Georgetown Workers Speak Out!
Below are the result of an ongoing worker testimonial
project at Georgetown University. Names have been changed.
Azucena, age 40, subcontracted
Elena Carranza, subcontracted custodial
John Black, age 60, contracted Marriott
Marta, age 50, subcontracted custodial
Ana Maria Bonilla, age 60, subcontracted
Edward, age 45, directly hired,
unionized Georgetown employee
Alem, age 55, directly hired, unionized
Charlie, ago 60, Marriott worker
Azucena, 40 years old,
subcontracted custodial worker
I came to this country because there are no good opportunities
in my country. There is too much unemployment. Poverty
drives you away from your home. Life in El Salvador
was very, very hard.
I grew up in the countryside in El Salvador. I come
from a poor family, and we lived on an hacienda, doing
work for a very rich, millionaire family. Since I was
young, all I have known is work. I had to begin working
in the fields when I was 12 years old, doing backbreaking
work on the hacienda. When I was 16, my father had accident
and died. It was up to us to help my mother, so all
my brothers and sisters had to work to support my mother.
On the hacienda, you work from daybreak until sunset.
You hardly get any rest. You hardly make any money;
it is not enough to even buy food. We would get 60 colones
every two weeks (approx. US$6.00). On the hacienda,
we had to plant and harvest cotton, we had to plant
and gather corn, and husk the corn. It is very difficult
work, but there was nothing else to do, no other work.
We had supervisors who always abused us, who always
tried to get more and more work from us. Working with
cotton is very hard. We would wear socks on our hands
to protect us, but during the harvest there is a lot
of cotton, and you have to strip it all. My hands would
get so cut up that you could see my flesh; my hands
would be raw. On some days, I could no longer walk,
because my back hurt from bending over all day. Life
is very, very hard.
The story of how I got to the U.S. is very long, and
too sad to tell. It is very hard to come to this country.
I suffered very much, and I had to spend time in Mexico
before I was able to find a way to the U.S. I insisted
on moving to the U.S. There comes a point when the hunger
is too much to bear, and you want to find good work.
But I had to come alone; I could not bring my children.
I had to leave my two sons with my mother. It is the
most painful thing in the world to be separated from
your children. It is hard to only talk to them on the
telephone; it is so hard to not know how they are growing.
But I had to come first, and save enough money to be
able to bring them. My sons were very young, and I did
not get to see them for 14 years. I could not go back,
and they could not come to me. When I left my home in
El Salvador, I was heartbroken to leave behind my children,
The life of an immigrant is very difficult. When I
first got to this country, I didn’t like it. I
wanted to go back. I missed my children. You suffer
a lot. I knew that I had to work. In El Salvador, we
only got paid $6 every two weeks; here, you can earn
$6 every day, or if you are lucky, $6 every hour. But
you also have to pay for so much more. Everything is
more expensive, and you pay rent, your bills, your laundry,
food, things for your children, bus money. Out on the
hacienda, we had very little, but we only had to pay
for the electricity. We could eat from the harvest,
and we had our own little house.
I came to the DC area because I had family already
living out here. I had to move in with my sister until
I could find a good job and a place to live. But it
took me more than four years to be able to save enough
money, to have enough to pay rent for my own place.
I have had many jobs, working in cleaning and working
in restaurants. It is hard work, but my whole life I
have had to work hard. You get used to it.
I never got a chance to study English. I would like
to learn, and I have tried before, but I think that
doing all this night work makes you lose your memory.
Before, I could remember lots of things, lots of words.
Now I forget everything right away. I think it is because
I am tired all the time. We work too hard. I wish I
could learn, because learning the language is important
for getting good job.
I found out about the P&R job from friend. We
both came to apply, and it seemed like it wouldn’t
be too bad. I’m used to working. But the work
here is very hard, and we work too much. They give you
a task, certain parts to clean – but the supervisors,
they won’t lend a hand. You work like a dog. Cleaning
floors is hard. There is a lot to clean, and you have
to sweep first and then go back with the mop. Most days
I feel a lot of pain in my back, from cleaning floors
and bending. The pain doesn’t go away until I
go home and shower, and the hot water relaxes my muscles.
I have to clean bathrooms, and there are so many! I
also have to do doors, windows, carpets and floors.
For only $7.25 an hour. Night work is harder than day
work. During the day, the classrooms don’t need
to be cleaned because there are people inside. At night,
we have to clean everything.
Our salaries were raised last year, but it is not enough.
I would like another increase in salary. Half of my
salary goes to pay rent. I pay $650 for a tiny apartment
in the city, for three people. There is only one bedroom.
I also have to send money to El Salvador. I have to
provide for my mother, and one of my sons is still there.
I could not bring him to the U.S., and I have never
been able to visit him. It’s been years now. Luckily,
he goes to school; but I have to send money to pay for
his college. I try to send them $350 every month.
I get to work at 10:30 p.m., and I get out at 7:30.
I go home as soon as I can so that I can sleep. Most
days I can sleep until the afternoon, maybe until 2
p.m. But sometimes I have to run errands, and I can’t
sleep that much. I have to get up in the early afternoon
so that I can cook for my son, but I have to leave at
5 pm to go to my second job. My son also has to work
two jobs, and I hardly see him. He gets home at 4, and
I have to leave for work at 5. I wish I could see him
more, but we both have to work.
I have a part-time job cleaning offices downtown.
Since it is a part-time job I don’t get health
insurance, but at least I get paid sick days and paid
holidays. We get all the holidays off, and they are
paid. I know that’s because there is a union in
my job downtown, and they had to fight for that. With
P&R they don’t give you paid holidays.
I wish I could find a day shift somewhere, so that
I wouldn’t be exhausted all the time. It is very
difficult to find day work. It is hard to find any work!
Sometimes on the public bus, you will see other immigrants
who are asking around, to see if there is work. A lot
of people don’t have anything. So you know that
you have to keep the job you have, because you won’t
be able to find another one. You can’t complain.
Sometimes the students are disrespectful to us. They
make big messes in the bathrooms – it’s
a disaster. They leave a lot of trash, and a lot of
disgusting things to clean up. I don’t even understand
how they could be so dirty! Students leave lots of sticky
food and spill soda, or they will leave trash in the
sinks and clog the drains. In some bathrooms there is
urine all over the place, and I have to clean that.
People spit on the floors, on the walls. In the women’s
bathroom, some people leave their menstrual pads lying
on the floor. They can’t even wrap them up and
put them in the trash. It’s as though they want
you to have to come pick it up after them with your
own hands. I know they pay a lot of money to study here
at Georgetown. Maybe they expect you to come clean up
after them for that kind of money. When I am walking
into a building, there are some students who just let
the door slam in your face.
