown up. They’ve graduated from college and found jobs. They don’t do this line of work. My older daughter is working as an accountant, while the younger one works at Bloomingdale’s. I think they’re doing very good, they’re doing management work.

Q: So your American dream has more or less been fulfilled in your children’s lives too, hasn’t it?

A: We Chinese want our sons to grow up to be like dragons and our daughters to grow up to be like phoenixes, so now that they have had this measure of success, I feel a bit of satisfaction.

Q: How long do you plan to work before retiring?

A: To put it directly, I will work until I can’t, and then I’ll retire.

Q: You look like you’re in excellent health, isn’t that right?

A: A person’s health is very important.

Q: You’ve worked in Chinatown for many years, what changes do you think Chinatown has undergone in these decades? Other than the increase in population and the widening of the roads, what changes have taken place among the Chinese people, or in the Chinese community?

A: The changes have been very dramatic. I’ll tell you something funny. At that time, when I first came from Taiwan, all the Chinese in Chinatown spoke Taishan-style Cantonese, and at that time if someone on the street spoke Mandarin Chinese, I would have thought it was really weird, and I’d look up and see who it was, because there were really few people that spoke Mandarin Chinese. Nowadays, if you don’t speak the Fuzhou dialect, people think it’s really strange, because Chinatown has so many people from Fuzhou now. So the change in 20 years has been huge.

Q: Do you think that such different Chinese people can unite?

A: I have the feeling that they have their own cliques. Taishan people have Taishan circles, and I think that interacting with them is a lot easier.

Q: Well, considering that you’re not from Taishan either, which circle do you feel like you belong to?

A: I have my own friends, my own partner, I’m more easy-going.

Q: Besides the union, are you a member of any other groups?

A: Community groups or that sort of thing, no.

Q: Why is that? You don’t feel the need, or…?

A: I don’t know. I feel that those are groups for long-term Chinese-Americans. That’s the way I feel.

Q: You’re not old, but you have been in America a long time, so do you consider yourself to be…?

A: I’m also a long-term Chinese-American, but I also have my own circle. Besides work, on Sundays I go fishing with my friends, go have fun.

Q: We’ve already talked for a long time, Mr. Chin, but do you feel that we’ve forgotten anything, about life, work, or your personal views…?

A: To joke a little, I think you’ve already mastered me as a subject. Ha ha…

Q: Ha, ha – well, we’ll stop here then.

A: Thank you.

Q: Thank you!

[End]

Chinatown Interview: Interview (zh)

<p> 問:今日是2004年5月24 日,我們在中央街193號,和我坐在一起是陳先生。陳先生,先講你的故事,可以講一下在那裡出生?</p>
<p>陳:我在中國廣東省台山縣出世。</p>
<p>問:噢,你是台山人?</p>
<p>陳:因為中國大陸內戰,我的家庭逼不得已逃到香港去。</p>
<p>問:你在那一年?</p>
<p>陳:1950年代或1960年代,我記不清楚了。</p>
<p>問:都是在解放之後。</p>
<p>陳:跟著我的父母親去了台灣,在台灣長大及受教育,外祖父母早年移民美國,我自己於1976年移民來了紐約。</p>
<p>問:我們慢慢說,你為什麼不逗留在香港,而去台灣?</p>
<p>陳:當時我仍少,可能家父為了經濟或政治問題,必須要去台灣,因為國民黨及共產黨處於敵對狀態,不得不去。</p>
<p>問:那時你多大?</p>

<p> 陳:2至3歲。</p>
<p>問:那你當時很小,真正是在台灣長大。</p>
<p>陳:是,在台灣長大及受教育,後來我父親在1974年移民,隨跟我在台灣服兵役,男子都要服兵役,服完兵役了來美國。</p>
<p>問:那麼他們又為什麼來美國呢?</p>
<p>陳:我父母來,因為我祖父母先來了。又譬如如果我來,我也希望子女也隨即來。</p>
<p>問:故你父先來,你當兵,之後來美國。</p>
<p>陳:對。</p>
<p>問:你當兵多少年?</p>
<p>陳:三年。</p>
<p>問:他們為什麼揀選紐約城市?</p>
<p>陳:因為我祖父母揀選紐約。</p>
<p>問:他們為什麼揀紐約,為什麼不去加州呢?</p>
<p>陳:那我就不清楚了。</p>
<p>問:移民到紐約那一年,你年紀多大?</p>

