Rachel Penelton’s Story

I’m from Oakland, and I work at the Jamba Juice in the airport. I’m 21 years old, and I’ve only been through one semester of college. I wanted to get a bachelor’s in journalism, but I realized I could not afford to do all four years. So I’m living with my parents, and I’m trying to save money – but that’s really hard considering I can barely even live with my parents off what I’m making.

I see unionized workers at the Oakland Airport. They have set schedules, paid vacation, health care, living wages. If you’re getting it, why shouldn’t I, if I work right across the food court from you? It makes no sense. I don’t want to keep paying $300 a month out of pocket for prescription medicine for the carpal tunnel I got while I was working at Jamba Juice.

The workers in the non-union food service jobs, we’re from middle class homes, low-income housing, black, white, Polynesian, everything. What we have in common is we’re getting shafted! We’re all getting shafted in the same way. I feel like we should be able to fix it as a collective unit. That’s the point. We’re not moving as a black girl, or a handicapped person, or a person who didn’t have both parents. We’re moving as a single unit. And in doing that, we’re going to win. I don’t think that, I know it. We have the tenacity.

When we win I’m going to feel good because I can get braces on my bottom teeth. I’ll be able to go get the medication I need so my fingers don’t lock up. I’ll be able to move out of my parents’ home and be able to cook dinner for them because they’re always cooking for me. Even if this is just a small step in my life, it will be a whole new outlook.