By Rebecca Van Horn
Community Initiatives Organizer, Jewish Council on Urban Affairs
For the past 11 months, the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs has worked with the Street Vendors Association (AVA, La Asociación de Vendedores Ambulantes) in Chicago to support passage of a new street vending ordinance. The current Peddler License permits the sale of only uncut, unpeeled fruits and vegetables and packaged goods, preventing vendors from selling prepared ethnic foods like tamales and elotes.
The Association of Street Vendors (AVA) formed in 1992 in response to the brutality of police and health inspectors. Today it boasts more than 200 members and meets every Wednesday at locations on 26th and 47th streets in Little Village to discuss what is happening within the street vending community and how it can improve working conditions in the future.
AVA has arrived at a critical moment in the campaign to improve working conditions for Chicago peddlers. In June, representatives from JCUA and AVA met with six aldermen, the Commissioner of Business Administration and three representatives from the University of Chicago to discuss the possibility of creating a new ordinance. On July 12, Ald. Willy Cochran (20th) committed to drafting a new ordinance, marking a new landmark in the road to reform.
JCUA and Chicago street vendors are now calling upon restaurant owners, politicians, individuals and grassroots organizations to join the campaign to legalize the sale of ethnic foods by reforming the current peddlers license. After 20 years of fighting, it’s time to win.