But there are good students too. Like the students
working on the campaign, but those are very few. I think
this work we are doing for the living wage and for the
union is very good. I really hope that we will be able
to get an increase in salary. What we earn is not fair;
working at night, doing hard work, it is unjust. I wish
they would give us a little less work. I hope that we
can start a union here, and that we can get more money
and benefits, because alone we have not been able to
achieve anything. They don’t listen to us! When
there is a bad situation, they don’t want to listen
or help. The bosses just ignore us. But with the students
– well, they have to listen to you.
I wish that you could make enough to live on from working
one job. I don’t like working two jobs. It should
be enough to only work one. If we had a living wage,
I could think about quitting my part-time job, because
it is too hard to work both. Life in this country is
not easy. Sometimes I get discouraged. But I get strength
from my children. My son is going to graduate from his
college this year, and he will have a career. I am so
proud of him. And I am proud that I helped him get ahead.
[back to top]
Elena Carranza, subcontracted
I come from a family of little means. My father was
killed during the civil war in El Salvador; my mother
was left alone to provide for the family. She decided
to move to the United States to find work, and she could
not take me with her; I was only one year old. My mother
would try to send back money. I was left behind, to
be raised by my grandmother. I did not see my mother
again until I was 19 years old, and when my mother had
raised enough money to bring me to the U.S.
Life in El Salvador was hard. I could only go to school
until seventh grade because my family could not afford
to send me. I did little things to help out, like selling
bread, or selling food on the street. But it was not
enough, and I thought that one day my mother would be
able to arrange for me to go be with her in the United
When I finally came to the U.S., I had to find work
immediately. The only job I could find was cleaning
at a clinic; a friend of mine at church recommended
the job to me, and tried to get me in. Cleaning is the
only work I’ve ever done here. When you come from
a different country and you don’t speak the language,
this is the only kind of job you can get. I wish I could
study, and learn English maybe, but I can’t. I
work, and during the day I have to care for my children.
I just don’t have any time. If I knew how to speak
English, then I could defend myself. I take my five-year-old
daughter around with me so that she can translate.
When I first started doing custodial work, I thought
it was very difficult, hard work. The managers expect
a lot from you. I had to learn to adapt. Now I don’t
mind cleaning. I like keeping things clean. This is
the only good job I can get. I don’t want to work
in a Taco Bell or a McDonald’s; those places are
worse, and they make you work during the weekend. I
want to spend my weekend with my children.
When I came to DC I needed to find work. A relative
of mine knew they were hiring in this cleaning company,
and I got a chance for the job. I was surprised that
the job paid so little, especially for night work. But
I needed the job, so I went anyway. That was two years
I start work at 11 p.m. I punch in, and go right to
my building. I gather my supplies and I get started
on the work so that I can get it all done. It is hard
because the managers are always watching you; they won’t
leave you alone. If they don’t like the way you
clean something, they will make you do it again, even
if that spot is already clean! Sometimes the cleaning
solutions don’t clean all the stains, and that’s
not my fault. Sometimes I don’t know what to do
to please the manager. My old manager was not nice to
me. One night, a toilet was clogged, and I asked him
to help me with it. He told me that it was my job to
get the toilet clean, and that if it was clogged, I
should stick my hand in the toilet. I was shocked; I
should have told him to stick his own hand down the
I have to catch the bus to go home at 7:30. It takes
me more than an hour to get home. I have to rush home
because I pay a baby-sitter to watch the children while
the father is away at work. When he goes to work, he
leaves the children with a neighbor. I pay her for the
few hours that it takes me to get home. As soon as I
get home, I have to feed breakfast to my children, and
I do it as quickly as I can so that we can all take
a nap together. I get to sleep at about 10 a.m., but
my children get hungry again at about 1 p.m. I have
to get up to feed them, and I also have to take care
of them – play with them, bathe them, change diapers.
I also have to start making dinner for my husband. If
I am lucky I can sleep for another hour or so when he
gets home from work, but that’s only if I don’t
have a lot of chores or things to do outside the house.
I also have to run errands, clean my home, and do laundry.
By 9:00 pm I have to get ready for work again, so that
I won’t be late.
Night work is hard. You are always tired. I wish that
we would get paid more for our work, and that they could
give us paid holidays. We don’t get a paid break.
I get paid around $1200 a month, but I have to pay $1000
every month in rent alone. It is not enough. We can’t
make it every month. I am lucky that my husband can
also work. I live with my husband and my three children
in a small efficiency apartment in Maryland. We don’t
even have bedrooms.
I wish that when Georgetown had openings for directly-hired
workers, that they would tell the P & R workers
first. Especially the women – we need to work.
If they have openings for night work, or even day shifts,
I wish they would tell us. The Georgetown workers have
a good job, they get more money and they get good benefits.
When my children are sick, I don’t want to go
into work. I can’t go. One time my little boy
was sick and I took him to the hospital, but when I
call my work to tell them that I can’t come in,
it’s an emergency, they don’t believe me.
They treat me as though I just don’t want to come
to work. You tell them the truth, and they don’t
believe you. The next day one of the managers criticized
me for not coming to work. I told him that my children
come first, and that I tried to call and tell them.
But my children are more important to me. If they want
to fire me for taking care of my children, then they
I like working at the university because I like seeing
students. For the first time in my job, I feel that
there are people who respect us and are trying to help.
I am happy that there are students who want something
better for us; I meet students who are eager to learn,
but also eager to help us.
I hope that this campaign creates change quickly.
I wish things could change soon. I can’t wait
another year, two years, to see if we will get a raise
and more benefits. Many of us don’t stay in this
kind of job, but then we can’t find another job.
But we need to work. I wish we could have the kinds
of benefits that the Georgetown workers have, because
we do the same work and we work in the same place
If we were paid a living wage, it would help me in
my home. My family lives in a very small home. I would
like to one day buy a house for my children, to have
something better for them. It would let me save money
for my children, and to give them a good future. I want
my children to achieve all that I could not. I want
my children to study; I want them to be different. I
don’t want my children to work like I do. I know
I cannot afford to send my children to college, but
that is my dream for them, and I hope that they will
study hard to get some government aid and scholarships.
We get paid too little.
I know I need to work. I am not ashamed of my work;
I know it is honest. Cleaning is necessary work, and
I don’t mind doing it. I want to work. I just
wish life could be a little easier.
[back to top]
John Black, 60 year old
contracted Marriott worker
» Were you born in DC?
Yeah I was born here in DC. I was raised here, but
when school was out I’d go down to the country.
So basically I’d spend 60-70% of my time here,
you know, and in the summer months I’d go down
to the country when school was out. Till maybe I was
13 or 14 years old. I’d be working on the farm,
learning how to cut tobacco, hang it in the country.
I’d work on watermelon patches, learn how to plant
– corn you know – anything to do with planting.
Basically, you know, I’d do everything. Feed the
farm animals – make sure they’re well taken
care of, you know.
And I also had my little farm, my little investment.
I didn’t know what was a chicken – at first,
I couldn’t tell the difference between ducks and
chickens [chuckles]. One day when it was real hot, I
figured they was ducks, so put them in some water! Oh
shit, I killed about a hundred of ‘em doing that.
