Monday, July 18, 2011

What inspires you to seek justice? Interview with Alfredo Pena

   The three of us who are privileged to work at Workers Interfaith Network all share something in common with each other and with you: a passion for seeking justice.

    As I've gotten to know my co-workers better over the years, I've been continually inspired by their stories of what brings them to this work. Then I thought, why not share these stories with you?  Today's story if from Alfredo Pena, WIN's Worker Rights Director. Maybe it will inspire you to share your story with us. Tell us in the comments section why you are an activist for workers' rights.

    Alfredo has worked at WIN since 2007, when he launched our Memphis Workers' Center project. The Workers' Center frequently partners with workers who have had their wages stolen by their employers. As Alfredo shares, he's been no stranger to wage theft in his own work life.

  The warehouse Alfredo talks about in the video is just one of the companies that stole his wages. He also worked at an oil change shop, where they made all the workers clock out when they didn't have customers. "I hoped if I went along with it, one day I would get a promotion. When I would get my paycheck and it would be very low, I would think 'I need to get more hours.'"

   Working at WIN, Alfredo has realized "this is why I was put here on this earth - to help other workers."

   It's painful to hear the many stories of explitation that workers share with him. But Alfredo is also encouraged by the workers who report back to him that they've been able to solve a problem. "Workers tell me, 'I want to thank you for listening to me. Because of what you said, I pushed forward. I didn't keep quiet. I stood up.' After a long day at work, a call like that keeps me going," Alfredo says.

  In the nearly four years since Alfredo started the Workers' Center, he has seen more workers take on leadership in the Center. Earlier this year, seven workers were elected to serve as a Steering Committee for the Center. He looks forward to the day when "the Workers' Center will be self-sustaining, from the support of our worker members."

    Share what inspired you: I would love to hear your story of where your passion for justice comes from. Tell us your story in the comments section below!

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