The hardest thing about not having a union is having to explain to my daughter why she only sees me on Saturdays. I am a concierge at a luxury building on the High Line in Manhattan where one-bedroom apartments sell for $1.7 million. I live in a one-bedroom apartment in the Bronx with my wife and four children and we pay $1,000 in rent. I don’t make enough to cover all of our expenses at the High Line building, so I also work a second job as a cleaner at a jewelry store in Queens. Sometimes I am working 80 hours a week.
I have to get up in the morning before my children are awake to make it to my job in Queens, and I get home from my High Line job late, after they are already asleep. My seven-year-old daughter sometimes asks me not to work so much. She asks me why I’m not there in the morning when she wakes up. I explain that I have to work, because we need to pay the bills. She tells me that she understands.
I do not have health insurance. Sometimes I have to go back to my home country, Ecuador, to get medical help. If I tried to take care of it here in New York it would cost me thousands of dollars. It is cheaper for me to fly back home then to get medical care here.
I like my job and the residents make me feel like I’m at home, but it makes me feel bad that they don’t value me and don’t think that I deserve more. I believe that the people living in these luxury apartments could afford a few extra dollars to provide decent pay and health coverage for me and my coworkers.
I thought that once we spoke up the residents would listen to us, but I feel like we are being ignored. It makes me feel like they don’t care about us.
We are not going to give up. We are going to stay united to get a union. That’s why I want the members of 32BJ to fight as hard as they can for a good contract. I believe that if they can keep the standards high in this city, that it benefits people like me. Already, just because we have been fighting for a union, the building gave us a few more dollars. It’s not enough, and we need benefits, but it shows that we can have an impact.
32BJ members have come to rallies and strikes at my building, and I will be marching with 32BJ on April 2. Their fight is my fight. Together, we can make sure all building workers make enough to support our families, and have time to see them too.