Liam’s Story

MY NAME IS LIAM. I’m 24. This is my wife Erica and our 4-year-old daughters Li’ah and Li’eriah.

I work at the Subway in the Oakland Airport, and other Subway locations under the same managers. Until recently, I worked seven days a week. Sometimes I’d go 2 months without a day off. I’ve never seen a dime of overtime. I barely had time to see my kids.

I have no health benefits. When my girls get sick, I’m praying they get better on their own because I can’t take them to the doctor. Once when they had a high fever, I took them to the ER and we waited for hours in the hallway while the doctors treated other people’s gunshot wounds. I work while I’m having back spasms, because I can’t afford medication or time off to rest.

At the airport, I see other food service workers that have a union. They get family health care and overtime pay. They have set schedules and RESPECT. They work for HMS Host, the main food service contractor in the airport. The Subway where I work is a subcontractor of Host. There are 8 of these non-union subcontractors in the airport, with about 80 workers altogether. WE’RE LIKE THE SECOND-CLASS CITIZENS OF THE AIRPORT.

I started telling my co-workers and all the other workers at subcontractors that we need to come together and stand up for our rights. I told them that if we don’t demand to be treated fairly, no one will do it for us. My managers found out. Within the week, they’d cut my regular work hours, taken me off the schedule for two days, and threatened to give me a final warning.

That didn’t stop me. I’m organizing with the workers at other subcontractors. We are telling our bosses that retaliation is wrong, that they need to respect our rights and agree to a fair process for us to decide if we want to join the union. We are also telling HMS Host that they need to step up and make sure their subcontractors follow the rules. And we would like the Port Commission to let the subcontractors know that you cannot treat people like this in the Oakland Airport!

I have a lot of dreams for my future. I’ll have a set schedule; if I work overtime I’ll be paid for it; and I won’t be working seven days a week. I’ll be able to take my wife to San Francisco, which I’ve never done. I’ll be able to give my kids regular check-ups, but also spend time with them, take them to the park, take them fishing. I’m standing up for that future now.