The boss kept getting behind on paying us what he owed, for the hours we had worked. He kept me in this limbo where he would say ‘Hey, I’ll pay you after the next job or the following job’. And it went on like that for six months. It affects you a lot, because it affects how you’re providing for your family, your ability to pay for things on a daily basis. Sometimes your family asks you for things, without knowing whether you have the money or not. It was really hard on me.
During COVID lots of workers lost their jobs, not just in the painting industry. I wasn’t working during that time, and it was hard to pay the bills. As immigrants we often don’t have the resources to be able to apply for aid or for help from the government. It was very difficult to pay the rent.
In the painting industry we work with some really hazardous chemicals, and we don’t have the necessary protections. I think that there needs to be an organization that checks and educates so people know that it’s a problem to dump those chemicals in the lake or on the soil. So workers know how they might be damaging the environment and where they can dispose of the chemicals properly.
And we need plans to plant more trees. We need to treat the environment better, stop using plastic and throwing garbage in the river, because that takes a long time to degrade. We should be recycling. This kind of stuff is killing us. We need people to come together to take care of the environment, go out and clean up together.
The Green New Deal would help all of us construction workers. I think painting companies need help from the government, but workers need more help, because we don’t have rights. We don’t have fixed wages, or days off, we don’t have vacation days, we don’t have sick days, we don’t have any of that. Also the heat that comes with climate change affects us a lot, especially those of us who work outside.
We’re not treated equally. There need to be laws so we are treated equally, all of us. Actually, there are laws that say we should be treated equally, but they are not followed. People need to be able to express themselves and fight for equal treatment. I was surprised by the form the uprising took, but something needs to be done. There has to be more control over the police so that kind of thing never happens again. What happened to George Floyd was an abuse of authority, the police abuse the power they have.
My vision for the community is that we need to get out and talk to more people, get more Latinos together and be united, so that our voices can be heard. We need organizations like the Building Dignity and Respect Council that help us and supervise work sites and the owners of the companies, so they don’t steal our wages. We need groups to educate the workers to understand their rights, so we are treated with justice.
– David Francisco Moreno, 2021
David Francisco Moreno is a painter and member of CTUL
(Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha)
This interview was originally conducted in Spanish. Thanks to Isa Escalona and Israel Aranda of CTUL for their help with interpretation, making this interview possible.