My parents ended up whipping my butt. It was a real
good learning experience.
I learned about a whole lot of different things. I
learned about sidewinders, you know, snakes. My experience
with that: I was riding in the field one evening, and
I ran into one. And I started running, and I kept running
in a straight line, he was running zigzag. ____ My aunt,
she was on the front porch, and she shot him. She shot
» So when you were out in the country in
the summer you were with your family?
No. They dropped us off and they was gone. We didn’t
see them no more. They’d come back down every
thirty days for a holiday, or just to come and see us.
They’d pop up and spend a day with us or something
like that. We’d come on back to DC maybe a week
before school. That kept me out of a whole lot of trouble.
I really appreciated it too, cause. . .
» Do you still have family in DC?
Basically all my people are passed away. I’ve
got some cousins, but I’m not close to them that
much. I got one brother. I got a girl and a son –
both of them gone; they’re out on their own. I
hear from them, but you know, basically we stay in contact
with each other.
» So before working here and besides working
out on the farm, what other jobs have you had?
Oh I had a real good job. I worked for the District
for 18 or 19 years. I made supervisor – stuff
This ain’t the first time I’d be working
for Marriot. The first time I worked for Marriott that
was about 15-20 years ago. I was still in high school.
I worked for them temporary, you know? But I didn’t
» You were finishing up high school? Like
Yeah I got my GED – I quite school in the tenth
grade. And I went to work for Marriot – didn’t
stay there long. Just a temporary move. Basically I’ve
just been working for the district for most of my life.
Little jobs here and there, you know?
» How does this work compare to other work
It’s an easy job. It’s more controlled
– you got to deal with a lot more supervisors.
Stuff like that – people’s egos. Sometimes
I like it, sometimes I don’t. Especially when
you gotta deal with somebody else’s ego –
you know, somebody’s ego trip.
» How long have you been working here at
» Do you have to work another job too?
No, I ain’t doing no more work. I’m getting
to be sixty years old, you know, this is my last run.
» How much longer do you expect to work?
Long as I can.
» Do you have health insurance?
Yeah, I’ve got health insurance. We’ve
got some good benefits. Right now they’re pretty
good. I need to tighten up on my dental/death insurance.
I need to go get me a company on the outside. Make sure
I got enough benefits for retirement and all that, I’m
going to depend on the little money I got. I got more
but I think I need a little bit more.
» You’re working for Marriot, so you’re
not in a union now. . .
We ain’t unionized.
» But you’ve worked in a union before?
» Is there a difference?
There’s a difference. They stand up more for
the rights. You got better control of the place and
stuff like that. Not being in a union you got to do
what they say you do, you know? There’s a difference
you can tell the difference. Right now sometimes we
got to work right through our breaks. You just gotta
do it. If you was in a union, you automatically take
your breaks, but we don’t have it like that. They
want you to work, you gotta work.
» Is working tiring for you at your age?
Its hard cause like I said the ego trips. I can work.
It’s the people I got to deal with. Not being
in a union you got to go with the flow. I just don’t
like it. I don’t let nobody talk to me any kind
of way, that’s for sure.
» What’s your typical day like?
Right now when I don’t have no problems, I like
to stay busy. Otherwise where would I be, you know.
Dealing with the _____ kind of hard, so you got to ___________.
________. I try to be the best I can be for the customers.
» What specifically do you do?
I’m an expediter. I’m just – I’m
happy to do a little bit of everything. I might be sweeping,
preparing food, or help get food for a party. I might
be cleaning up for the party or setting up for the party.
Every day is something different. I don’t know
until I get here.
» How much time do you have to do things
outside of work? What kind of things do you like doing
outside of work?
I like to go down and play pool, go to the movies,
you know. I really don’t have more than 2-3 hours
before I have to get prepared for the next day. Basically
I don’t have no time for myself except for the
weekends, you know. During the week it’s kind
of hard. On my days off I try to do things I like to
» Do you usually have weekends off, or days
of the week off?
It might be weekends; it might be days of the week.
Now I’m going through a phase where I haven’t
been off for three or four weekends. You know, I’m
tired. I spoke to the supervisor about it.
» So do you have a lot of control over your
You don’t have no control. But if you ask them
for time off, they try to work with you.
» Do you rely on any other sort of government
No. Not since that program – when I started
druging and drinking, I went into a program. Other than
that, I don’t see no need for that.
» So you make due on what they pay you here?
» How much do you get paid?
Right now, I’m making 12 dollars an hour. I
need some assistance because I have medical things –
buy glasses, get some teeth. Stuff like that I do need
help on. Plus I’m looking at the age I’m
ready to retire. Definitely going to need some kind
of government assistance, because I’m not going
to be able to make in on the retirement money we get
» Yeah, you can’t save too much on
$12 an hour.
I’m living from pay day to pay day basically.
I’ve been saving a whole lot lately, but it took
a long time. I’m not in no whole lot of debt –
that’s only because I have some extra money now.
But it ain’t nothing to live on. I can’t
save that much in the short time, and I don’t
know how long I got left. I’m sixty years old
now. __________ in the daylight about five or six months
ago. But I ain’t going to die now, before I try
to build up and take care of myself. Lately as I get
older its getting harder for me to get up and get in
» What’s the hardest part about your
Getting there. It’s a lot of work physically,
and stuff like that. I get tired quicker. I got to pace
myself. I can’t move fast like I used to –
I want to but I can’t – but I still do more
than the average young man, you know.
» What would you change about your job?
If I were somebody [a supervisor] I’d try to
be more pleasant. I wouldn’t make them go through
what I had to go through – I’d try to work
more along with them then they do. I guess they got
different rules and stuff for management, but I’d
never forget where I’d come from. That’s
what I’d try to be about.
» Are you able to change things about your
Nah, we can have suggestions but its just your word
of mouth. Like I said, that’s where a union comes
in. They might do it and they might not, you don’t
know. It might work against you, you know?
» What are you future goals?
I want to save a little bit of money. Trying to get
ready, you know, for when I can’t work no more.
» So as long as you can work, you’re
going to work?
I’m going to work. As long as I can work, man.
If I can wake up in the morning, get up like I did,
I’m going to come to work. That’s the only
choice I’ve got.
» You interact with students a lot, what
do you think about them (us)?
I like the students because it made me think. When
I see you out striving for something, I’m behind
you a hundred percent. They gave me a chance, but I
ain’t got striving again till later in life –
like I told you I dropped out of school when I was younger
– and I went back to school when I was 40 or something
like that. I got my GED. I went back to college. I graduated
as a computer technician – it took me two years
to do that cause I took an accelerated course. It was
a four year thing, but I did it in two years. It basically
let me know that if you want something that you can
really get it. And I let them [the students] know that
I went and completed something to get mine. And you
got to get to work now while you have the chance, try
to go to school as long as you can, and be the best
you can be.
