(Unionizer character drawn by Anthony Roman)
I grew up in the Puerto Rican projects on the Lower East Side, and I have lived my whole life within three blocks. None of it has been easy, but it is where I live, and how I relate to the world.
My mom is there, and I must help her, my girlfriend is there. We just had four babies. She is a hospital nurse. She is staying with her mother in the Bronx, and I’m staying with my mother in the lower east side, and spend a couple nights a week in the Bronx. I have a brother who is just out of jail, and another younger brother who can’t really help. I’m behind in the rent, behind in paying for my phone, which I need to get another job, the kids have been sick. It’s tough.
I was working in three McDonalds, usually getting the job to clean up and close up. They give me multiple jobs at once, which is not fair, but I get them all done. Now I work in one McDonalds, with a new manager who is cutting everyone’s hours. A bunch of people there are just walking away from the job because they are unhappy with the manager. This last week, I was totally alone in the kitchen with a line of customers that went out the door. I want to work as much as possible, but they just don’t want it.
Really, I see myself as an artist. I can draw, I can work with signers and rappers, I can help others. I’ve drawn the Unionizer, our mystery superhero figure who can help fast food workers make things better… he has no face, just a cowl, so no gender or anything to limit who the Unionizer is.
We all grew up with Happy Meals, we understood that they meant goodness and happy times, and we were drawn to want to work at McDonalds to be the people who gave other customers Happy Meals. Somehow, it has not quite worked out that way. The bosses are unfair, the pay is not good, you can’t live on it. The managers do not respect us, the workers. That’s actually the biggest thing, the lack of respect. Dignity. It doesn’t cost anything to be nice to workers. The same people mopping shouldn’t be serving the customers too.
I hope to get a job at the hospital where my girlfriend works, and in a bar at night hauling boxes. I will work seven days if I have to just to pay all the bills. I would like to become the first person in my family to go to college.