Maria Cabrera, 57, Plastics Worker

maria cabrera

By Sara Gillooly

It was a rainy Wednesday afternoon, an uphill and wet walk up Fordham Road to meet with Maria Cabrera at a local Dunkin Donuts. Maria, 57, works for Gary Plastics, one of the largest plastic companies in the United States to manufactures plastic bottles. Maria came from the Dominican Republic to The Bronx, where she lives, divorced, with one adult son and one young granddaughter.

Maria has been working at Gary for 22 years, operating various machines that assemble different plastic items. Her job keeps her sitting in one place for eight hours a day, pushing a button with two ten-minute breaks, five days a week. She is a member of Workers United, Service Employees Union International.

Every morning she wakes up at 6:15 AM and takes two buses to work, a commute of about one hour. During our conversation, Maria told me that if she is late to work once or twice, it is not a big deal, but any more than that and she would be reprimanded. For the most part, Maria gets along with the people she works with and feels like she can hold conversations with them throughout the workday as long as she is being productive at the same time. She wishes that her and her co-workers could listen to music on the job but in the past, they haven’t been able to agree on what music to play and people became too pre-occupied with dancing around the work place and weren’t able to get anything else done.

After the workday is over, Maria likes to just relax by cooking, watching TV and taking a shower. Sometimes she enjoys shopping on the weekends and also frequently attends large family parties in the Bronx throughout the year. She has cousins and aunts here in the city but some of her family has moved back to the Dominican Republic and Florida. With this being said, she has no intention of moving back to her home country.

Growing up in the Dominican Republic, Maria dreamed of becoming a professor but the economy was too poor to make her dream into a reality. She finished high school. Although it was never her dream, Maria doesn’t mind what she does and can’t think of a single specific thing she would change about her job. It has always been her passion to help people and would enjoy more public relations responsibilities within her job. She wants to be remembered as making people happy and helping co-workers. Whenever her company hires new people in her department, Maria has the patience to train them and make them feel welcome.

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