<p> 陳:1976年,24至25歲</p>
<p>問:那你來時是否已經懂英文?</p>
<p>陳:在台灣時,我唸完High School(高中),識一點點英文。</p>
<p>問:那來到後,你對美國有什麼印象?你來到一個陌生的地方,有沒有感到害怕?</p>
<p>陳:我不怕,因為台灣社會比較親西方,世界比較開放,對於西方資訊有一定了解,不會覺得陌生。好像電影﹑電視﹑收音機﹑報張﹑雜誌都有講美國,所以我對西方資訊比較接受。譬如共產黨是個鐵幕,我不是說共產黨不好,但是比較封閉,所以會缺乏這方面的資訊,所以比較難於適應。從台灣來的,有了這種資訊,這個環境,比較容易接受。</p>
<p>問:之前你對美國的印象是從電視﹑書本或美國居民的家人寫信回來得知的美國生活。</p>
<p>陳:我得到的資訊,是美國是先進﹑自由﹑的國家,有一種美國夢。</p>
<p>問:你有個American dream(美國夢),那是什麼?</p>
<p>陳:那時年輕,有自己的抱負,男子就是能夠創造自己的事業,成家立業,自己完成。</p>
<p>問:在當兵之後,你夢想的事業是什麼?</p>

<p> 陳:我未來之前,不知道美國有那一種行業適合我,到來了之後,必須要看過,或者要試過,才可以知,因為事先沒有辦法估計得到。因為父母在製衣業就業,我也跟著入了這一行,因為受到父母的一點影響,對這方面有些少的認識。在美國紐約那個年代,華人的兩大行業,是餐館及製衣業,就業人數很多,我亦無意中加入製衣業,</p>
<p>問:你爸媽在唐人街做製衣廠?</p>
<p>陳:對。</p>
<p>問:那他們當時幾多歲?</p>
<p>陳:50至60歲。</p>
<p>問:到50至60歲才開始做衣廠,會不會適應很困難?</p>
<p>陳:不會,因為華埠人口很集中,語言上比較容易溝通,譬如生活購物比較容易,有報張雜誌,有中國戲院,他們很容易外出走動。</p>
<p>問:你不經意就入了這行,有沒有考慮入大學?</p>
<p>陳:有,我想過繼續讀書,但因為父母親要做工,兄弟姐妹又多,可能因為經濟問題,沒有辦法。<br>

本來想一面讀書,一面做工,但當的的環境不能允許我,我必須要全職做工,我已經廿多歲,必須要獨立。</p>
<p>問:父母必來美國之前,在香港或台灣是做什麼工作呢?</p>
<p>陳:我父親在台灣是公務員,我母親是家庭主婦。</p>
<p>問:你廿多歲便入這行,算是很年青了?</p>
<p>陳:是的。</p>
<p>問:你初入行時,是做什麼的呢?</p>
<p>陳:初入行時,男性通常是職位只有開份或吸衣。</p>
<p>問:開份,那是怎樣的呢?</p>
<p>陳:開份是貨來時,將它分門別類,然後安排生產的流程,譬如一條褲的配件,有鈕﹑有標籤(label)﹑拉鍊﹑就將它分門別類發出去。這是屬於男性的工作。</p>
<p>問:即是你不是正式做車衣?</p>
<p>陳:不是正式做車衣。</p>
<p>問:你入行之前有沒有正式受過訓練?</p>
<p>陳:沒有正式受訓練。像半途出家,看見別人如何,自己就跟著做。</p>

