Last Friday, the day after International Women’s Day, female street vendors gathered in downtown and urged city council members to remove a proposed business veto that they say would affect their livelihood. According to the dozens that showed up in support, this veto power would give established business owners the opportunity to harass street vendors.
Council members are considering implementing a business veto that, according to the L.A. Times, would allow traditional brick-and-mortar businesses authority to ban street vendors in front of their establishments.
Women street vendors from all around the city held a press conference Friday outside of City Hall to demand that politicians get rid of the proposed veto. The women are leaders of the LA Street Vendor Campaign (LASVC), a coalition of organizations advocating for the legalization of street vending.
“Council members have to mobilize,“ Merced Sanchez, one of the speakers at the press conference, told L.A. TACO, in Spanish. “They have to recognize our work that is as dignified as any other type of work.“
Sanchez sells baby clothes and women’s accessories in the Piñata District. She said she has been on the brink of losing her merchandise during encounters with officials. Sanchez said she relies on street vending to send money to her 80-year-old parents in Mexico.
Women and supporters argue that the policy would only add fear and extortion and that women are especially at risk.
“I pray to the Virgin of Guadalupe to let me come back to my house. I tell her, you know what I do? I do out of necessity,“ Sanchez said. “At my age, no one will give me work.“
The press conference turned into a protest that led to the arrest of seven women. Before the rally, 15 women entered City Hall to ask council members for support. Some council members, including Mike Bonin, Mitchell Englander, and Paul Krekorian, were not available to comment.
Of the estimated 50,000 street vendors in Los Angeles, advocates estimate that women make up 80 percent of vendors, a press release by the LASVC stated. Many of street vendors in L.A. are immigrants.
In February last year, the city council unanimously passed a vote to decriminalize street vending meaning street vendors would not face criminal charges. The decision was a huge win for undocumented vendors and advocates concerned that criminal charges could lead to deportation.
A new state bill proposed by Democratic State Sen. Ricardo Lara of Bell Gardens in February of this year could require cities to have a licensing system for vendors if passed.
“We are not criminals. We do not destroy anyone’s life, but in this country, there is a lot of capitalism,“ Sanchez said. “The bourgeoisie and big business owners destroy us because they have the power to come to council members and demand that they don’t let us sell.
All quotes were translated from Spanish to English by the reporter.