Angeles Oñate-Martinez

CCS, almost 8 years

Angeles was just 23 years old when she came to the United States from Guanajuato, Mexico. Before that, as single mother, she worked 18-hour days as a maid and doing laundry to support her family. She earned $900 pesos a week at both jobs, equivalent to approximately $50 in the U.S.

Her daughter was born with a cleft lip. In Mexico, the doctor’s appointments each cost $100 pesos. Her daughter needed an expensive surgery to repair her lip and upper pallet. With the baby’s father out of the picture, Angeles concluded she could make the money needed by finding work in the U.S. She left her daughter with her parents.

Once in the U.S., Angeles once again worked two jobs to save enough to pay for her daughter’s surgery and send money to help her parents. For the first few months, her ‘friend’ took advantage by randomly charging her throughout the month for rent and utilities. She would have nothing left from her wages. She was ready to return to Mexico finding the trip she made futile.

A co-worker intervened helping Angeles recognize that the person she thought to be her friend was actually stealing her earnings. Once on the path, Angeles was able to send money to her family to pay for the surgery and services for her daughter. Angeles planned to stay in the U.S. just enough time to save enough money for a small house and a safety net to educate and care for her daughter.

She was progressing. Angeles was close to saving the money she needed to return home and build a house when her parents called. Her daughter had an accident. She had been climbing and swinging when her hands slipped and she fell hitting her head. The head trauma caused a seizure.

The fall caused epileptic episodes. Doctors said the child would need to undergo therapy for up to two years. The accident, doctor appointments, therapy, and medication consumed Angeles’ savings.

Angeles works hard to be a long-distance parent. No parent would be so far from their child if they had the choice. “Even though we are so far, I don’t think I’ve done so bad. She works hard at school. She is very proud.”

“Estoy orgullosa de ti, mamá,” Angeles tears up as she talks about their last conversation. Her daughter knows that her mom is sacrificing for her, “se que tengo lo que tengo por ti.”

At work, Angeles admits that she was naïve and let people take advantage of her. Her bosses, used to yell and mistreat her and her co-workers. Once she learned about her rights and that she had Union backing, she felt empowered to defend herself and her co-workers.

“When you understand your rights, life is not the same.” Angeles loves her job. She feels satisfied that she can provide for her family.

As she prepares with other Union members for the Justice for Janitor’s Master Contract fight, she hopes they win better wages, insurance across the board including part-time workers, and above all respect.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.