<p> 問:那是在1976年,當時薪金是多少,譬如一禮拜可以賺幾多錢?</p>
<p>陳:如果一禮拜做五﹑六日,一禮拜可賺300元,那時算不錯,因為物價低,算過得去。</p>
<p>問:同時你廿多歲未有家庭負擔?</p>
<p>陳:對。</p>
<p>問:你很快就入了這一行,你的美國夢有沒有感到失望,就像一來到就入車衣業?</p>
<p>陳:每個人的美國夢都不同,我認為我的學識不夠,能力不夠,不能達到高標準,但能在美國安份守己,安居樂業,沒有大志就可以過得去。</p>
<p>問:你在這一行,多數是女人做車衣業,你喜歡這個職業嗎?</p>
<p>陳:我喜歡這個職業,因為一個敬業樂群的信念,我尊重我的職業,我與同事又相處得好,</p>
<p>問:你在那時的工廠很多,你又同一行業很久,你是否時時轉廠,有好的薪金就跳槽?</p>
<p>陳:我在製衣業廿多年,但只做了幾間廠,因為我和僱主的勞資關係很好,<br>

僱主對員工關係很好,沒有必要跳槽,出一份力,拿一份收獲,沒有受到剝削。</p>
<p>問:Fall short?</p>
<p>陳:不,我是在講國語,我的廣東話不是很好。</p>
<p>問:噢,你的廣東話很好。沒有想過轉行,一直做下去?</p>
<p>陳:一直做下去。</p>
<p>陳:很多人都說車衣業走入尾聲,有些是因為政府的,有些是私人因素。政府的好像她訂立墨西哥條例,配額等,自己美國的生產能力少了,就業機會又少了。</p>
<p>問:你20多年來,有沒有失業?</p>
<p>陳:有,譬如你這間廠的發衣商公司,沒有批出這麼多工作,我們就變成失業,但可領失業金,因有保險。</p>
<p>問:有沒有試過,一年兩年失業?</p>
<p>陳:因為紐約怎樣淡也有少少工作做。</p>
<p>問:你來到紐約已經有家人在,你有沒有考慮搬到其他地方?</p>

<p> 陳:無。</p>
<p>問:有無因為天氣等因素,要搬?</p>
<p>陳:無,都適應了。</p>
<p>問:你1976年來到,住在唐人街?</p>
<p>陳:不,我住在曼哈頓。我做工就在唐人街。</p>
<p>問:那你是否一直在唐人街做工?那1976年你對唐人街的印象如何?</p>
<p>陳:有好有不好,因為70年代有幫派,那是不好的,會影響社區安寧;好的方面,就是生活比較適應,是華人社區,衣食住行方便,而且較融合些。</p>
<p>問:你何時成立自己的家庭。</p>
<p>陳:1979年。</p>
<p>問:你認識太太,她在什麼行業?</p>
<p>陳:她也在製衣業,她有BB之後不做工,一直是家庭主婦,因為她要take care(照顧)小孩子,打理家庭。</p>
<p>問:你有沒有加入工會?</p>
<p>陳:有76年,加入製衣業,我便加入了23-25工會,</p>

<p> 問:為什麼你要加入工會呢?</p>
<p>陳:因為它有保障有福利。保障工人,有福利如醫療﹑假期各方面都很好。</p>
<p>問:那老闆有沒有因為你參加工會,要負擔多一些,他們有沒有叫你不要參加工會?</p>
<p>陳:不會,因為美國是自由社會,不會不准你。</p>
<p>問:那麼僱主是什麼人?</p>
<p>陳:我自己的僱主是中國人,有些來自香港,有些從大陸來。</p>
<p>問:那你廿多年在唐人街很多批,70年代從廣東台山來,80年代由香港來,這10年又很多中國福州人,你覺得這麼多類不同地方來的中國人在一起會有什麼問題嗎?大家合得來嗎?</p>
<p>陳:以我經驗來講沒有碰過,工作上大家比較和氣,沒有什麼爭執,因為大家都是做工。聽講過有爭執,但也不是什麼大事情。</p>
<p>問:但新移民沒有身份的,他們願意收取低一點的薪金,形成競爭,你們老華僑是否覺得被搶去工作,被降低薪金?</p>