That’s why I like you because I see you striving
for things. You know, I just wish I had the opportunity
to do it again. I’d do it like you do it. I wouldn’t
wait a long as I did. But I’m glad I did do it.
» What do you think about Georgetown in general?
I see how they operate. I think – you know it’s
a good school. You know different campuses, different
schools. This is a quiet school and it’s about
education. And I see you guys striving and working for
it. You know, you’re always studying. So I know
it’s got to be super hard, you know. I’m
glad it’s you and not me.
» Do you think Georgetown offers its workers
a decent amount of opportunity?
Since I’ve been here, I’ve seen a whole
lot of opportunity. I’ve seen a lot of chance
for advancement. ‘Cause I want to get out of Marriot
now and work with Georgetown, I want to get to work
with y’all, instead of Marriot. That is one of
my goals – I would like to get away from Marriot.
» Is there a chance you’ll be able to make
I don’t know, but I’m going to try. I’m
going to go for it. I talked to a counselor the other
night – a lady here from Marriot – and she
said, you know, “Just go for it.” She said,
“You can make it.” She said there was opportunity
with Marriot that I could go back to school too, but
I’d rather do it through Georgetown than Marriot.
I’ve had enough with Marriot. It's got so much
more structure. At least with Georgetown you have more
openness and opportunity.
But this computer thing I got – I go out for
jobs but I can’t them because of my age. And I
figure I might get a chance, on this side [with Georgetown
as opposed to with Marriot], they could put me in a
spot where I could learn and do some work too, you know
what I’m saying? Anyway, I’m hoping –
I’m gonna try.
[back to top]
Marta – age 50 -
subcontracted custodial worker
I had a big family growing up – eight brothers
and sisters! But my father left my mother soon after,
and she had to take care of all of us. I could not go
to school. I had to work. There were too many of us,
we had to get food. As soon as you got old enough, you
would be sent out to work. I got a job as a vendor,
selling meat at a stand. I hardly got any money, but
it was better than nothing.
As soon as I was old enough, I looked for work in
the city. My first big job was in a factory, making
plastic products. In my part of the factory, we made
plastic clothespins. I worked on a machine cutting little
wires that would be made into springs for the pins.
Working with the wires was hard. My hands would get
cut up, I would bleed, and I couldn’t stand the
pain. I never wanted to go back; but my sister told
me that if I stopped the work would never get any easier.
I knew I had to go back and work through the pain, and
just wait for my hands to heal and develop calluses.
I met my husband at work, and we got married. Soon
after I got pregnant. I stayed to work in the factory,
but we knew that we needed more to provide for our family.
At the plastic factory, they only paid us 11 colones
a day (about US$1), for eight hours of work. Our rent
alone was 500 colones every month! Every month, we had
to scrape together enough money, just to get by. After
I had my baby, my husband made the decision to migrate
to the United States to try to earn some money and come
back. And that’s how we started – he would
leave for periods of time, send back some money, come
back to us in El Salvador, and then go back. I just
had a baby, and I couldn’t work, so I depended
on him to send money back. But that’s no way to
live, without your husband. My sons were growing up
without their father around. We had no choice; the best
thing to do was to let my husband save money so that
he could send for us. We waited three more years until
he could afford to bring us to the U.S. It was very
expensive to bring the whole family to the U.S.
My husband did not want to stay in the U.S. He didn’t
want to apply for his permanent residency because he
always thought he would go back to our home country.
But we couldn’t think of ourselves anymore. We
had to think of our children, and the good future they
could have in the United States. I had to convince him
to get the proper work permits and to apply for the
residence, so that we would have an easier time finding
When I got to the U.S. I had to raise my two boys,
and then I was pregnant again. It took me a while to
get back to work. My husband wanted me to stay home
with the children for as long as I could. I want to
raise my children well; I don’t trust anyone else
to care for them. We’ve never received any aid
– our family is far away, we have never asked
for any government money. But it is not easy –
raising four children in this country is very hard.
After a few years, I got job cleaning at a retirement
home. It was very big, and I had 14 floors to clean!
They only paid me $5.25 an hour for that work. I got
no benefits, no sick days, nothing. The work was difficult.
There was a lot to clean, and I would get dizzy and
nauseated having to clean some of the parts of the building.
I felt so sick, but I couldn’t stop working. I
couldn’t ask for another break. No, I had to run,
run to get the work done. I would practically come out
of work vomiting. I worked there for about a year and
half, until I couldn’t take it anymore.
I soon found another cleaning job downtown, part-time.
Cleaning is the only kind of job I can get. It is hard
work; it makes your back ache. You have to bend over
toilets and floors for hours and hours. All the managers
told that I wouldn’t be able to handle it, that
I would soon quit. I told them that I wasn’t like
that. I would come back, because I had to. I knew I
could handle any kind of work. By the grace of God,
I had the good fortune to become friends with one of
the managers, and he was able to switch me to the day
shift. That was much better for me.
But then I got even luckier, and I found a full-time
job, in a building downtown with a union. I got paid
more than two dollars more, and I had six paid days
of sick leave, and many paid holidays. When I worked
in that building, I never had a problem with any of
the managers. We could have our union, and the managers
would not give us any problems. I worked there eight
years. I would have like to stay there, but then another
company bought the building they were going to demolish
it. We were all unemployed.
I spent six months without a job, and that was very
hard. But through some distant relatives, I heard about
a job at a university. That’s how I came to work
for P&R. The workplace was very different, I could
tell right away. They started me out doing very tough
work, work that women don’t usually do. The managers
asked me if I could handle it, and I said I could –
because I wanted to keep that job. But really, I wished
that they could switch me to do something else. I got
paid less, and we had no benefits at all. There were
many differences with this new job. Before, we had no
health insurance. And there is too much work.
I start work at 11 p.m., and I have work hard to keep
pace. I designate a section that I have to get done
by a certain hour, or else I will miss my break. You
can’t slow down, and you can’t leave any
work to be done later in the morning, because you are
going to have other work to do later. I get out at 7:30
a.m. It takes me a long time to get home, maybe an hour.
Then I come home and I get my children ready for school.
At about 9 a.m., I can finally sleep. Only for a few
hours, though. I have lots to do around the house. I
get up at 1 p.m., and start cooking meals. At 2 p.m.
I have to pick up my children from school, and then
I have to care for them and busy myself with chores
and errands. As a woman, your work is never done. Even
when you come home from work, there is a lot of work
to be done in the house, for your family. I finish cooking
the dinner for the family, although we are rarely together.
My husband works two jobs, and we are only together
on Saturday. If I have time I might be able to take
a nap for an hour or two, but most days I only get 5
hours of sleep. I don’t get enough sleep, and
I don’t have time for much else. I have never
been able to go to school, I am too busy, and I need
to work to support my family. By 10:00 p.m. I have to
be well on my way to work, because it takes a while
to get there and I can’t be late.
I have always gotten along just fine with my managers.
