Jonathan Mancia first became cognizant of the impact a union could have on working families as a freshman in high school. His mother, an immigrant from El Salvador who had worked various non-union cleaning jobs most of her life, landed a union job working on an assembly line at a warehouse in Somerville. Jonathan noticed a change in his mother; she became less stressed out, had more time to spend with her family, and had access to good benefits, including a 401K. His family also enjoyed a greater disposable income thanks to a union paycheck and a bonus every holiday season.
After finishing high school, Jonathan studied computer science and hardware at ITT Tech. Like so many other college graduates, he continues to pay off student loans for a degree that proved challenging to forge a career in. “Because of the transition in the computer industry to move towards software, rather than hardware, I was unable to find a job in IT. I’d really like to go back to school one day to gain more education and training in software, but that will have to wait until my finances are in order.”
Instead, post-college Jonathan accepted a position as a housekeeping manager at a mall in Worcester, where he supervised union employees. Even as a manager, Jonathan saw the value of a unionized shop: “Our employees felt that they had a voice on the job. They would speak up and bring their ideas to the table because they were not afraid. When there was a problem at work, the dispute resolution process provided a clear pathway towards resolving the issue.”
Jonathan now works as a union cleaner at Harvard, where he has worked for over a year. “Having had prior knowledge of the importance of a union, I was eager to get involved as a rank-and-file member. I attended union meetings and tried to educate my co-workers who didn’t quite ‘get it’. There are some people who think that because they pay dues, they don’t have to do anything. It’s important to challenge that perspective—the union is us.”
As the Harvard cleaning contract expiration date approaches, Jonathan has taken union leave to mobilize his co-workers. “Right now we have 100% employer-paid health coverage. As a father of an eight-year-old who has had to visit multiple specialists for different medical conditions, I do not take this benefit for granted. It’s important for us to stand together to defend the benefits we currently have in addition to pushing for the increases we need in order to live in and around Boston.”
Jonathan presently resides in Medford with several roommates, but hopes to one day afford his own two-bedroom apartment in the area so that his daughter, Karolyn, has her own room when she visits. “My daughter’s future is what keeps me focused. I’m thankful that I have the means to provide for her, but even with our good wages, it’s never enough. The cost-of-living is so high that I can’t even afford my own place, and still, I need to start saving now so that I can put my daughter through college. If we unite together to win the raises we deserve in our next contract, I am confident that we can all build a better future for ourselves and our families.”