Meet our members…
Juana Melara is a housekeeper at the Westin Hotel in Long Beach. She is part of the mostly invisible workforce that is mainly comprised of immigrant Latina women seeking a better life for their families. Although the work that she does is very important and helps to strengthen the local economy, she often feel that most people including hotel patrons rarely understand how hard housekeepers work.
“I wake up at dawn to get to work by 7:30. Before clocking in, I pack my cart. First the linens, the towels, tiny shampoos, and finally I fill it with cleaning supplies. By the time it’s filled it weighs over 200 pounds.”
On any given day, Juana must clean between sixteen and twenty rooms in an eight hour shift. She is expected to finish cleaning each room in 30 minutes and often works through her mandatory ten minute break and has very little time to go to the bathroom. Although Juana works in a billion dollar industry, she often has to purchase her own cleaning supplies because she is not provided with enough supplies to complete her work.
“One day when I was cleaning the bathroom, my supervisor told me that I had to get on my knees to make sure that I did not miss any spots. I felt completely humiliated like if I was a worm.”
These types of things should not be happening in a world class city like Long Beach, but unfortunately they are a common occurrence and that needs to change. That is why Juana came together with her coworkers to demand better working conditions for her and thousands of other hotel workers in Long Beach.
Both Juana and her husband of thirty years work in the hotel industry, and they feel great pride that through their hard work, they have provided an honest living for their children. We know that we provide a great service and that, without our work, the hotel industry would not be as prosperous as it is.
“I know that you don’t need a college degree to clean toilets, but we should still be treated with respect as workers and human beings.”
After moving around between Oregon and various L.A. neighborhoods, Christine Petit knew she had finally found “home” in Long Beach. A community activist involved in various groups, including the Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs and a Healthy Community, she works tirelessly to improve the community she has settled in. She currently serves as the Hub Manager for Building Healthy Communities (BHC) Long Beach, an initiative of the California Endowment that focuses resources into low-income communities to improve health outcomes. Her long term goals for Long Beach are to ensure poverty and the needs of our diverse communities are addressed in a meaningful way. Christine also founded the Long Beach Time-Exchange, a “time-banking community” based on the premise that everyone in Long Beach has something to contribute and can trade skills and services.
Christine first became exposed to the power of organizing for economic justice and fair working conditions as a teaching assistant at UC Riverside and developed a new appreciation for the labor movement. She was later elected as the President of her union, UAW Local 2865, which represented teaching assistants, graders, and tutors across all of the UC campuses. Christine strongly believes that community and labor should be united to improve the lives of working families.
In 2010, she was moved by the Coalition’s work after hearing a presentation at her neighborhood association. Upon joining the Coalition, she launched a panel discussion, “Breaking Stereotypes Through Economic Justice,” which focused on building solidarity between leaders in the LGBTQ and labor movement. thanks to Christine’s involvement, the Coalition was one of the first organizations to join the Time Exchange. The Coalition greatly benefited by receiving childcare and bilingual interpretation services from other Time Exchange members to meet the needs of our members during meetings.
For Christine, being a part of the Coalition has given her an increased level of understanding of the political and social landscape of Long Beach. Being involved in various campaigns through the Coalition has given Christine new organizing tools for her work, connected her to other groups, and inspired her to be more involved in her community.
Stella Ursua is an attentive spouse, lover of blues, and sustainability activist. She likes to spend time tracking down the places exhibited in the TV show Diners, Drive Ins and Dives and going to the beach. Yet she is also driven to placing low-income youth and other disadvantaged workers with good, green careers. A member of the Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs and a Healthy Community, Stella has been active to especially improve the conditions facing low-wage Long Beach workers.
For Stella Ursua, reading a book on greening our economy by Van Jones was a life changer and set her path as an activist. Like so many others, Stella lost her corporate job and eventually, her home and car in the midst of the 2008 economic crisis. However, Stella used the horrible economic climate and difficult circumstances as an opportunity for change. She decided she no longer wanted to work in the corporate world.
Since she was young, Stella had been involved in various movements in the past, from the anti-war movement to the AIDS awareness movement. Stella soon became interested in connecting the Long Beach community to the green movement and after reading Van Jones’ book, made it the goal of her work.
Taking from her personal experience of loss during the recession, Stella empathized with many other people who were going through similar experiences and their struggles to rebuild their lives. She wanted to act as a motivating force, to reinvent herself while helping others reinvent themselves. Stella combined her experience of training and organizational development in corporate environments with her newfound environmental passion. She and her spouse embarked on starting a school to train chronically unemployed people in increasing our energy efficiency.
This passion has allowed Stella to meet many people along the way. Stella connected with LAANE in 2010, began to attend coalition meetings and became involved in the Long Beach hospitality worker campaign. In 2012, Stella was elected President of Green Education Incorporated, which uses education and skill building training to connect underserved communities to green job opportunities.. As the regional chair for Student Groups on the US Green Building Council, she goes to school campuses to recruit students and helps place them in careers/internships in green industries. Stella is also on the Long Beach Sustainable City Commission.
According to Stella, the coalition has taught her to expand her focus by exposing and connecting her to various communities and neighborhood associations. She explains that she first zeroed in on a specific population, mostly the long term unemployed and veterans, but since being part of the coalition, she now focuses on a broader target base, including high school students, foster care youth, the formerly incarcerated, and small businesses. The coalition has connected Stella to a large network of new community and environmental justice groups which has helped her organization and inspired her to focus more on policy change.
In the long term along with continuing to be involved in the Coalition, Stella hopes to make Green Education Incorporated a well-established non-profit that creates big projects and helps put people back to work. Stella’s other long term goals include holding polluters accountable for the pollution they create. She also is working to create tangible job opportunities through initiatives such as creating community gardens that resemble “Green the Block”, a campaign to educate and mobilize low-income communities of color to have a say in the sustainable energy economy.
Though a young senior at Cal State Los Angeles, Jonathan Solorzano has had a long history of activism. Although Jonathan was born in the United States, he learned about the need for immigrant rights at an early age, when his father was deported to Mexico. After seeing how hard his mother by herself had to work to provide financially and emotionally, Jonathan knew he wanted to make a change. This life-changing event motivated him to join SURGE, a student-led group that advocates for a safe space for undocumented immigrants.
His work with various immigration and labor groups helped him see the more personal side of how low wages and exploitation affects individuals. While interning on a voter engagement campaign at the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, Jonathan found the Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs and a Healthy Community, which he considers a perfect blend of policy work and grassroots work. He worked together with the Coalition to canvass numerous neighborhoods throughout Long Beach help pass the historic living wage policy, Measure N.
Since joining the Coalition, Jonathan’s interests have expanded from immigrant rights to general advocacy for the working poor. He says that the Coalition provides a wide range of people, from many backgrounds and with a variety of goals a space to truly learn about local community organizing and activism. Since joining the Coalition, Jonathan has realized his passion for issues he had never thought about before: green jobs, housing, and inequality, amongst many others.
Jonathan says that he’s noticed that his skill development with the Coalition have carried over to SURGE, making him a better listener and organizer. Through workshops and discussions, Jonathan was introduced to organizing on a larger scale. He was thrilled at the prospect of joining a large coalition to fight for workers’ rights in Long Beach. Moving forward, Jonathan is looking forward to continuing the discussion about complex immigration and workers’ rights issues that affect the community and enacting more innovative policies that support these workers.