I know that they are tougher on some of the other workers,
but I have been lucky. I know the head manager is a
good person. I have known him for some time now, and
he has helped me in many ways. He knows I am a hard
worker, that I am a good person. But now that we are
in this campaign, I noticed he has changed. I don’t
understand how this man, this same man, a Christian
man, can threaten us now and treat us badly. I don’t
know why he is turning his back on the workers, because
I know that he is a good man. Now he says things to
us that I can’t believe, very insulting things
that good people shouldn’t say. Maybe that’s
how people are – they prefer to side with the
company, instead of sticking up for us. I can see why
the top administration would be against us forming a
union, but not him. This is why I would never want to
be a manager. I could never betray my coworkers; I am
not like that. I prefer to stay with the people who
work by my side.
I am a woman of faith, and I am a woman of justice.
I know that what we are paid is an injustice. I have
worked in other buildings before, and I have worked
with a union. I know the kinds of wages that other workers
get, and this is not enough. It’s not right.
[back to top]
Ana Maria Bonilla, age
60, subcontracted custodial worker
“Ana Maria Bonilla” is a 60-year-old
employee of P&R enterprises who works the night
shift cleaning the building New North. Her interview
was conducted in Spanish.
I was born in El Salvador and I lived there until
1997. I came to the United States because my children
wanted me to establish residency here. Here I live with
my daughter but I see my son often as well. I also live
with my daughter’s husband and my father. He’s
93-years-old and is like the child of the house. It’s
my obligation to take care of him because I’m
his oldest child. So I pay for his medicine and food.
I always have to be caring for him. My mother died ten
years ago and I have been taking care of him ever since.
My brother used to help but then he got married so now
I do most of it.
We all live here in Washington D.C. Right now I’m
working part-time in addition to this job. It’s
also a cleaning job but with a different company, El
Unico. I hope I can quit it soon though, one job makes
me tired enough. My weekdays are only sleep and work.
I work all night and sleep during the day and then wake
up to go to work again. I tolerate it. I don’t
work on Saturday or Sunday. My youngest son isn’t
married. He takes me out on the weekends. Where ever
I want to go he takes me! He works in construction.
He had an accident four years ago and it’s only
by the grace of God that he can walk right now. Luckily
I’m healthy. They’re giving us health insurance
here now but I haven’t had to use it. I use my
money to help my daughter and her husband pay the bills
but I also send money back to El Salvador. The family
members who have stayed there in El Salvador don’t
make money like we do here. I help my family there when
they’re sick or when they have children. But I
also help them with food, medicine, their apartments,
just everyday things. Now that I live with my daughter
I’m able to send about $300 a month. For us here
it doesn’t matter, it’s what we have to
do for the rest of our family.
My first job here was working in a restaurant in Maryland
making papusas. Right now my job here with P&R is
fine. There are just two of us in this building and
we get along well. But we have a lot to do, cleaning
the whole building and taking out the trash and everything.
We have to watch the clock to make sure we get it all
done in time. I never see students except for all of
you. The living wage will make a big difference. It
must not have been easy to not eat for so many days
in the hunger strike. It was many days but it obtained
the living wage. We were so worried about the students,
especially the ones who had to go to the hospital. That
was very bad. But now we’re very content. Thanks
to God that we succeeded.
I miss El Salvador but the life of my family is much
better here. Three of my children live here. The other
two still live in El Salvador. I want to bring them
here, and bring my grandchildren too, but my children
there have their own lives. I think my grandchildren
would have a better education if they lived here. Then
they would be able to get good jobs. My children here
and I work very hard. My daughter cleans private houses,
my older son works in a restaurant, and my youngest
son works in construction. If I had grandchildren here
they might be able to go to college like you and have
You only leave your country for something better and
that is what I’m going to do, keep working for
something better. But I haven’t been back to El
Salvador in a very long time and I would like to go
and see my family. I want to see my little house there.
It is in poor condition now but I would like to go and
fix it up. There is room there for all my family. That
is my goal now, to go back to my little house and fix
it up and live there with my grandchildren. I think
I can do this because I work hard and my children are
[back to top]
Edward, age 45, directly
hired, unionized Georgetown worker
Georgetown. Sometimes it can be very fun. Sometimes
it can be very hectic. Sometimes you can relate to people,
and other you don’t relate to they’re still
the same people. Ah Georgetown. It’s a university
with stuck up people, ignorant people and conniving
supervisors. I say conniving, because they have the
audacity to let people get away with things they shouldn’t
let people be getting away with. Like people coming
to work at 7 o’clock and leaving mid-day. Supervisors
let people get away things they shouldn’t.
Georgetown. A university full of some may say high
expectations, some may say low self esteem. Because
that’s what it is. You’ve some people up
there who’ve got high expectations to be something
then you look at ‘em again and they’ve got
low self esteem.
Some students are pretty down to earth- they can understand
and relate to the reality of coming here. And other
students are so insubordination with themselves. They
think they know more, but yet they don’t know
too much of nothing. You can talk about the 60’s,
the 70’s, the 80’s, and they’ll tell
you, “I remember this..” and then you ask
them a question and they don’t know a damn thing.
We’re people at Georgetown- me myself and I, I
try to take pride in my work, but I don’t like
my work. I don’t like how people treat me. You
got people coming in to work and watch you work and
then talk about other things. You see people on campus
steal things. You see employees stealing things. And
then you know, you relate it to your supervisor, and
they say they’ll do something about it, but they’re
My philosophy about Georgetown is that it’s a
good place to visit but a hell of a place to be. For
real. I’ve been at Georgetown for many a years.
I don’t like the employees here. They’re
two-faced, they’re liars, they’ll backstab
you. You see, you’ve got people up here they think
they’re your friends- they’re your worst
enemies. You think some of these students are your friends,
but as soon as you turn your back your name is mentioned.
It’s a no-win situation if you allow it to. Me
myself and I, I allow myself to stay as far away from
it as I can, cause I’m not in the same “group”
of people. I’m an outcast. I’m not putting
anybody into jeopardy because of me. I mean, This university
has got people here- You’ve got people who die
from working at Georgetown. I mean, we just lost an
employee a couple of days ago. You know, stress is the
biggest problem that employees have up here at Georgetown.
Stress will kill you. It comes from your department.
You’ve got people who come into work, and you
work your butt off, and these new people, they’re
supposed to work, and they’re scared to work.
You’re hiring people who don’t want to work.
You have an obligation to show these people how to do
the job, but you’ve got people who don’t
know how to do it. You’ve got some people up here
who’ve been here, and they know they’re
here, but they don’t want to really lay the foundation
down on how to do a job, to tell people how to do a
Georgetown’s just not a fun place to be. I just
don’t like it. I mean I’ve been here a certain
amount of years, and I try to show respect to people
here, but you just can’t do that. It’s like
going to Beijing. It’s like somebody put a bomb
in your house. It’s unexpected. You see what I’m
saying? That’s what these people at Georgetown
are like. They put a bomb in your lunch. Then they expect
you to ignite it and be on their side. It’s no
fun. Welcome to a university where people are like garbage
cans. They ain’t about nothing. And let me break
it down. White man and the black man do not like each
other for real. White women don’t like black women.
