Alejandro, a cleaner in Center City Philadelphia came to the United States from Mexico over a decade ago. Formerly an engineer in Mexico, Alejandro set about building a better life for his family by taking a series of low-wage jobs doing everything from construction to farm work. After years of backbreaking work in exchange for low pay, Alejandro began cleaning office buildings and became a member of 32BJ SEIU.
“32BJ changed my life because my co-workers and I now get more respect from the company. Before the union, we did not have benefits and sometimes didn’t get paid overtime,” said Alejandro. “Now I have benefits for my kids and my family.”
A four-time brigadier, Alejandro now takes the initiative to tell other workers about the benefits of the union. “Going into the buildings and talking to new members about the benefits of 32BJ is rewarding,” said Alejandro.
“I try to help other workers understand why the union is so important by comparing union versus non-union jobs. I sometimes ask, ‘Do you like vacation pay? Do you like health care and raises? When they answer ‘yes,’ I remind them that these are the things we fight for and pay union dues to protect.”
When Alejandro is not talking to his fellow members about the benefits of the union, he can be found raising his voice for immigration reform. Alejandro has spoken at several 32BJ immigration reform rallies in the Philadelphia-area.
The fight for immigration reform is personal for Alejandro. He has two sons, his oldest was born in Mexico while his youngest was born in the U.S. For Alejandro’s oldest son, an immigration reform bill with a path to citizenship would make a world of difference.
“I am fighting for immigration reform for the same reason I came to the United States in the first place: to build a better life for my family. All I want, all most immigrants want, is to take care of their families and stay together.”
Alejandro is optimistic that a comprehensive immigration reform bill will be passed soon.
“Congress is finally moving because people are starting to speak out and vote. I believe it is very important for 32BJ to take a stance on immigration reform. I am happy that President Figueroa has made immigration reform a priority because 32BJ moves things like no other union,” added Alejandro.
“We take action.”