By Angel Rivera
My name is Angel Rivera. Like the Fight for 15 workers who are protesting across the country today, I know what it’s like to work hard, but be unable to get by because of poverty wages and an employer that doesn’t respect your rights. But, thanks be to God, I also know that hard work can be rewarded when you win a union and better wages.
I moved from Puerto Rico to Boston for better work and a better future for my children. For the last two years I have been working as a cleaner at Logan International Airport. Two years, two jobs, the same airport, but worlds apart.
Low pay, abuse and disrespect were common currency when I worked as a cabin cleaner for my previous employer. I earned $8 an hour, working nights and as many extra hours as I could in order to support my family.
But this meant that I couldn’t spend time with my four children, and no matter how much I worked, I couldn’t pay all my bills. I needed government help to cover my heating costs, health care, and childcare. It got so bad for a time that my children and girlfriend lived in a homeless shelter while I stayed with friends.
I wasn’t the only one going through this. For me and my co-workers, not being able to pay bills, relying on government assistance, and even being separated from our families were all too common.
Then, when I talked with my coworkers about forming a union in order to change our work conditions, I was fired.
Luckily, I found another job. This time cleaning at Logan with a union company. The union changed my life.