Women think they got everything but black people can’t
afford to get it. It’s like a racial disturbance.
You got people calling people names, just like I’m
sitting next door to you, your mama and daddy called
my mama a n-----. My mom and daddy called yours Uncle
Tom. You got people who don’t have respect for
each other for all. The work at Georgetown is racially
divided. You got people working here who make $15 an
hour and deserve to make $9.
You got students who come here who think they know
it all. It’s what I know, It’s what you
know- You can’t put ignorance in a coffee cup,
because it’s stupid. If everybody was smart enough
to be where they are today, there wouldn’t be
too many ignorant people around here, would there? The
way I look at it- you can walk up and down this university,
this sidewalk 24 hours a day, and you can look at people
and say good morning, and you can see how ugly they
look. It’s like I keep telling anyone when they
ask me why I’m saying good morning, I tell them
I didn’t sleep in your bed- I don’t got
your problems. I got enough on my shoulders. You don’t
have to be blind to see how people feel about you. You
really don’t. You really don’t have to worry
about being totally in the dark- cause it’s wide
open. You know what I’m saying? It’s wide
open. It’s just like the president of the United
States. He’s going around telling everybody what
he’s going to do and he ain’t going to do,
and people are scared of that. It’s just like
I said- You come to Georgetown, and Georgetown is a
stressful place to be going. I mean- you can sit up
here and dictate me 24/7. Now, what people look at you,
they don’t really respect you. They respect the
way you come out of your character, how you come out
of your library. You gotta be one step ahead of everybody
I’ve been working here a long time, since 1988.
I’m originally from Los Angeles, California. I
came here because my grandmother sent me here. I worked
a place called Thrift Rent-A-Car, where there was four
white guys and one black. And I’m the only black
guy. I remember a guy, tall guy about 6”4’,
his name was Willy James*, white boy, redneck- super
redneck. And his sister came up and said, “oh,
you’ve got a little n----- working for you”
I said you know something, I would call you a bitch,
but I’m not, because you’re stupid. The
moral of the thing was. Peter*, who was my supervisor,
he said, “did she just call you out a name?”
I said it’s all good though. I don’t play
nobody’s card game. It’s just like me calling
you stupid, and you calling me “damn you’re
My life in this society is based on one thing. Live
and learn. That’s all. That’s all I do every
day. I live and learn. What you don’t like about
me, that’s ok. I don’t worry about it. Back
in 1952 when I was a kid, when I was born, my mother
said I was going to be something special. And she meant
it, too. But it turned out she was wrong. I wasn’t
special. See, I grew up in a neighborhood that was nothing
but ‘hoods, nothing but ‘hoods, nothing
but road ‘hoods. I mean, I grew up in a neighborhood,
white people wouldn’t even come in it, I mean
there would not be one white person in my neighborhood,
not even a white girl. So as I grew up around a racial
environment, I asked myself if I got outside these boundaries.
My mother didn’t care about anyone outside the
family, and I asked my mom, I said “mom, when
you walk down the street every day and you see all black
people, what do you think”, and she made a long
story short, she said “we’re black”.
But you see, time has flown by, see D.C. wasn’t
all white. This wasn’t even a white city. Georgetown
wasn’t white. Georgetown was black. Then rich
white folks came in and stuck their needles and pins
down. When you call D.C. a chocolate city, it’s
a white swirl- it’s a vanilla city with a chocolate
swirl in it. And I look at it this was. I’ve seen
this city turn upside down. When they had the riots,
when the Spanish people came it. I didn’t like
Spanish people at all. They wouldn’t let someone
show them something, they came in and figured they’d
work real hard for a buck twenty five, when you’ve
been here 20 years and want $30 an hour. You see, there’s
a whole different concept growing up in this modern
age. I just look at it this way. When you’re in
society, like Georgetown, it’s best to be within
yourself. You keep your enemies far away from you, I
mean, you can draw ‘em up close and see what they’re
about, but it’s best to keep a distance. We’re
I’m the youngest of 11 kids, I’m the baby.
And I grew up pretty unhappy. I didn’t want to
come to Washington, D.C. I didn’t like Washington,
I don’t even like it now. I mean, I’m here
because I have this so-called fantastic job. I had a
lot of skills, but they took a lot of skills from me.
I don’t cry about that. I went to school for a
maintaince class. I’m going to tell you how Georgetown
works. I went to apply for the job for a maintaince
job. I wanted to be a maintaince job. I went to school
for 26 weeks and got my diploma, bam bam bam, but you
know, they hired someone on top of me. You know why?
What’s that word? R-A-C-E? They hired a white
guy. When they see a guy like me who loves himself,
someone like me who can say “I love me”,
and I don’t care about anyone else, they don’t
like people to be walking around happy. They want people
to be walking around with their lips hanging down like
they licked a stamp.
I come here for one thing. I want to live and love
and learn and work, but you can’t do that. I want
to stop working. I want to be a millionaire. I don’t
want to work no more. I promised myself, and every day
I wake up and ask the good man upstairs- I do not want
to work no more. I don’t want nobody to put their
hands on my. If I have to work 25 more years with this
kind of abuse, they can have it. They can excuse me
from the table! I don’t want to work for somebody
who doesn’t appreciate my ability and my efforts.
Georgetown doesn’t appreciate me, ‘cause
if you appreciate somebody you say so. I don’t
just want somebody to say ‘this man is a good
worker’. Give me the money! I don’t make
enough to live on. I’m just supporting myself,
and I get benefits, but it’s not enough. I want
to go to school, but I don’t want to be here!
When I finish working here, which will hopefully be
in two years, I want to go to school. I had a little
boy who died when he was three-years-old, so I want
to major in child psychology. I like children. I want
to study at University of MD or I’ll go back to
There’s not much I can do besides save some money.
I want to married, I haven’t found the right woman,
but I want to get married. I want to start my own business.
I don’t want to work for nobody. I don’t
want to get outta bed when I don’t want to. My
own goal is not to work anymore- not here, anyway. I
have my trials and tribulations with people here. Black
and white, I have my ups and downs, from foreigners
to Americans, from Japanese to Chinese. I was a seaman
for five years in the merchant marines. I went halfway
around the world, and I enjoyed it. But the only reason
I stopped was because I lost three brothers. I love
traveling. I love adventures. I love doing different
hings. But I don’t like myself being in a position
where I’m stressed. I’ve worked at Georgeotwn
17 years. From the bottom of the pit I’ve worked
myself up, and I want to get higher, but Georgetown
holds you at the place they want to keep you, so I’m
going to have to step over that plantation and make
a new move. Trust me, this is where I’m at today.
I wake up every morning and I ask myself, Do I really
want to come work this job? I don’t. I really
don’t. But I thank God I got a job because it
helps me to live off of. But basically no. I don’t
like this place. I did my self a favor. I’m giving
Georgetown 20 years. And 20 years is a long time doing
something you don’t like doing.
