Teresa Mancheno is a testament to the strength and vigor of our Justice for Janitors campaign. She has been working as a cleaner at Newark Liberty International Airport for 13 years. She is also a shop steward who has seen firsthand the long and ongoing struggle to achieve better wages and conditions for janitors.
Equally fascinating is her personal story. At age 33, she became a widow and was forced to become the breadwinner for her seven children. In 2001, Mancheno and her children made the long and arduous journey from Ecuador to the United States in search of a better life. But achieving the American Dream wasn’t always easy. When she first started working as a janitor at Newark Airport, she earned just $6.50 per hour—not enough to make ends meet. Tears filled Mancheno’s eyes as she recalled the many times her belly ached with hunger pains because what little food she had she always gave to her family which had grown to include eight children. She also couldn’t afford to send her children to college. But she takes pride in the fact that her granddaughter did get a degree and is now a nurse.
Today Mancheno, who now has 15 grandchildren, earns $10.10 an hour–a considerable increase from her starting pay of $6.50, but still not a living wage. As she explains in this video clip, 32BJ SEIU has and will continue to be a driving force in helping her and all janitors and hardworking people everywhere achieve justice and a living wage so together they can help Raise America.