Carmen will not stand idly by as inequality happens around her, and she will not be tricked into accepting less than what she knows she deserves.

Carmen Sandoval began her union path fighting one of the toughest fights– organizing her coworkers to become a union in a private outsource company. “They tried to break our organizing efforts by saying they would give us a raise. So we were like ‘oh now you want to give us a raise, then there must be more.’ So we accepted the raise but we didn’t stop organizing.” This was 20 years ago and at the time she was part of another union. Her and her coworkers successfully organized and raised their wages to about $5.00 an hour, one week of vacation, one paid holiday, and respect as a contracted out Custodian at UC Irvine.

That’s when she began to see the union difference. She explains that throughout the process she didn’t fully understand what it meant to be in a union or what it was, but she knew she wanted the supervisors to respect her and this was the way to address the injustices. It wasn’t long before she noticed that she was working side-by-side Custodians doing the same job as her, but were hired by UC and their wages and benefits were better than the contracting out company. So she began talking to a 3299 Organizer and the fight to insource her and her coworkers began.

“I feel proud that we started with so little and slowly we’ve fought to win so much more than what we started off with,” she says, “Now with COVID we see even more the difference being in a union makes.” Carmen goes on to remind us all that at the beginning of the Pandemic UC announced layoffs, wage freezes, yet as a union we’ve been able to push back and win in most cases, “there’s a lot of power if we stand up, speak up, and stand united.”

Carmen Sandoval is a Senior Custodian at UC Irvine campus. She’s an immigrant from Michoacán, Mexico that now resides in Santa Ana with her three children and two grandchildren.  She’s also a UCI Executive Board member and proud MAT.