The only way to make it better is that this university
has got to open its mind up. They gotta make it better.
I can’t make it better. Nobody can make it better.
It’s up to individuals. People need to learn to
respect each other, but this is not a respectable environment.
I mean you can walk down the sidewalk, and people ignore
you. People ‘round here, whether they’re
from up north, or the Midwest, they’re from racial
cities like anywhere else. I don’t care what people
around here think of me. They can walk around in million
dollar pair of pajamas. It wouldn’t surprise me.
If I could tell students or Georgetown anything, I’d
say learn how to respect each other. Learn how to get
along. You don’t have to pat me on the back, just
say good morning, or good afternoon, learn to act with
a little dignity. You got something to ask me, ask.
The wages here suck. Georgetown is going to build a
boathouse, a riverfront gambling casino. They should
pay more money to workers. But they don’t care
about us. They care about a gambling casino, but they
won’t give us another nickel. It was hard enough
for the people who are union people to get money. They
didn’t want to give the union people money, they
didn’t want to give nothing. They said ‘You
take what we give you or you’re fired”.
I’m in the union, but I haven’t seen a union
rep come around. We’re paying they’re salary,
but they can’t even come around. When you set
up microphones for the big boys to hear our problems
then they’ll be there. Georgetown is scared of
hearing the truth. If people who work at Georgetown
who’ve been here would tell all these big-shots,
and big wheels, even the president what’s going
on, they’d shut the F—up.
Georgetown is like the ghetto. Once you leave the ghetto
it’s different, but once you’re here it’s
the same. It’s amazing about me. About little
old me. I’m a little guy who came from a long
line of family. Half these people here haven’t
been here half as long as I have. It’s a shame
that this university has got his hang-up. It’s
downright ugly that people are acting this way. How
are we going to change it? Start a riot, start writing.
We’ve got to learn how to get along. People need
to try to wake up and understand that they’re
not here by themselves. It’s so ugly. When students
get drunk around here they cuss you out. You got people
who don’t give a F--- about each other. When I
used to work here a girl was half naked in the bathroom.
Another one of my co-workers and found her. Her bra
was off, her pants were down, and she had a bottle of
alcohol, and a dude came along and said “you touch’n
my woman”, I said no, do I look I want to touch
your woman? So she got up and threw up all over him,
in the hallways. A security guard game up, and that
guy called him all sorts of names, called me all sorts
of names. This is what a real person looks like when
he’s under alcohol.
This is a dangerous situation- we don’t like
each other. People say this is a new world. It’s
not new- it’s ugly. It’s an ugly world!
It’s a different world. It’s a no-win situation,
because everyone thinks their better. People walk around
and think they’re better than everyone else, and
I just look at them and know they’ve got nothing
that I don’t.
If I die today or tomorrow, I don’t want nobody
to come to my funeral. I just want one word on my tombstone.
“BYE”. Every morning when I wake up out
of my bed and think about coming here, I hate it. It
makes me want to say “forget it”. I don’t
come here to indulge in relationships. I don’t
come here to say you’re my best friends, ‘cause
I’d be lying. I don’t have many friends
. I’m a loner. I live in Northwest Washington
35 minutes from here. A one bedroom apartment, pretty
[back to top]
Alem, age 55, directly hired,
unionized Georgetown employee
My name is Alem, and I’m from Ethiopia. I am
a Georgetown employee and work at the parking booths.
I came to the United States in July 1993 because of
the political situation, because of the civil war. So
I came here. My uncle died in the war; I lost five people.
War is no good. My family is still there - and my ex-wife
and my son. I have five brothers and sisters. My brother
lives in the Maryland, and I live in Virginia. I live
with my wife, who I met 16 years ago when I was a refugee
in Sudan. I learned a little English in Ethiopia, by
my first language is Amharic. In Ethiopia, I was an
auditor and an accountant. If I go back, I want to be
an accountant again.
In 1993 I first started working in Central Parking
at Union Station, and worked there for seven years.
And from 1993 until 2003 I worked at Marriott. I worked
in housekeeping, and made $11 an hour and got good benefits.
It was a good job, but my position was eliminated, which
is why I came to Georgetown. The starting pay at Georgetown
is very good. Over at Marriot the starting pay was $7
or $8. The work was really hard. Starting housekeepers
directly hired at Georgetown get $11. You can’t
get that starting wage anywhere else. You work anywhere
else you have to clean every room in half an hour, the
bathrooms, too. You don’t get a break! Georgetown
should pay workers who get $9.00 more! If people have
a family, have 3 or 4 kids, that’s not enough
money. They need to get money from the government, food
stamps or something.
Here it is $11, and we get holidays. We get all benefits.
Everything! We work Monday through Friday. It’s
not hard, you know. Nobody gives you a hard time. You
take the money at the booth; you talk to people; it’s
easy. You work in the morning - you get $11, but I work
in the afternoon until nighttime, and get $11.70. I
love my job. I can choose when I work, whether in the
morning, the afternoon, the night. I get an hour break.
Nobody forces me to do anything. If I don’t need
overtime, then I don’t come in. I wouldn’t
change anything. I like to work here.
If I want to take a class at Georgetown, I can take
it. I want to take a computer class, so I’m going
to take one. If Georgetown doesn’t have the class,
then I can take it somewhere else, and Georgetown will
pay for it.
The ESL classes that students set up for us last year
were helpful. It was good to practice with the teacher.
Some people, they have jobs where they work and work
and nobody talks to them, they don’t get to learn
English at all. My job is good now, because I talk to
people, and they ask every question, so I get to practice
Some places people earn $7 or $8 an hour, and work
two jobs. I have a second job at Union Station, I only
work there 10 or 20 hours a week. At Georgetown I work
forty hours a week, and when I need it I work overtime.
My coworkers like their jobs, too. One lady is from
Ethiopia, too. She’s been here a few years and
has children. She has a big family.
In Ethiopia we’re different from others. We
help each other. We live together- when you’re
20 or 30, it doesn’t matter. If you work, you
work together. If you divorce your wife, your husband,
you go back home to your family. You don’t live
by yourself! We are exceptional. Not like here, where
when you’re 18 you leave the house, that’s
it. We’re not like the people here. If I go back
I want to live with my father. I have only gone back
to Ethiopia once since 1993 when my mother died. It’s
too expensive. My mother came to visit and stayed three
years! She came to see me, so I took her everywhere-
New York, Boston, Las Vegas. We went so many places!
Our people are like this, we are attached like this.
We help each other. If my brother needs to go to school
or pay for an apartment, I would help him. He would
help me, too.
I’m part of the union on campus. I don’t
have any part of it, go to any meetings. I just know
the guy, but I never have meetings. At Union Station
I’m part of the union, and we have meetings all
the time. We have time to discuss our problems with
them, to talk about things. Once workers got fired,
and the union got them all back.
