Things That Matter

Janitors Worked Overtime To Help People During Harvey And Their Employers Are Punishing Them

Angel Flores recalls looking up at the televisions, watching Hurricane Harvey wreck everything in its path. His home city of Houston was being hit hard, leaving a trail of damage and death behind it, and all he can think of was his wife and children. He hadn’t seen them in days.

“It hurts me to talk about this,” says Flores. “My family was at home, and I was here. It was something so hard. I yearned for them so much.”

Flores has been a janitor at the city of Houston’s transport building for 14 years. He’s an employee of JBM, a janitorial cleaning service, which is subcontracted by another company, McLemore Building Maintenance.

When Harvey hit, his building became an emergency ground zero and was placed into lockdown. Someone at the transport building requested three janitors to stay in the building while employees at the government office worked around the clock to monitor the storm, and public officials like the mayor and governor stopped in. When that couldn’t be accommodated, they requested that Flores work 24 hour shifts for an uncertain amount of days.

“What do I do? I don’t have an option,” says Flores. “They sent another two people after five days or so. But really there’s not an option. And once you’re here, you can’t leave anywhere.”

In total, Flores worked for 24 hours for seven days straight. He slept about 2 hours a night in a small closet, only to be woken up at 4 am to empty out the trash.

Those seven days were immediately followed by another four days where he worked 12-hour shifts. That’s 12 days of working before he had a day to rest, all while a Hurricane Harvey ravaged the outside.

“Every 10 minutes you had to pick up trash. It was continuous. No breaks,” says Flores, who lost six pounds due to the brutal work schedule. “I took 10-to-15 minutes to eat, because that was the less I can do. I know I didn’t have enough time. I had to go back because the trash would start piling up.”

Flores says the pats on the back and words of encouragement he received from coworkers helped him throughout the ordeal. He felt he was doing his part to help the city of Houston. And while the experience and those moments of kindness bring him to tears, it isn’t enough to support him and his family financially.

He was worried he wouldn’t be paid for the extra hours he worked through the storm, especially because he feels his employer, JBM, has shorted his checks for years by not paying overtime.

In fact, Flores filed a wage theft complaint against JBM in an attempt to resolve the ongoing pay problem. He also spoke out about his experience with wage theft on a panel with Texas State Senator Garcia and Houston Councilmember Gallegos.

And when Flores received his first check after the hurricane, he says JBM did not pay him the correct amount. When his check finally arrived, it was short a little over $100.

It was at that time that Senator Garcia and Councilmember Gallegos stepped in to help.

“Senator Garcia and Councilmember Gallegos made personal calls on my behalf to McLemore, JBM’s boss, to make sure I got paid correctly,” he says. “And when I got the next check after the hurricane, they paid me everything I was owed. I really believe it is because the Senator and Councilmember called.”

Still, that hasn’t saved him from retribution from his employers. Since he’s made the complaint, Flores says they’ve cut his hours and challenged whether he was actually working all 24 hours.

“They were saying I wasn’t in the building and that it looked like I didn’t clean,” he says. “But I clock in and have to use a card to get into the building. I have the proof I was there.”

As a result, he’s forming a union with other janitors and custodial workers with Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Texas, because unfortunately he’s not the only one.

Anita Hernandez was also caught in the hurricane while working her janitorial shift at Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center. An employee of an outside janitorial services company, her regular routine of cleaning bathrooms, windows and escalators was interrupted by the flood of 10,000 Harvey victims who came to the convention center to seek shelter.

“When I got to work, I found a lot of people, refugees from the storm,” she recalls. “I was in the area with elderly people. It was sad for me to see them that way. It was a disaster the first day.”

Hernandez went above and beyond her regular duties, changing diapers for elderly people, taking them to the bathroom, cleaning them, getting their food and feeding them, speaking with them and sending photos and video to their loved ones in Mexico to let them know they were safe. She stayed at the convention center for a week straight, working late into the night to help those senior citizens in need.

“I had to do it out of humanity,” she says. “I had to do my job but I also felt like I needed to help these people. I felt like I had survived and to thank God. And I felt blessed to be in a place where I could help people.”

Hernandez had survived Hurricane Katrina, and says, “I didn’t expect to be in this situation again. That was the ugliest thing I have ever seen.” But she felt it her duty to rise to the occasion.

“I always had it in my mind that if we made it through Katrina, I would live to help people,” she says. 

During the Hurricane, Hernandez witnessed many sad moments and actions that left her feeling angry and disheartened. One particular moment during a discussion she had with a convention center supervisor irks her.

“They told me not to share about my experience at the convention center. To not damage [the company’s] image in any way,” she says.

While they have paid her overtime hours, she’s currently working with her union, SEIU Texas, to ensure her rights are protected from any retribution for speaking on her experience.

In the meantime, Hernandez is working to rebuild her trailer home which was heavily damaged by the hurricane. Her husband and 17-year-old daughter are still living there and awaiting assistance from FEMA.


READ: Even Though This Man Was Already Carrying His Pregnant Wife And Three Children To Safety, He Also Rescued His Neighbor During Hurricane Harvey

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A Texas Man’s Taco Truck Was Saved By A Tweet And This Is The Story We Need Right Now

Things That Matter

A Texas Man’s Taco Truck Was Saved By A Tweet And This Is The Story We Need Right Now

TaqueriaElToritoOficial / Instagram

In a story that’s becoming all too familiar amid the global Coronavirus pandemic, one man’s taco truck was on the brink of going out of business.

