How PR can help street vendor culture
Street vendors and small local business owners are one of the most vulnerable populations in society today. With the COVID-19 pandemic still lingering, some families look to street vending as a way to make ends meet. Recently, crimes and attacks that have ultimately led to the death of some street vendors have been on the rise. Street vending is an important part of California’s culture and economy. As public relations professionals, we must take the initiative and be the light of our communities to give voice to others.
The population of street vendors is mainly made up of immigrants and people of color. A majority of the street vending population are undocumented, women, or elderly workers. At times, they work through harsh weather conditions, long hours, and are in areas of heavy traffic. On top of the adversity street vendors face, cases of assault and robbery have been on the rise since 2010. Los Angeles County alone reported that crimes against street vendors rose from 38 to 166 crimes per year between 2010 and 2019. This represents an increase of 336% over the decade.
In 2018, Senate Bill 946 was signed and went into effect. The bill ultimately decriminalizes street vending and lets cities create their own guidelines for vending. Cities can only enforce tickets for vendors who violate rules instead of having vendors face criminal charges. While this bill is promising and is a win for most California street vendors, they are still vulnerable to attacks and crimes against them.
Lately, more and more videos of street vendors being attacked, robbed and beaten have circulated throughout the media and internet. These attacks have brought out feelings of resentment, anger, and sadness from those communities affected. While the real reason for the attacks is unknown, some perpetrators seen in the videos of attacks and robberies are young adults and gang members.
While street vending can be a rigorous and dangerous job, it represents the livelihood of some of our communities' members. As public relations practitioners and academics, it is important for us to bridge a gap of trust between our organizations and communities. We are the voice that can shed light and help provide opportunities for others. Through this, we can help build stronger communities and contribute to the culture of street vending.
One of the ways in which PR practitioners can get involved is by offering pro bono services. Through this, practitioners can offer street vendors advice on how to market their products and boost sales. Many street vendors, if not all, may not have access to marketing tools or media connections. They might also have no idea what any of this even means. A little gratitude goes a long way and with the knowledge and connections PR practitioners hold, this can help make a difference in their community and in someone else’s life.
To learn more about street vending, how to support and help, the Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign, Inclusive Action is a great organization. They believe in building a strong local economy that will help boost low-income communities through advocacy and transformative economic development initiatives.
By Jessica Troche
Jessica is a senior at San Diego State University and will graduate in fall 2021 with a bachelor’s in Journalism and Media Studies with an emphasis in Public Relations. She currently resides in the Coachella Valley and hopes to land a PR role within an educational institution after graduation.