Rizza Valencia

December 17, 2004



To Reach Out and Speak

            Many people had undergone through rough times in the work industry. There are people from different countries who travel to America looking for a better job. As the United States known for the land of opportunity, people look forward to finding a better life. People migrate here from all over the world so that they can help out families they had left behind or give their children a better life then they had. These people would quit school or dedicate their days by working hours and hours to have enough to pay both ends from the rent payments, groceries, allowances and extra money to have for a rainy day. The people who look for freedom of rights is not been given their rights to make more then they are working for. Such as Erlinda Valencia, a woman who had came to the United States with her six kids, came here to reunite with her husband but they could not work things out. She then had no other way to survive and decided to work as a San Francisco Airport screener. This single mother worked days in and day out so that she had enough to provide her kids with their daily needs. At the year of 1988, airport screeners only made $4.25 an hour with no benefits. This woman took 12-hour shifts to be able to pay for their one bedroom apartment. Her son quit school so that he could helped out and be the man of the family since the father had abandoned them. She travels miles to get to work and miles traveling back. People like her had sacrifice for her family though she had made so little. The airport screeners then were not unionized. Being in the labor union gave workers a chance to see that there is still hope.


People who are working have rights to make more and be in a better work condition. Such as Cesar Chavez, in 1968 Chavez gained attention as leader of a nationwide boycott of California table grapes in a drive to achieve labor contracts (SFSU). Chavez one of the people who had worked in the farm lands picking out grapes find it that the farm owners are not paying them enough and the conditions were bad. For example, the farm workers could not be able to use restrooms in between work. They would have to be done because of the field that is so big. These farm workers had to work themselves just to be able to keep their job. Chavez stood up for their rights so that they were able to make more money and it is money is what they are working for. They made a union that speaks out what they had to say and the leader was Chavez. People migrating to America are being taken advantage and over worked. Erlinda Valencia was being paid a low minimum wage, a job that she was truly devoted to and passionate about. She even got awards to prove one of her many expertise. Erlinda, at times that she worked long hours that she would not even see her children and it is because her job was important to her, so not only she can make money she also found a home there. She had never complained about her being under paid. Other people would think that airport screeners would get paid more than usual since they are the one that are keeping the airport safe and sound but they don’t. Until one-day Union members had an underground meeting with some members of the airport about their salary wages and benefits they can have. This opened up some of the airport screeners and actually made them think what they can be having instead of having the minimum wage without benefits. Is that fair that the screeners who are helping our society keep our airplane flights out of danger, is being paid the same as or even less then those people who work in fast food jobs or department stores. The airport security is trained so that they can identify different kind of weapons and even bombs that goes under the x-ray machine. They even confiscate weapons that people are taking on the plane so that it is sure that there was not going to be anyone going on a ramp page. The security has hand metal detectors so that they can check the people without for a better look what people have on them that will beep through the metal detector. Being able to keep the plane safe is hard and the airport security should get more then what they were getting.


Labor union finds ways to get through the airport and talk to some people to have a meeting elsewhere. It is the person’s choice whether or not they would want to come or not, they are not being pressured. The labor union should not be recognized because some other places people can be fired by communicating with someone from the union. As they would meet up, the union talks to the workers about how unfair, they are being treated with salary with no benefits. The security is putting their life on the hand each time they are working because people can bring bombs, knives and guns. The union sees to it that the employees are treated fairly that the employees get the benefits they are entitled to. In addition, the union explains the securities rights at work. By getting the benefits, they would have to sacrifice some things such as time. They would have to be out rallying what they want. The employees have to be picketing towards their jobs so that they can understand what they want. Erlinda Valencia a SEIU union member, had gone through the struggle of becoming a union member and still loyal to her job. Suddenly the job as an airport security had changed. The government had given stricter rules and policies of being an airport employee. One of them is being an American citizen and that knocks out all of which had been there for countless of years. “Then the airplanes hit the twin towers in New York, and the Pentagon in Washington. The mainstream media universally portrayed the September 11 attacks as the actions of immigrants. Political figures across the board began making proposals to restrict immigration (by students, for instance) and further punish the undocumented, despite the fact that none of the proposals made would have prevented the attacks. The movement towards amnesty, and away from immigration raids and heavy-handed enforcement tactics, halted abruptly” (David Bacon). What was happening was that on the day of September 11, 2001 there was a terrorist attack on airport planes. Each plane had plenty of innocent people who cried out for their life but still the terrorist had no mercy they had killed the pilots and decided to fly the planes towards buildings that means a lot to our country. The first one was the twin towers in New York. They had crashed the planes and killed the people in the towers. The other plane hit the Pentagon in Washington. Those planes did not come from SFO. Why are those, who have no fault, have to suffer such as “screeners like Erlinda Valencia were among the first, and hardest, hit. Media and politicians blamed them for allowing terrorists to board airplanes in Boston and New York with box cutters and plastic knives, despite the fact that these items were permitted at the time. But the whispered undercurrent beneath the criticism, that the screeners were undependable, and possibly even disloyal, was part of the rising anti-immigrant fever that swept the country” (Bacon). Immigrants migrate to America to find better opportunity, they do not try to take over the world is just that they are hard working. That one major incident does not give an evidence to say that the screeners were untrustworthy and not honest. Well Erlinda a person who is very passionate with her job find that hard to believe. She had worked at the airport for 14 years and not once did she ever steal or let people through the gates with things they could not carry on the plane. By blaming those employees, they have formed to be a union to get the union to help them keep their jobs.


