By Holly Krig
Community Initiatives Organizer, JCUA
This morning members of the Street Vendors Association (AVA, La Asociación de Vendedores Ambulantes), with the help of JCUA, organized a protest outside the municipal courts, 400 W Superior, to raise their voices against ongoing harassment by Chicago police officers.
The vendors, who sell freshly-prepared ethnic foods, are predominately low-income immigrant Latino women challenged by balancing several low-wage/day labor jobs and hectic childcare schedules.
Under a Chicago peddling ordinance that prohibits the selling of cut or prepared foods, vendors face fines between $50 and $200, which are a large percentage of their average yearly income of $6,000 to $10,000.
In addition to the fines, many vendors have had their food tossed out by police who threaten to call immigration and ask to see their “papers.”
JCUA has been working with AVA for about a year and a half now on the group’s long-term vision of winning a comprehensive ordinance from the city that will protect the right of vendors to sell ethnic food.
The group is also pushing for a kitchen cooperative where vendors can come together to learn about their rights and health and safety regulations. Another goal of the group is to continue to organize in support of other vendors and immigrant workers across the country.
Last week the street vendors organized a march down 26th Street in protest of the recent increase in fines and food tossing.
The march was organized shortly after 56-year-old street vendor, Alicia Alarcon, was shot and wounded by a stray bullet while selling elotes in her Little Village neighborhood—a business she started after losing her job as a factory worker.