Many small business owners throughout the country continue to struggle through the pandemic. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, more than 100,000 small businesses have not survived – and that number is on the rise.

However, one woman came up with an idea to help her father’s Houston-based taco truck and thankfully for them – and us (we all could use some good news right now!) the idea has seemed to work. Proving that the phrase “Hey Twitter!!” might just save the economy — one taco truck at a time.

It all started with a Tweet that ended up saving one man’s business.

One daughter, who was trying to help us her father’s struggling taco truck, turned to Twitter for help. And it delivered better-than-hoped-for results for Elias Aviles after his daughter, 21-year-old Giselle Aviles, posted a simple plea after learning that her hardworking father had made just $6 in a day, his business slammed by the pandemic.

“Hey Twitter!!” she tweeted of her dad’s Houston-area business, Taqueria El Torito. “I wouldn’t normally do this, but my dad’s taco truck business is struggling. He only sold $6 today. If you could retweet, I would appreciate you so much!!”

Thanks to Twitter, they could — and so could thousands of others. In fact so many people streamed in — he found people waiting when he arrived to open up at 8 a.m. the next day, on a line that had started forming at 6 a.m. — that he had to close down twice, once to restock and again when he simply ran out of product, CNN reported.

Gisele knew she had to do something to help out her father – who had put six years of his life into the taco truck.

Thanks to the Coronavirus, things have been tough for Elias Aviles and his truck, Taqueria El Torito. Some days earnings have been as low as $60, sometimes even just $20.

But one day he earned just $6 for a full 12-hour shift, and his daughter was shocked into action. She told CNN, “I just said well we have nothing to lose and I decided to make the tweet that day.”

Her plea to the world worked. Her Tweet has since been retweeted more than 10,000 times and has 9,800 likes.

But neither of them were prepared for just how much of an effect the Tweet would have.

Credit: TaqueriaElToritoOficial / Instagram

Although Gisele admits she did warn her father to get ready for some new customers, nothing could of prepared her for the magnitude of support from the community.

By 8 a.m. the next day, Elias had a line of customers waiting for his fresh tortas Cubanas—and some had been waiting there since six in the morning. It was such a busy period that Elias even had to close the truck for a short while in order to restock. Luckily, Giselle was able to help out with orders that day.

During her Monday shift, Giselle estimated that more than a hundred customers came through for Mexican specialties.

“I’m so moved because finally people know that his food is good,” Giselle told KHOU. “There were so many people, and [my dad] was kind of shocked because he didn’t think there would be a turn around that quickly.”

Since then, Giselle has helped her dad set up an Instagram account for his business.

Gisele has since helped modernize her father’s business by helping him setup an Instagram account.

She told KHOU, “I’m so moved because finally people know that his food is good. There were so many people, and [my dad] was kind of shocked because he didn’t think there would be a turn around that quickly.”

The string under her original tweet lists a photo array of offerings so mouthwatering that people from around the U.S. are offering to contribute. One commenter even offered to buy out his entire truck to feed a hospital staff.

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Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo Is Standing Behind Her Strict Facial Coverings Order

Entertainment

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo Is Standing Behind Her Strict Facial Coverings Order

lindahidalgotx / Instagram

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo is facing growing anger about her strict facial covering orders. The Latina county official is facing pressure from county residents as well as Texas state officials because of her science-based approach to controlling the spread of Covid-19.

This is Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.

The 29-year-old Latina has mandated that all residents of Harris County, which includes Houston, wear facial coverings when in public. Anyone who is caught without their facial coverings could face a fine of $1,000. Hidalgo is not the only politician who has mandated facial coverings to assist in slowing the spread of Covid-19, which has killed 100,000 people in the U.S.

Hidalgo has faced some backlash from county residents and state officials.

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In #elpaso for the Conference of Urban Counties!

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Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who you might know for saying grandparents are willing to die to reopen the economy, is one state official attacking Hidalgo’s orders. Patrick has called them overreaching on Twitter.

Hidalgo refuses to back down to the pressure citing the need to protect public health.

Hidalgo is pushing to make sure that Harris County residents have the best chance to slow the spread of Covid-19. This means using facial coverings and practicing social distancing, including working from home as much as possible.

“We have to use every tool in the toolbox,” Hidalgo said at a press conference. “I know this takes some getting used to, but these are all small yet powerful actions.”

The order mandating facial coverings is in line with the advice of health organizations.

The point of wearing facial covering is to slow the spread of Covid-19. The nonmedical coverings prevent people from spreading the virus to others while out in public. Studies and data show that asymptomatic people are spreading the virus and the main source of infection is airborne. A cough or a sneeze can send the virus up to 3 feet into the air.

Covid-19 is proven to cause deadly complications for people with certain underlying health conditions.

Latinos have higher rates of diabetes and heart disease meaning that Latinos are at a higher risk of dying from Covid-19. Hidalgo implementing facial coverings orders in line with advice from several national and international health organizations. The virus is still not under control and there is no proven vaccine, treatment, or cure for those who are infected. Stay safe.

READ: Another Man Has Died Of Covid-19 In ICE Custody And The Agency Still Lacks Any Plan To Prevent More Deaths

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