<p> 陳:我自己未遇到這事情,但聽聞別人說過,但很少這些情形。因為僱主要按照法例做事,不願冒險,如果僱主不顧條例,剝削了自己的員工,要負上責任,我想,我僱主不願這樣做。</p>
<p>問:你未有受過影響?</p>
<p>陳:我在幾間衣廠做過,衣廠的制度很健全,例如消防設備﹑不准小孩入衣廠﹑很完善。</p>
<p>問:即法例很嚴格。那你一直到今天,你也不是做車衣,你是負責安排……?</p>
<p>陳:不,我是做吸衣的。</p>
<p>問:噢,你現在做吸衣?</p>
<p>陳:我一直做吸衣的。</p>
<p>問:英文叫做presser。因為我不是做車衣行業,我不明白製衣的程序,何時才交到你手做吸衣的?</p>
<p>陳:發衣商發一條褲,先來一塊布,有褲頭,有袋,進入衣廠,女車衣工縫上褲頭﹑縫上拉鏈﹑打鈕﹑打腳,完成了一條褲的樣子,有些剪線把線尾清潔,clean up,到我們將褲用蒸氣,用steam,弄平,弄美麗,就完成一條褲。</p>

<p> 問:那你是坐著吸衣,還是站著吸衣?</p>
<p>陳:我是站著吸衣。因為這些工具的位置,要我站著做。</p>
<p>問:那你一天工作7小時,豈不是很疲倦?</p>
<p>陳:習慣了就不覺倦。</p>
<p>問:你有沒有患上職業病?</p>
<p>陳:沒有職業病。</p>
<p>問:聽很多女工說坐得多,手﹑腳都有問題,是不是?</p>
<p>陳:還有些有腰骨痛。</p>
<p>問:那你是不是很健康?</p>
<p>陳:主要是天熱的時候覺得太熱,因為那工作環境不允許有冷氣,因為有蒸氣,有冷氣也沒有用,但只要空氣流通就可以了。</p>
<p>問:加上其他的機器豈不是很熱?</p>
<p>陳:可以這麼說,所以有風扇,有抽氣﹑抽風,使空氣流通,主要看廠房的結構及設計好不好了。</p>

<p> 問:9/11時你在工廠做工,你的工廠在那裡?</p>
<p>陳:在堅尼路,between Lafayette & Broadway(在拉菲逸及百老匯之間)。</p>
<p>問:是否近這座大廈?</p>
<p>陳:是。</p>
<p>問:9/11對你的生活有什麼影響?</p>
<p>陳:9/11主要對美國﹑紐約及唐人街都是很不幸的日子,我也身受其害,因為那天以後,我很多工作幾乎沒有了。因為交通﹑戒嚴等,衣廠不開門了,沒有工開,我們沒有收入,受到影響。</p>
<p>問:是否因為封街,貨物不能出入?</p>
<p>陳:是的,貨物不能出入。和人心有問題,變得觀望,幾個禮拜不能開工。</p>
<p>問:那不是說沒有人做工,仍有人訂貨,有人做工,但是因為車不能進來?</p>
<p>陳:是,因為我們是重災區的邊緣,我們受到交通管制。</p>
<p>問:那你們的工廠關閉了多欠?</p>
<p>陳:有兩﹑三個禮拜。</p>

<p> 問:那段時間,你做什麼?</p>
<p>陳:我停了工作。沒有上班。</p>
<p>問:那你的收入如何?</p>
<p>陳:沒有工開,就沒有收入。</p>
<p>問:在這情況下,工會有什麼幫助?</p>
<p>陳:發生9/11這件事之後,全世界,全美國都幫助New Yorker,幫助紐約人,像我們沒有工作,是受害者,那些機構如紅十字會﹑安全線,還有工會,都提供幫忙﹑幫助。例如停了幾禮拜日沒有收入,有些人交不到租,沒有錢買食物,紅十字會首先幫助這些人。</p>
<p>問:陳先生你本人有沒有申請這些救濟金?</p>
<p>陳:我有,因為我是受害者,9/11的受害者。</p>
<p>問:是否因為你的工廠暫時關門?</p>
<p>陳:是暫停營業。</p>
<p>問:那你如何知道,是從新聞得知去機構申請還是其他?</p>
<p>陳:從報張雜誌看到的,報張news(新聞),朋友口中得知,或傳來消息。</p>