Here at Georgetown, we get books about the union, I
read them, that’s it. I’m new, so I don’t
know what the union would do for me.
The hardest part about living in the U.S. is the cost
of housing. Home expenses are high. I live in Virginia,
but it’s expensive anywhere. Apartments these
days - one bedroom is $800 or $900. To pay for my rent
I work at my other job at Union Station sometimes, or
I work overtime. When I need the money, I work more.
I support my parents and the rest of my family with
my salary. I send it back to Ethiopia.
After three or four years I want to go back home to
Ethiopia. My son is applying to Georgetown to go to
school here. If I work here, he has a chance to study
here and Georgetown will pay for it. If his grades aren’t
good enough and he goes somewhere else, Georgetown will
help pay for him to go to another college. If he has
good enough grades, he can come here for free. It’s
great! I work here, and maybe I pay some, a little bit,
and he can study here! That’s good for him. Right
now I feel like Georgetown is a good job for me.
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Charlie, ago 60, Marriott
“Charlie Jackson” works for Marriott
International in the Leavey Center on Georgetown's main
campus. He is sixty years-old and his many years of
working and smoking have taken their toll: he walks
with a limp and speaks in a raspy voice. His friendly
demeanor has made him the casual acquaintance of not
a few Georgetown students. He spends some of his time
off in Hoya Court, and too many of his breaks just outside
the student union – cigarette between his lips
and sports drink in hand.
I was born right here in DC. And I was raised in the
city too, except for during the summers. When school
was out, our parents used to bring us kids to my uncle’s
farm out in the country. They dropped us off and then
they were gone. They’d come back every month or
so for a holiday or just to see us for a couple days.
But they didn’t bring us back to DC until maybe
a week before school. That kept me out of a whole lot
of trouble, and I really appreciated it too.
I did all kinds of stuff working with my uncle on that
farm. I helped my him cut and hang tobacco, I worked
the watermelon patches, I planted corn… Basically,
I’d do everything there was to do – feed
the farm animals, make sure they were well taken care
of, you know.
Being a city boy, there was a whole lot of things I
had to learn. At first I couldn’t tell the difference
between ducks and chickens. I figured the chickens was
ducks, and so one day when it was real hot I put them
in some water! Oh shit, I killed about a hundred of
‘em doing that. My parents ended up whipping my
butt. It was a real good learning experience though.
I learned about sidewinders too – you know, snakes.
I was heading down to the spring one evening, and I
ran into one so I started running. And I kept running
in a straight line while he was coming after me all
zigzag. My aunt – she was on the front porch –
she saw him and shot him. She shot that snake dead.
I stopped going out to the family farm when I was about
fourteen – that’s when I started getting
in trouble too – but I really liked being out
there in the country. Later on I got myself a little
plot up in Maryland, my own little investment. But mostly
I just farmed for the fun of it and gave the produce
to those in the neighborhood who really needed it.
This ain’t the first time I’ve worked for
Marriott. When I was about seventeen years old I worked
for them out at National Airport. That was before I
quite high school, so I just worked for them temporary.
But I didn’t like it and didn’t stay long.
Most my life I had a real good job with the District.
I worked for them eighteen or nineteen years and made
supervisor. I could have gotten better jobs than working
for Marriott again, but when I first came up here to
Georgetown I liked it. I figured I’d give it a
shot. I kind of wish I hadn’t now.
I’m an expediter for Marriott. I do a little
bit of everything – I might be sweeping, preparing
food, or helping setup for a party. Every day is something
different; I don’t know until I get here. It’s
a lot of work for me physically. I’m sixty now,
and I get tired quicker. I got to pace myself. I can’t
move fast like I used to – I want to but I can’t
– but I still do more than the average young man.
The hardest part of this job is the people you got
to deal with – especially when you got to deal
with somebody else’s ego. We ain’t unionized
here at Marriott. I’ve been in unions, and you
can tell the difference. The union stands up for your
rights, and you got better control of the place. Not
being in union you always got to do what they tell you
to do. Right now sometimes we got to work right through
our breaks. If you was in a union you’d automatically
take your breaks, but we don’t have it like that
here. You got to go with the flow: if they want you
to work, you got to work. It’s hard because you
got to deal with their ego trips. But I don’t
let nobody talk to me any kind of way, that’s
When I have days off I try to do the things I like
to do. I go down and play pool or go to the movies.
But on the days I work I really don’t have more
than two or three hours before I have to get prepared
for the next day. Right now I’m going through
a phase where I’ve worked the last three or four
weekends. That gets me tired, so I spoke to the supervisor
about it. We don’t have much control over our
schedules, but usually they’ll work with you.
We’ll see what happens.
I’ve been working here for seven years, but my
pay is capped at twelve dollars an hour. Basically I
live payday to payday, but lately I’ve been able
to put away some of my money for retirement. This job
at Georgetown is my last run. It’s getting harder
and harder for me to get up here each morning, but I’m
going to work as long as I can and save up as much as
I can in the short time I’ve got left. I'll mostly
depend on social security, though – you just can’t
make it off what they give you here.
Marriott does have some good benefits though. They’ll
help me get myself a new pair of glasses and some teeth.
But I need to tighten up on my death insurance, I need
to get myself a company on the outside. My niece has
a good job, but I want to make sure she’s really
set financially when I go. She’s like a daughter
to me, and I don’t want to be a burden on her.
I like you students because you made me think. You're
always studying, so I know it's got to be super hard.
I'm glad it's you and not me. When I see you out striving
for something, I’m behind you a hundred percent.
They gave me a chance, but I didn’t start striving
until till later in life. I dropped out of school when
I was younger, and I didn’t go back to school
and get my GED till I was forty or something. Then I
went to DC college and graduated as a computer technician.
That was a four year thing, but I did it in two years
because I took an accelerated course. That experience
let me know that if you want something you can really
get it. I let students know that, because you got to
get to work now while you have the chance. Go to school
as long as you can, and be the best you can be!
I'd like to work for Georgetown directly instead of
Marriott. That's one of my goals, to get out of Marriott
and work for you all. I talked to a counselor the other
night – a lady here from Marriott – and
she said, “Just go for it, you can make it!”
She said there was opportunity with Marriott that I
could go back to school too, but I'd rather do it through
Georgetown. I've had enough of Marriott. Marriott has
so much structure; Georgetown has more freedom. I've
seen a lot more opportunity there, more chances for
advancement. So I'd sure like to work with you. You
know, this computer things I got, I go out for jobs
but I can't get them because of my age. I figure I might
get a chance with Georgetown. They could put me in a
spot where i could learn and do some work too maybe.
Anyway that's what I'm hoping, and I'm going to try
to make it happen.
That's why I like you – because I see you striving
for things. I just wish I had the opportunity to do
it all over again. I'd do it like you do it. I wouldn't
wait as long as I did. That doesn't change the fact
I'm glad I did do it. Just wish I'd done it sooner.
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