2013 New York City Rising Stars: Christina Baal

Written by Morgan Pehme on . Posted in Features, Rising Stars.

Age: 33  |  Position: State Legislative Coordinator, 32BJ

Christina Baal’s father came to the United States from the Philippines in 1969 with one suitcase and $200. Now all three of his daughters have master’s degrees.

Baal always knew her father’s story was special, but it was only when she interned at the Lower East Side’s Cabrini Immigrant Services during her first year at Hunter College’s school of social work that she realized just how remarkable his success was.

Working with Cabrini’s women’s program, Baal said, “I learned a lot about how broken the immigration system is and how bad policies come down directly on communities. … The reason my dad’s story is the way that it is is because he could come here when the immigration laws were more fair. He was able to get a union job, my mom was able to get a union job, they were able to get benefits. I think that if he had tried to immigrate now … we would not have had this little family story.”

Eventually Baal became Cabrini’s executive director, but she was convinced to leave the organization for a career in political organizing.

“One of my members put it like … You’re one of the ‘us’ that can get inside the ‘them’ and change the laws,” recalled Baal.

So she took a position with the New York Immigration Coalition, and later moved over to RWDSU, where she worked on the minimum wage bill and the union’s initiative to regulate the car-wash industry.

Now at 32BJ, Baal is the union’s Albany lobbyist, pushing for an array of progressive legislation during session and working on city elections in the off-season.

If you were not working in politics or government, what would you be doing? “I teach at the social work school … and those two hours a week are some of my favorite … It’s just such a different energy. People feel really hopeful, and I feel like I’m shaping future change-makers.”

What is your favorite place in New York City? “The trails in Van Cortlandt Park … where you feel like you’re in the wilderness, and you’re in the Bronx.”

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