At first Unions were able to get the airport screeners a raise from $7.25 up to $10.00 an hour. For most of the airport screeners, it was a big leap for them knowing that they had started out at $4.25. Many of them had a smile on their face. However, after the September 11 hit, “under the Aviation and Transportation Security Act of November 2001, all airport screeners must be U.S. citizens – a higher standard than is required for the U.S. Army or the National Guard. When a new screening pilot program goes into place at SFO on Nov. 19, 2002, all immigrant screeners will be out of a job” (Bacon). All the experienced airport employee were laid off unless if you were a U.S. citizen. “In January, the ACLU and SEIU filed suit in federal court in Los Angeles on behalf of screeners in San Francisco and Los Angeles, arguing that the law violates equal protection laws guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment”(Bacon). This shows that unions are fighting for equality of the people. What is going to happen to those people who cannot be citizens? How are they going to obtain a job if their reasons are that we are not loyal enough to them? The reason for the terrorist attacks was not from South San Francisco Airport. Why did everyone is blamed for something they did not do. Now that all citizens are working at the airport, they all have a raised in their salary that wages up to ten to eighteen dollars an hour including benefits. Erlinda Valencia had tried fighting for her rights to keep her job. All of the laid off employees that can qualify to get their citizenship had filed for their citizenship to be able to get their job back. As soon as they were citizens, they had to reapply. However, in the South San Francisco Airport, there is a new way to hire people, is by giving them a test. For some odd reason they were given a wristband to identify who were the former employees to those who are just new. Why did they have to have different wristbands? Is it so that they can pick from how many people that can keep their job? Erlinda Valencia, a former airport employee for 14 years did not get her job back and she felt like she was cheated. Though she could not have her job back, she still stood by the union and traveled with them making speeches to the people to speak out her mind of how she feels about the affect of the 9/11. She had been to Washington and all over California making speeches; she is even the favorite of the media because from all of the speakers she is the one that is much more under stood. Union still gave her a temporary job here and there, helping her to make her living. The union even gives out food drives to those families who were laid off after the tragedy.


The labor unions give employees the chance to make more for the duty they work hard doing. The immigrants come here to make a life worth living; they do not need to be taken advantage of just because they are not from here. People felt discriminated just because they were not citizens. However, the local union SEIU was there to support them and fight for them in any way. In addition, a person who wants to get equality has to be able to be fearless and outspoken. They deserve a lot more then the airport is giving them because they had kept things secured. The union in the other hand provided jobs to those who are in need. Even advise some of them to take classes at community colleges, which they were given the advantage of not paying for their classes. The union is a federalize system which would interfere to those jobs that feels like they were not awarded enough. Erlinda fought through her troubles of keeping her job and yet the only thing she was given was the time to express her self to the whole country and through the Philippines. She is still standing for what she believes in and that is equality. The union had helped her to fight for what is right.

Whatever happens, she says she will roll with it. She has her family, always. “They are proud of me,” Erlinda says. “They say I’m a strong woman.” (Bacon)

She is a strong woman indeed. This woman is a leader for the whole immigration community. This woman is even one of the Superstars of 2002 in the Kababayan Edition. She went up there speaking for her equal rights as a human being. As a labor union member Mrs. Erlinda Valencia, a speaker for the whole community is a hero to those people that she spoke for. Mrs. Erlinda a super woman to her family and a presenter to the people.







Davis, Clark and Igler, David. The Human Tradition in California: Scholarly Resources Inc. Wilmington, Delaware, 2002. 135, 140, 209-211, 215-222


Espiritu, Yen Le. Home Bound: Filipino American Lives across Cultures, Communities, and Countries. University of California Press, Berkely, Los Angeles, London, 2003