Fairytale of a Union

we were told that although we’re doing good
that sales have gone up, that the company
is running better than ever

that we’re still going to get our hours cut
possibly let some people go, that we’re in the
red; you know how much it costs to keep the
store open, overhead? the rent, the ads, payroll
(though most employees are still making
minimum wage, even after having spent over
a year with the company); why do we have to
pay people an extra hour if they don’t take a
lunch? every hour, every penny adds up

do you know how much i have to pay those
fuckers for worker’s comp insurance? and
all these fucking taxes and permits, city, state
and federal, power and water bill, alarm
company bill, trash bill and what else, what
else, i forget

you know, i used to have two rolls of cash
one in each front pocket; know how many
i have now?

i am told all this by the owner, announcing
that he will be traveling out of the country
for a while, leaving his two brand new bmws
parked at his huge, iron-gated-off luxurious
house nestled in a private cul-de-sac atop the
cold brown hills of the santa clarita valley
his garage and driveway crowding with his
newly added new-model mercedes benz

and you want benefits? vacation? health
insurance? raises?

if you ask for a raise, you should be fired

you should be glad you all have a job; i’m
barely breaking even, all these expenses and
investments; i’m the one that’s hurting

once upon a time, we tried to organize
having heard about how great it was to be
in a union: health benefits, sick days
vacation, raises, representatives demanding
rights and accommodations for the workers
someone standing up for us, not allowing the
owner to harass, belittle, persecute and fire
it was like a fairytale but we were all scared
though we hated our jobs, it’s all we had; we
had criminal records, a high-school education
questionable legal resident status, lack of
specific skill or trade expertise; we reached
out to other unions but we were too few and
nothing ever came of it; no marches, no
demands, no talks, successes, compromises or
concessions, not even random acts of terror
which we constantly fantasized about and
sometimes wanted, but instead what happen
was worse than retaliation, worse than arrests
than reprimands and termination

things were left unchanged, left exactly the
same: him against us and our fairytale of a union

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About Luis Rivas

Luis Rivas lives in Los Angeles, California. He was a telemarketer, construction worker, flower delivery driver, fast food cashier, sales clerk, non-profit canvasser, adult store and strip club manager and package handler/zip code sorter. His work has appeared in the following publications, some of which he...read more contributes to regularly: Zygote in My Coffee, Unlikely Stories, My Favorite Bullet, The Hold, Cherry Bleeds, Corium, Rural Messenger Press, Thieves Jargon, Origami Condom, Outsider Writers, Full of Crow, Counter Punch, Gloom Cupboard, where his is Poetry Editor and Red Fez, where he is author of the Last Days of Los Angeles column. He dropped out of Los Angeles Valley College where he was studying journalism to work full-time at a porn shop. Then he got fired. Now he has gone back to school, continuing his studies in journalism and Chicana/o Studies at California State University of Northridge and Los Angeles City College. He is currently building up his own literary website, peaceisillegal.com and plans on publishing a book on his youth. Once upon a time, he grew a beard. (There is evidence on the Internet.)
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