<p> 問:你本身去申請了多少個地方?</p>
<p>陳:我申請了9/11安全線,因為9/11安全線對受害者幫助很大。因為我是受害人。</p>
<p>問:雖然你不能住在這一區……,</p>
<p>陳:因為工作在災區的關係。例如,有現金資助,一次。後來又幫助申請醫療保險幾個月。後來舉辦培訓班,有13個禮拜,教授英文及電腦﹑及職業技能。</p>
<p>問:你選擇了那一樣?</p>
<p>陳:英文及電腦都選擇。</p>
<p>問:那你現在的英文水準到那裡?</p>
<p>陳:我會識聽一些英文,電腦我會按幾個鍵。</p>
<p>問:如果你搬到一個沒有華人的城市,你生活將有沒有困難?</p>
<p>陳:以人生經驗來說,第一我不怕。最驚是心裡怕。如果不怕,在困難環境下,有意志,願意拚下去,就可以了。</p>
<p>問:那13個禮拜,你學了英文班及電腦,還有……?</p>
<p>陳:跟著就是學製衣業的技能,好像我這行業是吸衣,我學到新的技術,<br>

如何可以把產品做到最好,如何操作﹑如何運作,增加技考,不再用死方法,使體力透支。</p>
<p>問:但你已經做這行很久,要懂得的你應該已經學會了,那13個禮拜,你仍會學到新東西嗎?</p>
<p>陳:是,那我這麼多年只是日日做工,沒有辦法接觸新資訊。</p>
<p>問:你們的工廠有沒有隔一段時間有training(訓練)?</p>
<p>陳:沒有。</p>
<p>問:只是做,你用的方法10年,15年都不變?</p>
<p>陳:沒有變。這6個禮拜我學到多些東西。</p>
<p>問:這幾年成衣業漸漸出國生產衣褲,你有沒有想過到轉行?</p>
<p>陳:如果轉行,說得不好聽就是歲月不饒人,大年紀不適合,不能從頭做起,我不再是young man(年青人)了。</p>
<p>問:You don’t look old. (你看來不像老。)</p>
<p>(被訪者笑。)</p>
<p>問:那你怕不怕這行業會沒有工作?</p>
<p>陳:我對它很有信心,應該不會沒有工作。</p>

<p> 問:是不是少些但不會完全消失?</p>
<p>陳:就好像食物,不會斷。因為就好像人始終要食,正如服裝一樣,人一定要穿衣服。</p>
<p>問:但是,你的薪金怎樣也不會像中國一樣低?</p>
<p>陳:那是說競爭能力了,我們在紐約的優勢是,我們的出產的衣服比較快,那是中國及東南亞追趕不及的,你同意嗎?</p>
<p>問:即如果order (訂單)不大的,你可以在短時間之內完成,交貨,遠的地方都不能了。</p>
<p>陳:好像商業社會,差一天就差很遠了。</p>
<p>問:回去講那13個禮拜,除了training(訓練)還有什麼津貼?</p>
<p>陳:那13禮拜,我們離開了工作,接受教育,一禮拜要讀35小時,這段時間不能做工,沒有薪金,9/11津貼我們一禮拜有300元。</p>
<p>問:這300元是否少於你在工廠的薪金?</p>
<p>陳:不會,因為……。</p>
<p>問:你不是說70年代你300元一禮拜,現在也是300元一禮拜,你的生活怎麼會足夠?</p>

<p> 陳:因為上課這禮拜不是每天都上課,我利用早上,先做4﹑5小時才上課,我按時間表上課,故此我有300元津貼,另外有少許做工的收入,</p>
<p>問:你都仍然做工,不是完全停工?</p>
<p>陳:是。</p>
<p>問:9/11之後你的工作停頓多久?</p>
<p>陳:有二﹑三個禮拜完全停頓,之後慢慢復甦,就安定了,衣廠的進度慢慢恢復正常,然後有職業培訓班,這種教育。因為9/11很多衣廠關門,因為他們沒有辦法支撐下去。</p>
<p>問:那是因為貨不能進入?</p>
<p>陳:也是因為衣廠必須負擔平日的開支,如租金﹑水電,但又沒有生產,那支持不下去。</p>
<p>問:但你的衣廠就沒有……?</p>
<p>陳:我們老闆及工人之間比較體諒合作,同舟共濟。</p>
<p>問:當時13禮拜的老師是什麼人,中國人,或白人….?</p>
<p>陳:有白人,也有中國人。</p>

