When Lisa Colon’s daughter had to have three emergency surgeries in a week, she did what any good parent would do—prioritize the health of her child and do her best to take care of her while she recovered.
As a single mom balancing family and a career as a CNA at Chapin Center Nursing Home, Lisa had to put in for FMLA leave to take time off from work, but was horrified to find her request for the urgently needed time off denied by her employer.
Wanting to shift their workplace culture to one that prioritized the needs of the staff and respected the hard work nursing home employees put in to provide quality care for the residents, Lisa and her coworkers decided to take matters into their own hands and join the UFCW to make sure no one felt left out to dry in times of need.
“They helped me out 100%,” Lisa says. “It still brings tears to my eyes,” she says of that trying time, “but thanks to my union I still am able to have a job, and my family is healthy now.”
Being a single mom and balancing work was still hard, but knowing the union would be there for her helped provide peace of mind and a sense of security. Before becoming a union member, for instance, Lisa was no stranger to pay inequity. “It hurts,” she says about knowing how much longer it takes for some women to reach the wages of their white male counterparts. “I work just as hard, or even harder than a male co-worker. Especially when I was a single parent—I had to work just as hard and take care of my children.”
She explains that her union contract guarantees good wages and fair treatment. “Being part of a union ensures I receive the equal pay I’ve earned. Equal pay, and equality at work, allow me achieve my goals, and go further in life.”
In addition to organizing her workplace, Lisa went on to become a shop steward, where she worked to help fellow members get pay issues and other problems they encountered resolved.
UFCW stewards are members who volunteer or are elected to take on a more active role protecting the rights of their coworkers on the job. They are knowledgeable about what benefits and policies the union negotiates with their employer and they help keep an eye out to make sure everyone is getting treated fairly.
These days, Lisa works as a union representative at UFCW Local 1459 and serves on their Executive Board. She hopes her story helps inspire others to get involved and take action when they see a change that needs to be made.
Lisa is half Puerto Rican and was born in the continental U.S, but moved to Puerto Rico as a young child, and returned not knowing any English. Before her involvement with the union, she’d never voted or registered to vote. Now she helps get the word out about how vital voting is to protecting the rights of working people.
“We need more push and shove, more education,” she says, frustrated that more of her peers don’t have a plan to vote in the upcoming election. “If more people knew that their vote counts, and used it, we could win.”
Her message for people going through a hard time in this political climate—experiencing things like unfair wages and more—is to stay strong, because you’re not alone.