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Michael Marcelin Los Angeles, CA

Fired for new workers with lower wages

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I was born in LA. After high school, I attended a local trade school and took up electronic engineering. I was fortunate enough to find a job working at the Port of Los Angeles as an Electronic Engineer. I was first hired as a temporary worker and after 4 years, I was given a permanent position. I recall an incident where the security guard gave me a hard time getting in to go to work; he asked if I worked in maintenance. He apologized and said, “I’m sorry man, I didn’t mean to give you a hard time, I just never saw this company hire a Black person before.” During my time working there I saw people with less seniority get hired on permanently, even when there was a so-called “hiring freeze”. It took non-Black workers less time to make permanent.

I made good money in my position, but my job started to come to an end when my department started discussing unionization and my company didn’t want a union fight. The company was totally against the union, so much so that they totally abolished the department where I worked, and eventually sub-contracted out to another company to so that they could pay less money to the workers. I actually was paid to train replacement workers. I worked 8 years at the ports as engineer. Out of 70 workers, 5 were Black. I am currently receiving unemployment, and have aspirations of becoming a union electrician. I want to pass on to my children the values to work hard and respect for women.

If I were sitting across the table from a local or national politician, I would say education in the Black community is not being addressed. My grandparents had to pick cotton. We were disadvantaged because we had a lack of books, and a lack of resources, and that was a generational trend. Our tax dollars pay for things we don’t receive in our community. I remember I got suspended for taking a book home to study in high school – I felt punished for trying to pass a test. Also, I noticed that poor Black parents can’t really donate to their children’s schools like wealthy white parents to schools because we don’t have the money.

I feel taking a test to get into certain training programs, or jobs is unfair, because certain groups are unprepared to do well because we have lack of a good education from the start, especially when English is not your first language. I am thankful for the LA Black Workers Center (LA BWC) for connecting me to tutoring resources, and mentorship opportunities so I can have an advantage in pursuing my career goal of becoming a union electrician.