<p> 問:都有中國人?</p>
<p>陳:中國老師用中文解釋。好像英文課就用外國人,好像電腦老師是外國人,至少我班的情況如是。</p>
<p>問:那當時你有沒有想到要轉行?有沒有鼓勵你們學新東西轉行?</p>
<p>陳:都有,但他們知道學生的程度達不到,故此沒有提醒我們去轉行。好像電腦班,上了課後只能學得最基本的,所以不能因此而轉行。</p>
<p>問:你的電腦班,學了以後,對你的事業有沒有幫助?</p>
<p>陳:目前來說,我沒有電腦這個需要,工作上沒有需要,這些如電腦學得的知識是私人的。</p>
<p>問:提供13個禮拜的training(訓練)是那一個機構?</p>
<p>陳:23-25工會。</p>
<p>問:是工會自己開班,還是另一個機構負責教授?</p>
<p>陳:好像是CWE(勞工教育聯盟),我覺得那們的機構制度很好,準時上課,學完有考試。因為他們也要知道花了這麼多心血教授是否有效果。</p>

<p> 問:你覺得13個禮拜足夠嗎?要不要繼續讀?</p>
<p>陳:我覺得如不影響工作的話,我想繼續讀,因為人有求知的慾望,追求更好的知識。</p>
<p>問:救濟金取完後,你怎樣?</p>
<p>陳:我返回工作單位,正常做工。</p>
<p>問:你之後一直做,還是少做了?</p>
<p>陳:因為我們工廠有幾十人一起去上課,影響老闆的生產量少了,這13禮拜過後工人替老闆儘量追,我們對公司都有負擔。</p>
<p>問:你現在子女都長大,你會否希望他做你這行呢?</p>
<p>陳:子女已經長大,大學畢業及就業了,他們不是在這行,好像大的女在會計師行做,小的在 Bloomingdale做,我覺得他們都幾好,做管理工作。</p>
<p>問:那你的美國夢或多或少在子女身上也實現了,是嗎?</p>
<p>陳:因為中國人望子成龍,望女成鳳,今日他們都有些成就,我都有些安慰。</p>
<p>問:你想你會做多久才退休?</p>

<p> 陳:好說不好聽,做到不能做才退休。</p>
<p>問:我看你的健康還不錯,是不是?</p>
<p>陳:一個人的身體健康很重要。</p>
<p>問:你在唐人街做事多年,你覺得唐人街幾十年來有什麼改變,除了人多了,馬路闊了,你覺得華人之間及華人社會有什麼改變?</p>
<p>陳:變化很大,告訴你一個笑話,那時候,我剛來的時候從台灣來,那是的華埠人士都講廣東台山話,那時我在街上有人講國語,我會覺得稀奇,抬頭看看他是誰,因為真的很少人講國語。今日你不懂福州話人們就會覺得很奇怪,因為華埠很多福州人。20年的變化很大。</p>
<p>問:你覺得這麼不同的華人在唐人街是否團結?</p>
<p>陳:我感覺到他們有他們的圈子。台山人有台山人的圈子,我覺得和他們交流比較容易。</p>
<p>問:那你覺得你屬於那個圈子,你又不是台山人?</p>
<p>陳:我有自己的朋友,自己的partner(夥伴),我人比較隨和。</p>
<p>問:除了工會,你有沒有參加其他的工會?</p>
<p>陳:社團之類,沒有。</p>
<p>問:為什麼?沒有這需要,或者……?</p>
<p>陳:我不知道,我覺得那是老華僑的圈子,我的感覺是這樣。</p>
<p>問:你不算老,但你在美國很久,你認為自己是……?</p>
<p>陳:我也是老華僑,但我也有自己的圈子。除了工作,我和朋友禮拜日去釣魚,去玩。</p>
<p>問:我們已傾談了很久,陳先生,你覺得我們遺漏了什麼,有關生活﹑工作﹑私人看法……?</p>
<p>陳:我講笑說,我覺得你已經很了解我了。哈哈,</p>
<p>問:哈哈,那我們就停在這裡。</p>
<p>陳:多謝。</p>
<p>問:Thank you!</p>
<p>(完)</p>

Citation

“Shi Yun Chin,” September 11 Digital Archive, accessed March 31, 2020, https://911digitalarchive.org/items/show/88962.