I’m at a hearing for the APALA. I’m here to hear people’s stories, and from elected officials and community leaders. I’ll share them with you as it happens.
… First panel is the education panel. Students who’ve seen cuts at the UW, and are seeing the quality of education go down. SCCC nursing student whose workforce is being squeezed.
… Working with high school dropouts. Wants us to know that getting a GED is an equivalent to a high school diploma. That No Child Left Behind sees a GED as a failure, but that working with people who’ve dropped out, and getting their GED is just as good for everything you want to do.
… High school teachers are being asked to pay for more things for for their students, while at the same time losing wages. They can’t pay for extracurricular activities or to better themselves. Year 4 or 5 many teachers can’t keep up with this.
… Story of an undocumented student. Mongolia had it’s revolution, and her parents started a business, but when it failed, they came into America. She didn’t even know she was here illegally until she started working at 15. She couldn’t get a job except under the table because she didn’t have a Social Security number. Her parents go from low wage jobs to low wage jobs. Her bosses have cheated her out of wages and tips and sexually harassed her.
Nobody says one day, “let’s go to America and live there illegally.” They just want a better life for themselves and for their children. But now she doesn’t know that she’ll be able to use her degree. The immigration system especially hurts children.
… A new panel of government workers. DSHS worker. Sees the difficult lives that people are having especially new immigrants. A postal worker who was injured on the job and has been denied compensation, and the union is working to make sure he can get it. He has a daughter in high school so can’t retire.
… Service Sector Panel. A union steward a Boeing. The language barrier and the accent is an issue for many Asian workers. They are treated like kids (even if the managers are younger than their own children) because of it, and bosses don’t make an effort to work with them. Bosses “think they know more than us because they can talk.” The company forgets they’re part of the team and doesn’t respect them.
… Trying to organize a union at SeaTac. Wheelchair service is hard work but it’s important. People doing it make $8.67 and don’t have good benefits. Management will send people home early when they ask for their 10 minute break. So she wanted to start a union. Managers tried to say that they’ll fix everything, and the union will just take their money, and are punishing her. But she needs the job to support her family.
… A grocery worker who has worked throughout the area. Managers talk to people like they’re stupid. Talk slow and not like other employees, but the workers don’t complain. The language barrier makes it tough to solve problems. Workload is bigger for fewer hours, so there are more accidents: In delis working with knives, and people getting burned regularly. There’s no consistency in work schedule that makes it difficult to spend time with family.
In their last strike, they put out their demands in multiple languages. They presented the Chinese version to their manager to show how difficult it is to work when presented in another language.
… A Walmart worker. OUR Walmart. Organization United for Respect at Walmart. People working for Walmart are exhausted now preparing for Black Friday. They’re suffering to work paycheck to paycheck. They don’t even get $10 an hour when their company is a multibillion dollar company. If we can change Walmart, we can change the world.
… A janitor who was told he has to clean 13 stories of bathrooms in 4 hours. When he told his foreman he would do his best, he was told he’d be fired if he couldn’t. The foreman swore at him, and called other managers down. He’s been told by the company that he’ll be fired if he can’t do that in the future.
… That’s the end of the testimony from workers and students. But there’s still the “Distinguished Panel” of community members. A man from OSHA says that while overall injury rates are going down, it’s going up in health care where there is a lot of lifting and in hotels. People need to know they have the right to come to OSHA and state agencies.
… Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In the Seattle office has noticed that working with immigrant populations, employers are going to abuse their workers because of language, because of culture, because of immigration status. People are scared of losing their jobs, especially in this economic climate. Immigrants are abused, are exploited, are raped, but they’re afraid of being fired or retaliated against. But people have a right to go to work and there are laws to protect them.
… To wrap up, I think this was an amazing forum. Letting people give their stories is amazing. It was just the tip of the iceberg, and there are so many more of these kinds of stories all across the state and the country. Thanks for the invite from the organizers, and thanks to everyone who spoke for telling your stories. I’ve edited this post a bit and added links since putting it up.